Raena’s Foremothers: Cowboy Bebop

I discovered the space bounty hunter anime Cowboy Bebop at a Japanese pop culture lecture at the Dolby Center in the 90s. The presenter (whose name I’m forgetting now) didn’t play any of the show beyond the intro segment, with Yoko Kanno’s incredible score. After that, I had to track it down, which meant at that point, renting video cassettes. Eventually I bought my own DVDs.

It’s been a while I’ve written about the influences behind my space opera trilogy. All the other influences in this series of essays have been female, so you might expect that Faye Valentine would be the focus of this essay. That’s only sort of true.

Faye begins as a gambler who invites herself into a gang of bounty hunters as an escape from her debts. Before long, she’s hunting bounties on her own. Faye is fundamentally broken, though. She doesn’t know when to quit, to walk away when she’s won.

Her costume is ludicrous — thigh-high stockings, booty shorts with suspenders, a skintight crop top beneath the hint of a jacket — exposing her body and letting the viewer project onto it without making her intentions clear.

Faye is played for comedy at first. Over the course of the show, she’s revealed as the most tragic member of the crew. She woke up after a long cryo sleep with a huge debt for her medical costs and no memory of who she was. She’s immediately romanced and conned by one of her caretakers. In the end, she finds the home she lost when a star gate exploded, a friend who knew her from school who is elderly now, but everything she thought would save her is gone.

Faye used the Bebop to find where she came from. In the end, she finds it’s the only place she belongs.

Which, now that I write that out, mirrors Raena Zacari’s story in my trilogy. Raena uses the crew of the Veracity to wipe away her past, only to realize that the crew — and the ship she stole for them — are her real home.

To tell the truth, though, when I think about the crew of the Bebop, the character I meant as a model for Raena is Spike Spiegel. Like Spike, Raena worked in a criminal syndicate (although Raena’s organization was the Imperial diplomatic corps) for a crazy, needlessly violent commander. Both Spike and Raena are considered dead by their commanders, which allows them to start new lives under their old names. Both of them expect their stories to end when they finally confront their commanders once more.

Of course, none of those similarities were conscious on my part. I hadn’t rewatched Cowboy Bebop in 15 years. Last month, though, while I had a whole lot of filing to do, I put the DVDs in to keep my company. And I fell in love with the show all over again.

You can watch it now on Crunchy Roll or get the series on DVD from Amazon for 30 bucks: https://amzn.to/2JwJzXJ

Oh, and if you’re interested, you can check out my space opera trilogy, too. The first one is half off on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2JFPi0E

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My other Raena’s Foremothers essays so far are:

Aeon Flux
Jeri Cale
Pvt. Vasquez
Sarah Connor
Molly Millions
Doctor Cyn Sharpe
Zoe Washburne
Martha Allard
Princess Leia
Alice from Resident Evil
Lara Croft

About Loren Rhoads

I'm the author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, as well as a space opera trilogy. I'm also co-author of a series about a succubus and her angel. In addition to blogging at CemeteryTravel.com, I blog about my morbid life at lorenrhoads.com.
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