Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cowboy Bebop Session #20: Pierrot Le Fou

Now that's what I call animation! Shhhweeet shot!

It's ironic that I wound up reviewing Firefly and Cowboy Bebop simultaneously. I really hadn't thought much about it. It was not a conscious decision to do so. I started reviewing Cowboy Bebop during my Babylon 5 run. I took a short poll of what folks would like next and the spinning bottle landed on Firefly. So there you are, it's a space rogues gallery between Firefly and Cowboy Bebop really. As I mentioned before, fans of Firefly should check out Cowboy Bebop if for the sheer fact some of its elements and ideas really seep into the world of Firefly. Another example, Ghost In The Shell, had a tremendous impact and influence on the creators behind The Matrix. It's the same idea. The Matrix was certainly different from Ghost In The Shell, in much the same way Firefly is different from Cowboy Bebop, but there's clearly a parallel and influence on both The Matrix and Firefly as a result of these aforementioned anime classics.

Having said all of that, do I like Cowboy Bebop as much? I'm afraid not. I like the aspects of it that influenced Firefly, but many of the story ideas are not my cup of tea. Still, we do have six episodes remaining and perhaps one of them will knock my socks off.
*
In the opening moments of the entry a shadowy fat man with a cane and top hat stands at the end of an alley as henchmen with machine guns fire upon the man. The man is capable of flying and he has flown a long way to take their lives apparently. Here we go with, as the Boy Wonder puts it, "another strange idea" in Cowboy Bebop, Session #20, Pierrot Le Fou. It does appear weird indeed. It also takes its name from a 1965 film by Jean Luc-Godard. In that point, I'm not really sure why.
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With a machine gun in hand, masqued as a cane, firing commences and all of the henchmen die in a raucous ballet of bloody violence. Spike walks out from an alley way after playing some pool to find the top-hatted, fat killer standing there. The killer swings around and fires upon an evasive Spike. Spike fires back, but a green force field surrounds the mad man and the bullets bounce off. Suddenly, "the karate-chopping fat guy" [Boy Wonder is watching] is in a bout with Spike who does his best against this clearly super-powered freak of a man. Spike is beaten to the ground with the cane-gun pointed at his head and it looks to be the end. There's some great detail in the sequence including up close beads of sweat. A cat meows and distracts the freak-o belly man and he turns to fire upon the cat giving Spike a chance to escape. Turning back upon Spike the killer finds Spike is rolling some kind of fuel tank his way. Spike fires upon the tank exploding everything in sight. It's a terrific plan with typically, sharp-thinking from lead protagonist Spike Spiegel. Unfortunately, it doesn't do the trick.
*
Knocked for a loop after the explosion, a knife flies out from the flames into Spike's arm. Once again, the "criminal mastermind of a magician" makes it safely out of the flames. He fires a double-barrelled, heat-seeking shotgun at Spike after literally flashing Spike exhibiting his vast array of weaponry from inside of his coat jacket. Spike lands inside the bay in a kind of port of call. The inhuman monster that is the fat man fades away like some kind of ghost unsuccessful in getting Spike for now. These are all rather odd and seemingly random stories in the world of Cowboy Bebop.
*
A moustached man, Bob, tells Jet that Spike has gotten involved in some real bad stuff. Bob asks Jet if he's heard of the name "Mad Pierrot."
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On the BeBop, Faye is right there to bust up Spike whom she refers to as a mummy. Spike mumbles. It's pretty damn funny.

video

Bob tells Jet the group that was killed included a high ranking director of the I.S.S.P. [Inter Solar Systems Pol]. He was the seventh one to go down. Bob calls Pierrot the "perfect killing machine. He appears with a smile and leaves with a smile." No one who sees his face lives. If anyone gets away they are hunted down and killed. This Mad Pierrot is like a death machine. He's the ultimate assassin. Given Spike escaped his nasty clutches that news doesn't bode well.
*
Ein wakes Ed and Ed visits "Faye Faye." Ed has a thing for repeating names in this episode. What?! Bizarre. Spike now has the bandages off his face and he can actually talk now. He tells Faye Faye, I mean Faye, maybe this will be the one he doesn't come back. He tells her he's playing with her. Spike launches in the Swordfish. Jet checks in from the Hammerhead.
*
Spike lands his ship at Space Land, a kind of interplanetary amusement park it. It's closed and desolate and likely the perfect place for a final showdown with the strange fat man that looks like a human freak version of Totoro known as Mad Pierrot. Spike is welcomed by Mad Pierrot and the park is fully activated for the exciting duel to the death. It's a fitting location to fight this clown. Mad Pierrot really looks like something crazy scary in a fun house, a real carnival attraction himself. It is a fitting location.
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Mad Pierrot is so annoying one can only hope he has met his match in Spike. Of course that will be the case, Spike is the man. Spike is no push over, a real fighter. Good close-ups are hand drawn of Spike cocking his weapon. Spike pops a few rounds into a Pluto-like amusement park creature. It's really worth noting there were some really impressive cel shots in this entry. The cel animation highlighting Spike's battle almost beg for you to watch this entry in slow motion. Perhaps the same holds true for other entries, but this was a standout for me in this way. I attempted to grab a few of those images along the way.

Meanwhile, Ed is hacking into the I.S.S.P. Top Secret Section 13 computer. Jet is looking for information on Code Name: Tang Pu. At the park, the battle rages for Spike. The fight is truly nerve- rattling and bone-jarring as Mad Pierrot literally laughs non-stop while battling Spike. Explosions, falls from roller coasters and other physical mayhem continue to light up the park.
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Some impressive techno music kicks in and we are witness in flashback to some kind of genetic experimentation leading to the creation of the man that would inevitably be Mad Pierrot. Cats look upon the creation in dismay, which may explain his Pierrot's aversion to putty tats. The I.S.S.P. Assassination Skills Enhancement experiment, code named Tang Pu, clearly didn't go as expected. Tang Pu is quarantined following the cancelled experiment due to mental regression. Images would indicate Pierrot escaped. Could any of this be related to experiments performed on Spike or Faye? I'm beginning to think there is something underlying these experiments that may speak of a link to our fearless heroes. Jet has discovered all of the pertinent information thanks to Ed. Pierrot functions with the mind of a child, but with superhuman combat capabilities. Yeah, that's putting it lightly.
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The battle rages reaching a final face to face confrontation. Faye arrives to assist unwilling to see Spike go out in a blaze of glory. She fires all sorts of missile get out at the guy from her vessel and to no avail. Faye crashes. A meowing toy cat falls out from one of the amusement park stalls sending Mad Pierrot into a tirade. He goes even madder. He becomes a kind of Berserker Pierrot. Spike fires and Mad Pierrot is unfazed. He fires back and knocks Spike's gun from his hand. Spike leaps and fires his dagger in his last ditch attempt to stop Mad Pierrot. At precisely the same moment Pierrot fires and strikes Spike in the shoulder resulting in a splash of blood. Spike's dagger lands squarely in Pierrot's leg. The once seemingly impregnable Pierrot looks down and begins to cry like a baby throwing a tantrum and calling for mommy. Poor sod. Pierrot, emotionally stunted, cannot believe the mortality of his wound. Oddly, a parade of mechanized creatures strolls by and one of them squashes Pierrot with its foot. The poor soul that is Pierrot is gone.
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Spike wraps it up with an absolutely hysterical line as he walks away with a bullet hole in one side and out the other, "Man, I hate theme parks." That is a classic. I can't say I'm a big fan either Spike.
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The Boy Wonder calls the animation "very good, but the stories are odd." That's about right folks. I'll admit this is just too damn weird for me, but oddly enough I did like it. I really enjoyed the action and Spike is a completely kick-ass character. I do like the characters I'm just never all that jazzed about the stories. I remember reading somewhere once a complaint about Japanese storytelling when it comes to anime. They argued the stories didn't have the same strengths found in American storytelling. They make a point that could be argued I suppose. Then again, this is writing from a very different perspective, the creative minds of the Japanese. Still, despite being completely bizarre I couldn't help but like this one alot more. Maybe for a minute I didn't care that I didn't get it. However, this was a little more like it as they say. I don't know who 'they' are but 'they' say it. It may not have had the emotional power of Session #5, Ballad Of Fallen Angels, but the cool quotient was much higher for me, almost off the charts. I had always been given the impression Cowboy Bebop was really cool. This was more in line with what I was expecting.
*

Pierrot Le Fou: A-

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