Spike Spiegel

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Spike Spiegel
Cowboy Bebop character
Spike Spiegel as drawn by the creators.jpg
First appearance Cowboy Bebop Episode 1: Asteroid Blues
Created by Hajime Yatate
Voiced by Japanese
Kōichi Yamadera
English
Steven Blum
Profile
Affiliations Red Dragon Crime Syndicate (formerly)
Bebop Crew

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[1] and 1999.[2]

Background[edit]

Spike is a fictional bounty hunter who was born on Mars, June 26, 2044. According to the anime guides, he is 27 years old and has fluffy dark-green hair [3] 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.[4] 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.

Series director Shinichirō 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.[3]

History[edit]

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 fate at the end of the series is left open-ended. It is implied that Spike may have died from wounds sustained in his final duel with Vicious and the Red Dragons (the collapse, the fading star, the angelic choir). However, in an interview, Watanabe stated, “I’ve never officially said that he died. At this point, I can tell you that I’m not sure if he’s alive or dead.” He also stated that he believes fans would be upset if there was a continuation.[3]

Conception[edit]

Mecha designer Kimitoshi Yamane liked the English biplane torpedo-bomber Fairey Swordfish; Yamane’s preferences lead to the naming of Spike Spiegel’s ship: the Swordfish II. The II does not imply that Spike’s craft is a second generation model.[5]

Reception[edit]

Spike and Faye are often cited as the two most popular characters of the series, and they figure centrally in most merchandise based on the franchise.

In its review of the series, Anime News Network praised Spike’s character, saying, “Spike … in particular runs the gamut from goofy to blasé to teeth-gnashing tough; he is one of [the] most three-dimensional anime leads in recent memory.”[6] AnimeOnDVD commented that in the movie, Spike was “much more appealing this time around than through parts of the TV series”, and comparing him to Lupin III by saying that “Spike’s way of dealing with things and reacting to situations, from his movements to his facial expressions, are very reminiscent of Lupin’s that [sic] each instance brings a smile to my face.”[7] He was fourth in IGN's 2009 Top 25 Anime Characters of All Time with writer Chris Mackenzie saying "Spike's a flashy, funny, violent tough guy, and that's part of what makes him fun to watch".[8] In 2014, IGN ranked him as the second greatest anime character of all time, saying that "Spike was an amalgamation of influences, and the result was a creation greater than the sum of its parts."[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The 20th Anime Grand Prix". Animage. Retrieved May 20, 2009. 
  2. ^ "The 21st Anime Grand Prix". Animage. Retrieved May 20, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c "'Cowboy Bebop' director Watanabe talks anime". The Daily Texan. February 14, 2006. Retrieved May 20, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Love Spike". Mad About the Cowboy. Retrieved May 20, 2009. 
  5. ^ Cowboy Bebop Anime Guide Volume 4. Tokyopop. April 2002. 58.
  6. ^ Crandol, Mike (February 1, 2002). "Cowboy Bebop Box Set DVD - Review". Anime News Network. Retrieved May 20, 2009. 
  7. ^ Beveridge, Chris (June 18, 2003). "Cowboy Bebop Movie: Knockin' on Heaven's Door Review". AnimeOnDVD. Retrieved May 20, 2009. 
  8. ^ Mackenzie, Chris (October 20, 2009). "Top 25 Anime Characters of All Time". IGN. Retrieved October 21, 2009. 
  9. ^ Isler, Ramsey (February 4, 2014). "Top 25 Greatest Anime Characters". IGN. Retrieved March 13, 2014.