The Bloody Clown of Now

Setsuled 54 minutes ago. 0 comments
Cowboy Bebop Television Tv Show Anime Pierrot Le Fou Jean Luc Godard OBSERVATIONDECK

After several episodes where elements from the past reappear to save or enlighten the characters on Cowboy Bebop, a personification of the post modern future appears and attacks Spike. The show’s effective experiment in horror is another way to portray its fundamental thematic conflict.

Session Twenty: Pierrot le Fou

The title comes from the 1965 Jean Luc Godard film and the only way to make sense of the title’s use on Cowboy Bebop is to look at it in terms of a commentary on post modernism. Godard, as one of the leading figures of the French New Wave, directed many great, influential films in the 60s concerned with obtrusively subverting filmic conventions. Pierrot le Fou is a particularly striking example, its ostensible plot about a young man and woman becoming robbers on the run is constantly interrupted in ways that flaunt, dispel, or celebrate at an ironic distance the artificiality of cinema; abrupt breaks in the score, deliberate continuity errors, a woman who’s inexplicably naked at a party, a musical number with the actors’ voices recorded on location instead of in studio.

So what has this to do with the Mad Pierrot (Banjo Ginga), the seemingly indestructible flying clown who attacks Spike (Koichi Yamadera) for no apparent reason? The Mad Pierrot, or Tongpu (according to imdb this is a reference to a song by the Japanese band Yellow Magic Orchestra), kills to kill. He has no motivation; not to protect himself or anyone else, not to revenge, not for financial gain. He has no attachments and, like Heath Ledger’s Joker, this is his most dangerous quality. But he’s also a lot like Edward (Aoi Tada).

Tellingly, it’s Edward who discovers that Tongpu does, indeed, have a past, though, crucially, it’s not because she’s curious, it’s because Jet (Unsho Ishizuka) asks her to hack into the sealed ISSP files. Jet, the eldest member of the crew, is especially interested in the past and his strategy in response to Spike’s problem is to investigate, to research. But he’s no good with computers, at least he’s not as good as Edward, so here we have reverence for the past and a post-modern avatar working hand in hand. And it seems often times Jet and Edward share a particular connexion related to the fact that they’re such extreme opposites. Edward’s lack of attachments gives her freedom, but she needs Jet’s preoccupations to have motivation and context.

In Tongpu, the two extremes interact violently. Like Edward’s father, another model of post-modernism, Tongpu easily beats Spike in their first encounter. The only reason Spike survives is because Tongpu catches sight of a cat, triggering a memory of the animal that watched as scientists experimented on him and manipulated his anatomy. Much as post-modernism, like a science, relies on a process that begins with observation before manipulation and reconfiguration of art, so the scientists have remade Tongpu’s anatomy into a perfect killing machine. They free him from the bounds of a normal, mortal combatant, but, like many erring, brilliant scientists in Science Fiction, their lack of insight into their own motives proves to be their downfall as the directionless Tongpu turns on them.

Just as Edward, as a purer figure of post-modernism, is the one who can access Tongpu’s past, it’s the supremely post-modern, Disney-ish figures of Space Land that are responsible for Tongpu’s ultimate downfall. A robotic giant in the shape of a dog wearing a sailor suit, an amalgamation of Pluto and Donald Duck, stomps him to death after Spike finally succeeds in reminding him of the reality of physical pain.

Unless I missed something, I think this is where Spike’s martial arts technique, and general attitude, are presented as a response or potential solution to the conflict between chaotic change and persistence of the past. The Bruce Lee inspired “flow like water” technique has some of the advantage of a complete lack of attachment while also indicating an intimate connexion to the situation and environment. As the series draws closer to its conclusion, this solution is tested in several ways.


This entry is part of a series of entries I’m writing on Cowboy Bebop for its 20th anniversary. I’m reviewing each episode individually. My previous episode reviews can be found here:

Session One
Session Two
Session Three
Session Four
Session Five
Session Six
Session Seven
Session Eight
Session Nine
Session Ten
Session Eleven
Sessions Twelve and Thirteen
Session Fourteen
Session Fifteen
Session Sixteen
Session Seventeen
Session Eighteen
Session Nineteen - Download Hi-Res Songs

1 (G)I-DLE


(G)I-DLE. 2018. Writer: Riot Music Team;Harloe.
2 The Chainsmokers

Beach House flac

The Chainsmokers. 2018. Writer: Andrew Taggart.
3 Ariana Grande

​Thank U, Next flac

Ariana Grande. 2018. Writer: Crazy Mike;Scootie;Victoria Monét;Tayla Parx;TBHits;Ariana Grande.
4 Nicki Minaj

No Candle No Light flac

Nicki Minaj. 2018. Writer: Denisia “Blu June” Andrews;Kathryn Ostenberg;Brittany "Chi" Coney;Brian Lee;TJ Routon;Tushar Apte;ZAYN;Nicki Minaj.
5 Clean Bandit

Baby flac

Clean Bandit. 2018. Writer: Jack Patterson;Kamille;Jason Evigan;Matthew Knott;Marina;Luis Fonsi.
6 Imagine Dragons

Bad Liar flac

Imagine Dragons. 2018. Writer: Jorgen Odegard;Daniel Platzman;Ben McKee;Wayne Sermon;Aja Volkman;Dan Reynolds.
7 Halsey

Without Me flac

Halsey. 2018. Writer: Halsey;Delacey;Louis Bell;Amy Allen;Justin Timberlake;Timbaland;Scott Storch.

Waste It On Me flac

BTS. 2018. Writer: Steve Aoki;Jeff Halavacs;Ryan Ogren;Michael Gazzo;Nate Cyphert;Sean Foreman;RM.
9 BlackPink

Kiss And Make Up flac

BlackPink. 2018. Writer: Soke;Kny Factory;Billboard;Chelcee Grimes;Teddy Park;Marc Vincent;Dua Lipa.
10 Fitz And The Tantrums

HandClap flac

Fitz And The Tantrums. 2017. Writer: Fitz And The Tantrums;Eric Frederic;Sam Hollander.
11 Backstreet Boys

Chances flac

Backstreet Boys. 2018.
12 Kelly Clarkson

Never Enough flac

Kelly Clarkson. 2018. Writer: Benj Pasek;Justin Paul.
13 Diplo

Close To Me flac

Diplo. 2018. Writer: Ellie Goulding;Savan Kotecha;Peter Svensson;Ilya;Swae Lee;Diplo.
14 Anne-Marie

Rewrite The Stars flac

Anne-Marie. 2018. Writer: Benj Pasek;Justin Paul.
15 Little Mix

Woman Like Me flac

Little Mix. 2018. Writer: Nicki Minaj;Steve Mac;Ed Sheeran;Jess Glynne.
16 Imagine Dragons

Machine flac

Imagine Dragons. 2018. Writer: Wayne Sermon;Daniel Platzman;Dan Reynolds;Ben McKee;Alex Da Kid.
17 Little Mix

The Cure flac

Little Mix. 2018.
18 Bradley Cooper

Always Remember Us This Way flac

Bradley Cooper. 2018. Writer: Lady Gaga;Dave Cobb.
19 Rita Ora

Velvet Rope flac

Rita Ora. 2018.
20 Lady Gaga

I'll Never Love Again flac

Lady Gaga. 2018. Writer: Benjamin Rice;Lady Gaga.

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