A “lost episode” of Cowboy Bebop: The Song Remains The Same

It’s almost three in the morning, and I’m still awake: I just finished watching what some may call a ‘lost episode’ of Cowboy Bebop entitled The Song Remains the Same. It’s an episode adapted from the PS2 video game Cowboy Bebop: Serenade of Recollection.

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Just reminiscing this series makes me sad, but in a very good way


I love Cowboy Bebop. Looking back, it’s one of the anime that have propelled me to look for better series than what was aired on television: back when I was 14 or so, I watched Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door and it impressed me alongside Gundam Wing. I loved the movie and I really loved how Vincent Volaju was constructed as a villain. I only loved the example more when I was finally able to obtain the full series: I was profoundly affected by the characters, and I especially loved the beautiful ending (in so many aspects) of the series. Even now, after a significant time spent watching and evaluating different anime series, it would probably be still within my top five. It’s just that good, at least for me.

I’m among the people who wished for more. I cried at the series’s ending simply because it was so tragic: Faye was never able to reach out to Spike because of her misgivings with herself; Spike lost what remained of what life he regarded to be life when he lost Julia. Without her, he felt that he could never be truly alive once more, which is why he propelled himself to a death wish by attacking Vicious’s headquarters.

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, I believe, had a significant effect on how Spike decided to act in his future. To quote Hamlet, he kept on asking himself whether ‘to be, or not to be.’ Vincent Volaju was a man who believed that the real world was just a world of dreams: if I remember correctly, only one lady, Electra, ever made him feel alive. Ironically, it was a lady who was now at odds with his ideals. It was also his love for her that paved the way to his dream’s ultimate failure.

I believe the same can be said with Spike. His immense love for Julia was one of the causes why she had died: had they not met once more, her life would not be imperiled, albeit she would be separated from him. In the Cowboy Bebop universe, it is often love that brings the characters to their dreams’ damnations. When he quipped that he was going to Vicious ‘to see if I am really alive,’ he implied that he was in a dream consciousness: perhaps it is the dream consciousness that is with us when we’ve lost something or someone very important, or perhaps his only reality is that with Julia.

I think that The Song Remains the Same is another one of these central episodes that fleshes out why Spike acted like he did in the final episode of the series. Simple yet noble dreams by some of the people in this episode are crushed, whether by death or implausibility: one music producer chases for an elusive song that was an accompaniment to a classic hit; one wife attempts to protect her husband’s life despite his incorrigibility; one man aims to rid the world of criminals through extralegal means. All fail.

They fail because of their shutting out of reality: love is a curse, not a gift, in these people. Their love of their ideas prevents them from recognizing the impossibility of their goals. (There is a sad love story, between Captain H and Priscilla, even in the background.)

I think that was the reason why Spike erased the rare song ‘Pearls,’ despite its supposed market value. Maybe it just hit too close to home: he was separated from Julia despite him knowing that she also loved him immensely.

The characters are unable to escape their cycles of selfishness. Spike couldn’t love again because his life was only Julia for him; Jet couldn’t prevent Spike from going out (in the final episode) because he allowed his image to dominate over his friendship with Spike; Faye, who I believe is among the most tragic characters of the series, only discovered the presence of others when it was too late for her to recognize that she had more than fleeting emotion for one: before Spike went away to his death, she couldn’t even confess that she loved him.

The song replays, over and over: the song remains the same.

P.S. The episode does not have quality that could be found in regular episodes of Cowboy Bebop. It primarily uses the game’s engine; nonetheless, the story was still well-written, at least for me.

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20 Responses to “A “lost episode” of Cowboy Bebop: The Song Remains The Same”

  1. IKnight Says:

    Totally an airpor Knockin’ was actually the first anime I ever watched. I’d never considered placing it within the original series’ timeline and reading Spike’s final actions through it, though, and it’s an interesting idea.

  2. Michael Says:

    God, that British humor is SO nasty. >.>

  3. IKnight Says:

    Would you say our humour’s improved or declined since Tristram Shandy was written?

  4. Michael Says:

    I’d say it remained British. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Totally dry, subtle, dark humor. P.S. I’d have enjoyed Shandy more if my copy wasn’t so fucking old!

  5. Ryan A Says:

    I never stirred with this episode, but Bebop is special for me. The ending has a duality, it spawns off into eternity on the side of Faye, yet ends with the fluttering life of Spike (and the closing song Blue), and it is a great display of grasp and the elusive trials life must often experience.

    infinity… mugen.. Mugen!

  6. Michael Says:

    @RyanA

    Maybe it’s because of the 3D rendition of the characters. Bebop is also special for me, and the ending will most probably remain to be one of the most haunting endings in all anime for all time. It’s a sad ending, but I think Spike wouldn’t have it any other way.

    @IKnight

    BTW, have you watched the episode? I assume you’ve seen Cowboy Bebop already, and I’d like your critique of the episode, as I haven’t found anyone else who has seen it. Thanks. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Andrew H Says:

    Hello, I’m the guy who put together The Song Remains The Same, and I enjoyed reading your analysis. I knew the PS2-rendered visuals might be an obstacle for some, not to mention the over-the-top videogame-ness of some of the action beats, but even before I got the translation back, I knew the story and characterization were very faithful to the tone of the show. This was a big labor of love for me and I am pleased to read someone taking this seriously as part of Bebop‘s canon.

    In the months it took to put this together, I didn’t get my own sense of its thematic connection to the series until I subbed Spike’s very last line, “I’ll see the rest of the dream in heaven.” Before then, I thought of Spike’s deletion of “Pearls” as something in line with his decision at the end of “Heavy Metal Queen” to only take his contribution to the “VT” pot back instead of the whole thing. Something like respect for the dead. “Pearls” was intended as a private gift and the two people it was created for are both long dead, so Spike saw no reason for it to exist anymore. But when I got to that last line, it finally hit me how it works simultaneously as an expression of Spike’s world view and as foreshadowing for Spike’s eventual fate.

    A major theme of the story is how it’s impossible to ever truly know the intentions of others, even if we think we know the person well. Though he’s known it for a while, Kent still expresses disbelief that his nice grandpa was once a famous pirate. Jet doesn’t understand how a fellow cop he once respected could turn so ruthless. It never occurs to Steve that Priscilla didn’t want “Pearls” released to the public. Spike’s final action comes from his understanding that “Pearls” will never mean as much to him or anyone else as it did to Priscilla and Captain H (who, it must be noted, also could have sold the song but didn’t).

    It’s interesting that you read the deletion of “Pearls” as Spike seeing a reflection of his relationship with Julia. However, there is a crucial difference. Priscilla died young (a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it detail that only appears on Priscilla’s tombstone) and Captain H outlived her by a few decades, getting into another relationship that led to grandchildren. Captain H was able to move on with his life, something Spike seemed unable or unwilling to do after Julia’s death.

    There are a lot of interesting subtleties to Song, and I’m thinking of writing a piece for my own site addressing them. Thanks for watching and for your comments.

  8. Michael Says:

    Andrew:

    First, thank you. I have been a fan of Cowboy Bebop ever since I discovered its movie, and I appreciate the praise.

    The PS2-rendered visuals was initially a turn-off for me, indeed, as it didn’t have the quality of the series itself. However, as I got more and more into the story, I also recognized that the ‘episode’ itself was also a labor of love: the writers were careful and meticulous enough to preserve the personalities of the characters that defined Bebop; the original voice cast was also retained to add to the mood and feel of the ‘episode.’

    ‘I’ll see the rest of the dream of heaven,’ really reminded me of Spike’s personality which led to the ending of the series (which everyone already knows, I assume). Spike had always been laid-back as a character, and he treated life simply as another dream. But I also had always understood that Spike, despite being laid-back, also had nothing left to lose when Julia died. There are some people who endure despite having everything taken from them: Spike endured simply because I think he recognized that deep in his heart, Julia still lived. When he saw her die in her arms, still full of love for him, the only thing that kept him into the real world had now gone: as he had lived life as a dream, I think he did not have any difficulty thinking about passing on, because that would just be another dream.

    I love how the story ties with the rest of the Bebop canon, and I think despite the incongruence and the lack of visual quality, it was a decent episode.

    Those are very good examples, and this subtleness that pervades even Cowboy Bebop episodes that have no direct influence to the plot make it a very astounding series. I didn’t recognize the fact that Priscilla died young, but that was probably also because I started watching it at one in the morning.

    I guess the ultimate tragedy (which makes the series all the more unforgettable) in Cowboy Bebop is the fact that if people only gave themselves another chance, the story would have had ended much differently. Had the primary characters gone beyond their solitary shields of selfishness Spike would have been able to move on; Jet would have been able to forcefully prevent Spike from leaving; Faye would have been able to help Spike cope if not as lovers, then perhaps as friends, and this is turn would fulfill her desires of being able to trust another. It is the tragedy of solipsism, and it culminates in people having lost something truly important because they had no will to act.

    Once again, thank you for your comments. I’m desperately trying to invite other people to watch this ‘lost episode,’ because I also saw its value in the Bebop canon. Here’s hoping!

  9. korosora Says:

    O_o;
    /me hi5’s Mike

  10. Camario Says:

    While I definitely enjoyed Cowboy Bebop (TV), it’s one of those classic series that I desperately need to re-watch. Otherwise I’d be criminally mistreating it, going only by what I vaguely remember from my last viewing. I wouldn’t even dare rate it.

    On the other hand, I saw the movie several years later and the memory of it remains quite a bit fresher in my mind, so those parts of your post, while severely hindered by my limited ability to recall the actual series, do give me some food for thought. Or at least the potential seeds for it, anyway.

    In addition, a “lost episode” is something worth looking forward to, preferably during said re-watch. Thanks for digging that up.

  11. Michael Says:

    korosora:

    /me hugs korosora
    I see that you’ve a new site now.

    Camario:

    I need to rewatch the series, too. But I’m going to do it when I’m in a more peaceful mood, lol. See, it’s a very harrowing series, especially near the end. I appreciate the comment. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. insomniac Says:

    at last, you finally stopped talking about HC! ๐Ÿ˜€

  13. House Episodes Says:

    great site ๐Ÿ™‚

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