Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cowboy Bebop Session #5: Ballad Of Fallen Angels

This is one complete, bad ass man of action! Watch out!

Two clans make amends. One leaves. Their ship explodes. A group enters slaying everyone left inside including a man named Mao Yenra. Before the last man standing dies he indicates "The Syndicates can't survive like this any longer. This endless bloodletting is tearing us all apart." Any chance for peace is decimated. His final gasp of words, "If Spike were here you would never have done this." This is indeed one of the most exciting starts to Cowboy Bebop yet. It also serves up a bit more in the way of character development. Here we are with Cowboy Bebop, Session #5, Ballad Of Fallen Angels.
*
Thus far, Cowboy Bebop has been good if not great. The first session and introductory episode was the best to date in my opinion. It caught my attention and the story had me engaged. I was hooked. Since then it has been so-so to good. Perhaps there has been much to establish. I'm hopeful things will improve.
*
The next bounty for the murders of these Syndicate leaders is in play. Jet no like. Spike has a lead. I suspect it has something to do with his prior affiliation with the group. Jet senses Spike is hiding something. Spike throws the idea of 'secrets' back in his face when he asks him what happened to his arm. Jet Black has a mechanical arm.
*
The team interaction is beginning to take form as well as the bickering. Faye definitely wants to be part of their action. Jet is clearly annoyed by her antics. He leaves the communications area and Faye intercepts a bounty and off she goes in her spaceship. Jet is a master at decryption, or so he says, and takes a look at the target later with Ein looking on.
*
Meanwhile, Spike visits a store clerk named Annie who is aghast to see him still alive. Spike was supposed to be dead. He allegedly died three years ago. Annie, short for Anastasia, may have been Mao Yenra's daughter. Mao was the one killed earlier. A photo of Mao with a young girl and boy is viewed. The girl is Annie and the boy appears to be Vicious. I suspect he was their father I think. Deduction would suspect the mother must not have been Japanese or they were adopted.
*
Elsewhere, in the theatre, Faye looks for him, but finds armed men awaiting her arrival. She is seated in Yenra's viewing box next to a bloodied Yenra and a man named Vicious. Ya think? Fair name.
*
Back on the Bebop, Spike is loading up heavy artillery in his plan to avenge Mao. Jet doesn't like it one bit and tries to dissuade him by telling him he lost his arm for being too gung-ho. "My past is catching up to me," admits Spike. He needs to do this. They receive a transmission from Faye requesting their help. Spike tells her he might come. It's possible. He's a buster.
*
"When angels are forced out of heaven, they become devils," mutters Vicious. Spike and Vicious meet in an abandoned cathedral. The whole vibe is very The Crow. There's a cheesy, anime guitar-rock song playing over the sequence and the singing is a bit on the annoying side as I listen to the dialogue between Vicious and Spike. It turns out Mao took Vicious in and gave him everything he had and the thanks he received was death by his very hands. Tragic. Vicious was adopted it appears and he killed his own father. In what turns out to be a stunning sequence, a gun and grenade battle ensues. It begins when Spike sees Faye held at gunpoint. We find out for the first time here what a terrific shot Spike is. With one bullet to the head the scumbag is taken out. The battle begins. Faye escapes and alerts Jet who is pruning his Japanese Bonsai plant.
*
Faye does look damn good in a red dress.
The fight between Spike and Vicious ends in a draw with a Japanese Katana sword on Spike's shoulder and a gun aimed at the shoulder of Vicious. Spike fires, Vicious stabs. Blood spills and Spike is pushed out of the cathedral window leaving behind a grenade for Vicious. This is a mesmerizing sequence that must be seen to be fully appreciated. It is pure art as far as animation goes. It's a genuinely beautiful edit of images and music. It's also ironically so given lives are at stake amidst the abundant violence.
*
As Spike falls, we are given to flashbacks of Vicious and Spike who clearly worked together once side by side. The sweet melody of children's voices populate the speakers as Spike's fall seems like an eternity. The track is called Green Bird and it is a perfect fit to the sequence. In fact, as we see splices of Spike's past [one entwined with Vicious], including his former love Julia I believe, roses, violence, eye close-ups, etc... we literally forget about the grenade as it explodes above. Is Vicious killed? We just don't know, but we suspect this cat has a few lives left.

video
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A Spike's eye view cam literally sees a badly injured Spike waiver and fall to the ground bloodied before the feet of a beautiful blond woman. Later he awakens in her home where he is soothed by her singing voice and asks her to continue. It is a dream. The coloration of the cels would indicate it to be the case.
*
Earlier I mentioned Faye may be the most beautiful animated woman ya ever did see. Julia may be even hotter. It's just too close to call.
Spike awakens for real three days later to the humming voice of Faye. Spike is fully bandaged from head to toe and immobile. He whispers to Faye about her singing and says she sings off key. She belts him with a pillow and Jet smiles. All is right with life on the BeBop. All is right with this episode. Ballad Of Fallen Angels is poetry within the world of anime. This episode in particular shines and stands on its own as a singular piece of cinema. I was looking for improvement and this a powerful entry in the series. It is a stunning ballet of violence and it is gorgeous. A work that requires repeat viewing.
*
Ballad Of Fallen Angels: A
*
Characters: Spike/ Jet/ Faye/ Ein/ Vicious/ Julia

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