Cowboy Bebop (1998): Cowboy Bebop: Pierrot Le Fou   Rewatch 
December 7, 2014 2:40 PM - Season 1, Episode 20 - Subscribe

In the 20th session of Cowboy Bebop, Spike chances upon the brutal murder of a group of bodyguards and the man they are protecting. The killer is a comical figure, rotund with an exaggerated top hat, who seems to be able to repel bullets and literally fly around. Spike escapes his first encounter with Mad Pierrot, but is invited to Space Land to have a final showdown with Pierrot. Who is this magical maniac, and will Spike survive?

"There's nothing as pure and as cruel as a child."

The title is a reference to Pierrot le Fou, a postmodern film from 1965, and the titular character appears to be some blend of three villains from the Batman universe: the Penguin, the Joker, and the less well-known Tally Man.
posted by filthy light thief (3 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This was the session where I feel like I figured out Spike. Up until this episode I knew he was a badass, but this one made me understand he was special, the baddest mofo in the world. I also think this was when I figured out he has a death wish.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:59 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I remember watching this one with a group of anime fans, and most of us hadn't seen Bebop yet, so it was all a fresh experience (or at least, it seems that way in my hazy memory). This episode was heavy compared to everything that came before. Even the episodes with Vicious were light in comparison, probably because of the surreal nature of Pierrot, the glimpse into his background, and the fact you never learn more about him. If there was a second season of this show, I would expect him to return, battered but not beaten, and even more deranged.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:02 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

As much as I enjoy this episode, I've always felt that it was an odd man out in the series, by virtue of being even more self-contained and bound to direct homage than the usual CB session. It wears the Batman: TAS influence proudly on its sleeve, but at the same time doesn't really tell us that much about the Cowboy Bebop universe. I think Spike's Thanatos complex (here manifested in his inability to walk away from a fight) was pretty well established by this point, as was the ISSP's general corruption and malfeasance. The idea of an abandoned(?) theme park in a Martian crater does have a certain Bradburian whimsy to it, but the episode seems somewhat thinly conceptualized beyond that.

Part of it is the fact that there are really only three scenes in the whole thing: Spike stumbles upon Pierrot and gets beat up, Jet's buddy (and Ed's intercut hacking montage) gives us some exposition, and then Pierrot and Spike fight at the amusement park. The episode does a good job of making all of this flow, but it still feels a bit low-stakes on a storytelling level, mainly because it's just telling us stuff about Spike that we already kind of know.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the writer for this episode, Sadayuki Murai; It turns out, he's the primary screenwriter for most of Satoshi Kon's films, and he wrote two other episodes of CB. One of them is "Gateway Shuffle," which is notable for having another arguably Batman-influenced villain: Twinkle Maria Murdoch. He also did next week's "Boogie Woogie Feng Shui", which I must confess I don't really remember that much about.

Anyway, I think it's also appropriate to bring up the origins of Tong Poo/Mad Pierrot's names: Not only is it a reference to Jean-Luc Godard (in keeping with Watanabe's love of the French New Wave), but it's also an even more direct name-check of the bookending tracks ("Yellow Magic [Tong Poo]" and "Mad Pierrot") on Side Two of Yellow Magic Orchestra's 1978 self-titled debut album. I don't need much of an excuse to link to YMO; I see them as the godfathers of an entire generation of instrumental music, particularly for video games and anime, and the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack's eclecticism definitely ties in to that.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:39 PM on December 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

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