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|Cowboy Bebop character|
|First appearance||"Asteroid Blues"|
|Created by||Hajime Yatate
Spike Spiegel (スパイク・スピーゲル Supaiku Supīgeru?) is the protagonist of the anime and manga series Cowboy Bebop. He won first place in the male character category of the Anime Grand Prix in 1998 and 1999.
Creation and conception
During the first work by Shinichirō Watanabe on Cowboy Bebop, the first image that came to him was of Spike. Prior to that, Watanabe had the character of Spike in mind for a long time beforehand. From that point on, Watanabe "tried to build a story around him, trying to make him cool." Watanabe created Spike as a mirror image of himself: in Watanabe's words, "I don't smoke or drink or fight, but I want to -- so Spike does." Spike forms the main focus on the series, with the central theme being his past and its karmic effect on him. The dark color of his clothing was intended to reflect his state of mind. Spike was portrayed as a very old-fashioned type of man, who would simply do what he wanted and expect others to follow his lead and watch him from the sidelines. Spike's artificial eye was included as Watanabe wanted his characters to have flaws. He was originally going to give Spike an eye patch, but the producers vetoed it. In order to portray him as cool, Toshihiro Kawamoto designed Spike to look "uncool": when he stands still, he has a hunched appearance. This meant that when the character was moving vigorously, he came across as "extra cool". Spike's Swordfish II spaceship was created by mecha designer Kimitoshi Yamane. Yamane liked the English biplane torpedo-bomber Fairey Swordfish, which led him to name the Swordfish II after the bomber.
Spike's Japanese voice actor, Kouichi Yamadera, was pleased to have gotten the part, but Unsho Ishizuka, Jet's voice actor, was surprised that Yamadera was not cast as Jet. Spike and Jet were designed to be opposites, with Spike being thin and wearing smart attire, while Jet was bulky and wore more casual clothing. His English voice actor, Steven Blum, used film noir imagery to get himself in the right frame of mind to voice the character convincingly. Blum had some difficulty portraying the character in scenes where he was showing vulnerability.
The conclusion of Spike's story and his final battle with Vicious were planned by Watanabe well in advance, with each episode featuring them meant to shadow their final confrontation. Some of the staff were unhappy about this approach as a continuation of the series would be difficult. While he considered altering the ending, he eventually settled with his original idea. Spike's ultimate fate was deliberately left ambiguous, with Watanabe eventually unable to say whether he lived or died.
Spike's portrayal was expanded in Cowboy Bebop: The Movie. Specifically, according to Yamadera, the character displayed more of his inner thoughts and showed a gentler side than he did in the series. This was because the team had more time available to express such details. Blum found his performance in the movie one of his most difficult from an emotional standpoint, as there were scenes where Spike was portrayed quite differently from the version he had been playing in the series.
Spike is a fictional bounty hunter who was born on Mars, June 28, 2044. According to the anime guides, he is 27 years old and has fluffy dark-green hair and brown eyes; one of which is artificial and lighter than the other. His right eye was surgically replaced with a cybernetic one. He is usually dressed in a blue leisure suit, with a yellow shirt and boots similar to those worn by Arsène Lupin III. Spike often smokes cigarettes, despite rain or “no smoking” signs. He stands 6'1" and weighs 155 lbs.
Spike makes use of sleight of hand techniques to win card games, pickpocket, and slip things onto other people unnoticed. He is also shown to sneak up on enemies through disguise or quiet movement. He is proficient with weaponry (such as his personal Jericho 941 as well as other guns and explosives) and hand-to-hand combat skills. He is a skilled martial artist and a practitioner of Jeet Kune Do. Spike is also a pilot and flies a converted Asteroid racer called Swordfish II, which is armed with four machine guns, missile pylons, and a plasma cannon.
When he is shown not working, Spike is very laid back, sarcastic, and lively to the dismay of his crew mates. He is typically found either resting on the couch or reading a magazine. Spike's philosophy seems to be based on the ancient samurai ideals of immediacy, such as considering oneself as dead and the idea of death as being an awakening from a dream, which are both elements of bushidō illustrated in the Hagakure. His listed dislikes include children, pets, and women with attitude.
Watanabe has said that Spike has a habit of being very indirect with his emotions; for example, he may behave antagonistically towards someone he actually likes. He says that this could apply to Spike's relationship with Faye.
Spike was a rising member of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate, where he worked with his then-partner, Vicious. Both were mentored by Mao Yenrai. Badly injured after a shoot-out in the slums on Mars, Spike stumbled to Julia’s home, who at that time was Vicious’ girlfriend. The pair fell in love while she nursed him back to health. It was during this time that Spike decided to leave the Syndicate with Julia.
Vicious, upon discovering this, threatened that Julia would face death for her betrayal should she go through with the plan and revealed that he intended to kill Spike for his treachery to both him and the Syndicate. In response, Spike managed to fake his own death by engaging in a gunfight alone in a church against unidentified opponents, which allowed Red Dragon to forget about him. He waited for Julia at a predetermined rendezvous point so they could escape and be free but she never arrived.
Some time after his faked death, Spike met the former ISSP cop turned bounty hunter Jet Black, and became partners. Spike moved onto Jet’s ship, the Bebop, and the two men worked together for three years before the other crew members joined.
Throughout the series hints and flashbacks of Spike’s past are revealed. He comes face to face with Vicious once more in the fifth episode, when Vicious lures Spike out of hiding by assassinating Mao Yenrai and kidnapping Faye. They duel each other, but survive the encounter. They meet a second time on Callisto during a botched drug transaction, but Vicious manages to escape.
In the final episode, Spike and Julia reunite and continue their plans to escape the Red Dragons. They fight their way out, but Julia is shot and killed. Spike returns to the Bebop for a meal with Jet, and the two share a moment of understanding as Spike relates his life’s situation to his partner. As he leaves to settle the score with Vicious, he is confronted by Faye. He tells Faye the story behind his cybernetic eye and the effect it had on his outlook on life. Faye asks why Spike is leaving to throw away his life. Spike answers that he isn’t leaving to die, but rather to see if he really is alive. He then departs to confront the past he abandoned three years before. He storms the Red Dragon headquarters, killing many of the members, and then he and Vicious confront each other.
After a brief clash, Spike and Vicious exchange blows simultaneously, and Vicious dies. Spike recalls Julia’s final words to him, “It’s all … a dream … ” before descending the staircase, where he is confronted by the remainder of the Red Dragons. Mimicking a gun with his fingers, Spike utters a final word, “Bang”, smiles, and collapses.
Spike's character has been well received in Japan. He won first place in the Best Male Character category at Animage 's annual Anime Grand Prix awards two consecutive times in 1998 and 1999. In the August 2001 issue of Newtype, Spike was ranked first on the magazine's list of "Top 10 Most Popular Male Anime Characters in Japan". The next year in July 2002, Spike was again placed at number one on Newtype 's anime list of "Favorite Male Character". In a Newtype poll from March 2010, Spike was voted by readers as the eighteenth most popular male anime character from the 1990s. In 2014, Kōichi Yamadera was voted by fans as the third coolest "old guy" voice actor in a Goo Ranking poll, with his portrayal of Spike cited as one of the contributing factors.
Western critics have also directed significant praise towards Spike. In his review of Cowboy Bebop, Anime News Network's Mike Crandol praised the character portrayals, especially Spike's, stating that "Spike's character in particular runs the gamut from goofy to blasé' to teeth-gnashing tough; he is one of most three-dimensional anime leads in recent memory." Christi of THEM Anime Review 4.0 complimented Spike's story arc in the series, saying that "the underlying theme of Spike Spiegel and his motivations for what he does is absolutely intriguing." In his review of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, DVD Talk's Neil Lumbard praised the characters including Spike, noting that "Spike is one of the coolest characters in anime with dark-green afro hair and a mysterious personality that is explored even further in this film." Carlos Ross of THEM Anime Review 4.0 reserved special praise for Spike's portrayal in the film declaring that "If they get anything right, it's Spike, who is at his best in this film."
In 2009, IGN ranked Spike the fourth greatest anime character of all time (behind Goku, Astro Boy, and Speed Racer), with editor Chris Mackenzie describing him as "a fellow who, in his quiet way, became one of the great modern noir heroes," and citing him as an example of animation being "the perfect medium for film noir." Mackenzie stated that "Spike's a flashy, funny, violent tough guy, and that's part of what makes him fun to watch," and praised his story arc, explaining that "what really makes Cowboy Bebop work, though, is the story that grows out of his past, and the reckoning that all of that inevitably builds towards." Mackenzie concluded by praising the end of Spike's story, saying that "Every key character in the series finds some way to settle things with what's gone before, except for Spike, who just can't find a way to let the past go. Given how his story ends, though, we wouldn't have it any other way."
Later in 2014, IGN ranked Spike two places above his previous rank as the second greatest anime character of all time (behind Shinji Ikari), with editor Ramsey Isler saying that "Spike was an amalgamation of influences ['Bruce Lee's martial arts, a little Lupin III, a heavy dose of film noir, add a dash of cool'], and the result was a creation greater than the sum of its parts." Isler went on to state that "In a series like Cowboy Bebop, which was itself a combination of cultural influences from around the globe, Spike was the essence of the story." Isler described Spike as "a versatile character; he was an expert pickpocket, a gearhead who worked on his own spaceship, a clever detective, a badass fighter, and even a bit of a philosopher." Feeling that "what made Spike most interesting was his past as a gangster," Isler went on to praise the character's role in the series's ending declaring that "When Cowboy Bebop reaches its powerful conclusion, Spike goes out in a blaze of glory that is unmatched in all of anime."
At the 2005 Anime Awards from About.com, Spike was nominated in the category "Best Lead Male Character", though he lost to Goku. In 2010, Wired included Spike on its list of the "6 Genre-Tripping Gunfighters Jonah Hex Must Duel FTW!", with writer Scott Thill complimenting his abilities, stating that "He's as handy with his mouth and fists as he is with a Jericho 941 or an Asteroid racer tricked out with plasma cannons and chain guns." Thill concluded by saying that while "Spike can pretty much do it all, [...] he does have a prevailing weakness, as Cowboy Bebop proved, that Hex doesn't: a heart." In 2013, Complex ranked Spike the fourth most stylish anime character ever (behind Daisuke Jigen, Shōtarō Kaneda, and Jimmy Sparks), with writer Jian DeLeon commenting that "The Mars-born bounty hunter knows the benefit of a good uniform." In 2014, WatchMojo.com named Spike an honorable mention on its list of the "Top 10 Anime Anti-Heroes", and also ranked him at number nine on its list of the "Top 10 Anime Heroes". His apparent death was also given an honorable mention on WatchMojo.com's "Top 10 Saddest Anime Deaths".
Spike's relationship with Julia was placed at number seven on About.com's list of the "Top 8 Anime Love Stories", with editor Katherine Luther describing the two characters as "Star-crossed lovers that just can't seem to find the right time/planet/circumstances." Kotaku's Richard Eisenbeis was particularly impressed with Spike and Faye's relationship; he stated "Watching their attitude toward each other change across seemingly unrelated episodes is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the series."
Steven Blum's portrayal as Spike has also drawn praise. Isler stated that "Steve Blum launched his career into new heights when he gave the performance of a lifetime in the English dub of the series, giving Spike a sense of smooth, effortless cool that many argue surpassed the original Japanese version." While praising the whole principal cast of the series as one of the best English dubs, Serdar Yegulalp of About.com highlighted Blum as Spike as the standout performance of the series, stating that "Cynicism never sounded this suave or self-assured." Blum himself has called Spike a "gigantic benchmark" in his career and life, saying that "Spike changed everything" for him. He stated, "Prior to that, I had been doing all sorts of anime and it was fun, and I was getting recognized a little bit, but Spike took it to a whole different level. Spike was the reason I got to do T.O.M. on Toonami and Jamie on Megas XLR. It led to so many different things. It opened doors and got people listening which they might not have otherwise." Blum called Spike an "example of a character I didn't fully appreciate until the series was over," also adding that he would like to reprise his role as the character if given the chance. At the end of Toonami's final airing in September 2008, the host T.O.M., who was voiced by Blum, finished the block with a brief, final monologue ending with the word "Bang", a reference to Spike's final word in the series.
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