Cowboy Bebop: How to flesh out characters in a single sublime moment

Characterisation is vital to a good story. And storytellers can enlighten us about characters and their relationships over hundreds of pages, in elaborate flashbacks, in grand, dramatic revelations.


But sometimes, a single eloquent moment can tell us as much as all the above.


My case in point here is the third episode of Cowboy Bebop, “Honky Tonk Women”. When we first see our two heroes in this episode, the freebooting bounty hunters Spike and Jet, they’re making their way into an orbiting casino:


Jet: “They’ll kick us out if you win too much.”

Spike: “Thanks, Mom, but if you didn’t want me to win, you shouldn’t have brought me here.”


Of course, trouble eventually starts. And when Jet sees that Spike is in the midst of the ensuing brawl, he lets out the groan of a frustrated parent: “Oh, Spiiike…”, followed soon enough by, “I told you not to win too much!”


And from those few lines, we can deduce so much about the characters and their relationship. We can infer Spike is hot-tempered, prone to getting the two of them into trouble. We can infer Jet is the responsible one. And, best of all, we can infer that the two of them know each other well enough for Jet to automatically assume that the trouble was Spike’s fault for not listening to his advice. It’s these touches that make Bebop, all these years later, still the best anime I’ve ever seen.

0 thoughts on “Cowboy Bebop: How to flesh out characters in a single sublime moment”

  1. Cowboy Bebop is one of my favorite animes! I love the dynamic between Spike and Jet. and Ed just cracks me up all the time, she is a girl, right?

    have you seen Samurai Champloo? A lot people find it similar to Cowboy Bebop, if only the “rag-tag” teamness, and the snarky writing.

  2. She is indeed! There’s a Bebop rewatch going on at that you might find interesting, by the way — with every post, I find something new to appreciate in the series.

    I saw the first few eps of Champloo and didn’t like it. I’m not a fan of the music and style compared to Bebop… but more importantly, I didn’t like its characters. Spike is a lovable rogue; Mugen is a psycho.

    1. My other half was watching the Cowboy Bebop movie the other day, and kept referring to Ed as “him”, and I kept saying “No! she’s a girl!”, and he wouldn’t believe me.

      I’ll be checking out Tor, thanks! they’re on my feed, but for some reason I don’t go to their site a lot. that will be changing.

      Mugen is a psycho. . .truer words were never said. but I do like that show. the weird music grows on you.

      1. You’re welcome! Tor is one of the sites I check regularly: it’s not just the news I like, but the re-reads, posts highlighting interesting-sounding classics, etc. (Disclaimer! I have a manuscript sitting somewhere in their slush pile.)

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