Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop ends with a rather shocking twist that completely changes the story of Spike and Vicious. The penultimate episode of season 1, “Supernova Symphony”, reflects the events of “Ballad of Fallen Angels” to some degree, but does not follow through on Spike Spiegel’s fate. In the anime, Spike’s existence gets a bittersweet ending as they solve important plot lines that revolve around Vicious, Julia and Syndicate. This marks a significant departure for the live-action spin-off.
These artistic decisions stem from a variety of factors, ranging from the format of live action with continued seasons to the need to introduce fundamental changes to key characters. The biggest change in terms of character motivation and arc is how live-action presents Julia, along with her actions that affect the overall scope of the story. Julia at Netflix Cowboy Bebop is not only more integrated into the plot, but also contains motivations that are very different from her anime counterpart.
While the rivalry of Spike and Vicious in many ways forms the hectic core of Cowboy Bebop, the original anime was primarily about capturing the essence of a vagabond life filled with sprezzatura and ennui. This item of “easy come Easy Go”Is essentially absent in the live action, as it is framed more in the style of a fast-paced, action-packed extravaganza. Here are some of the ways in which the ending dramatizes several character traits, while also completing shifting and subversively complex and established storylines.
The absence of Syndicate Power Tussle in Spike & Vicious’s relationship
While Julia was the decisive reason behind Spike and Vicious’ rivalry, the syndicate’s power struggle greatly contributed to the growing gap between the two. While the anime does not reveal too much about how Spike and Vicious meet, it does establish the fact that despite working together as partners for years, Vicious’ ruthless cruelty has gradually alienated Spike. Spike, who never aspired to covet power or influence, believed in a certain set of personal principles, which is also reflected in the live action, such as when he tells Vicious that he would never harm a child. In both anime and live-action, Vicious is hungry for power, eager to rise in the ranks of the syndicate and exterminate anyone who stands in its way. However, Vicious in live-action is more of a coward hiding behind better men’s achievements and striving to take over with raw power.
Unlike Vicious in the anime, who viewed Spike as a threat to his claim to the top, Vicious in live-action only wants to kill Spike out of feelings of frustration, inadequacy, and defiance. IN Cowboy Bebop episode 9, “Blue Crow Waltz”, Vicious and Spike are extremely close and share an almost familial bond, with Spike ready to take the plunge for Vicious’ transgressions on more than one occasion. While their mentor Stax wants Vicious to take over as Capo, he is very conscious of his tactless and fleeting nature and trusts that the wise Spike will rule him when things go awry. With this in mind, there is no real conflict between Spike and Vicious, as the former is hardly interested in power and seems to support his friend’s potential rise. The only point of contention between the two is Julia, whom Vicious sees more as a possession than a human being who deserves freedom and makes his own choices.
How Julia’s direct involvement affects the show’s central rivalry
In the original Cowboy Bebop anime, Julia takes the choice to go into hiding instead of watching Spike die, sacrificing her chance for a life with him and her freedom to live life on her own terms. Although it is suggested that Vicious and Julia potentially shared an intimate relationship at one point, she never chooses any of the men in the end, even though she had decided to leave the syndicate with Spike. But in the live action, Julia is forced to stay with Vicious the night she chooses to run away, and Spike’s death cements her fate to endure his abuse over the years. This makes her an active part of Vicious’ desire to take over the syndicate, as her actions are driven by the need to get rid of his violent grip. Julia draws up a master plan for the coup, and she wisely makes a side deal with Mao Yenrai to have Vicious killed instead. Unfortunately, the plan fails, prompting her to take drastic measures to secure her freedom.
A series of events lead to Spike, Vicious and Julia meeting in the church, which is a radical departure from the tone of the anime. Spike and Vicious’ clashes in the church were originally a culmination of their long-running anger at each other, in which both men were forced to live life without the woman they loved – Julia. There is no sense of shared loss between the two in the Netflix adaptation, as Spike simply wants to punish Vicious for having tried to kill him 3 years ago and endanger the Jets’ daughter, Kimmie’s life. On the other hand, Vicious is full of his recent victory over Elders of the Van and wants to put an end to what he started, the egg of misunderstood jealousy and the fear of losing his golden girl, Julia. When Julia arrives and shoots Spike instead, Spike’s trajectory changes drastically, especially when Julia’s words say “it’s time to wake up”, Undermines their original meaning in anime.
An inevitable mix of fates – Spike, Vicious and Julia in season 2
Any potential Cowboy Bebop Season 2 continues the story from which it is slack, where Julia takes control of Syndicate and Vicious is chained by her, at her mercy. This dynamic has never been explored before in the original, paving way for interesting plot lines that could further complicate Spike’s role in the larger context. While it is justified for Julia to covet power after being subjected to years of helpless resignation, it is utterly cruel on her part to punish Spike for her circumstances and put a bullet into what they shared. The moment Julia shoots him, the audience experiences the death of Spike Spiegel’s deepest hopes and dreams, making him crushed on a more fundamental level because of this ultimate betrayal. On the other hand, Vicious’s fate remains uncertain, and it is unlikely he will attempt to recapture the throne or challenge Julia’s newfound authority. It also remains to be seen how Spike will cross paths with the two again and how things will unfold in the midst of each of them having to carry that weight.
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