Anime Reviews

How the Cowboy Bebop ending explains the meaning of “You’re gonna carry that weight”

What is the Cowboy Bebop ending trying to say? It feels like such a waste! Spike doesn’t have to face Vicious, he could just stay with Faye and Jet, leave Mars and fly away, but he doesn’t.

No matter how many times it’s replayed, there will always be that choice hanging over Spike in the end, but then, isn’t that why Cowboy Bebop‘s still so fascinating? Consider Faye Valentine.

Having lost much of her memory to amnesia, she spends basically the whole series piecing together elements of her childhood, her old friends, her family; her old life, basically. She’s able to ignore reality right up until the Cowboy Bebop ending because she’s clinging to the dream that someone, somewhere, is waiting for her, with a warm home and arms wide open. Eventually, her dream is shattered, but as sad as that is, her life is, from that point onwards, all about moving forwards and facing reality.

Freed from the same invisible threads that so bind Spike, her realisation comes too late in the day to save him from his inevitable fate, but thinking about her life from that point onwards, one can at least rest assured that her eyes are finally open.

She knows how futile and stupid Spike’s reasons are for leaving, but also knows that she’s powerless to stop him from going (repeatedly firing her gun into the air is a symbol of that frustration and impotence.) Absolutely no-one can stop Spike at this point from being drawn back; just as she found herself running down that old road in search of the truth, the allure of the past by now is just too strong for him to resist.

How a person deals with that allure or attachment to things long since passed is telling of a person’s potential to thrive in the future. In other words, can you put the past behind you and move on? It’s what director Shinichirō Watanabe is trying to explain during Cowboy Bebop‘s ending by signing off with the tag-line that reads “You’re gonna carry that weight.”

Faye: "My... memory came back." during the Cowboy Bebop ending

Faye: "But... nothing good came out of it." during the Cowboy Bebop ending

Faye: "There was no place for me to return to..." during the Cowboy Bebop ending

Faye: "This was the only place I could go back to!" during the Cowboy Bebop ending

No-one lives a perfectly happy life, yet every day we’re faced by choosing either to live by striving for a better tomorrow, or to retreat by lamenting yesterday. At the end of Cowboy Bebop, Spike’s eyes are trained on yesterday, but Faye’s on tomorrow. It makes for an ostensibly cool ending, yet the more one thinks about it, the more it feels like such a pointless, tragic waste. Life is for living, after all! Spike should’ve stayed with his friends, on the Bebop!

82 replies on “How the Cowboy Bebop ending explains the meaning of “You’re gonna carry that weight””

Really? I get what you mean, but… in the same way that Faye finally realised where her true home was, I believe there was still a hope for happiness in Spike. He didn’t have to go on that last suicidal mission; there was nothing left for him with Vicious. It just seems like a sad and pointless thing to do.

Yes, it’s sad and pointless… and this is the truest thing the show says in the end.
I’ve considered that Spike’s narrative as really, the bookends to the real content of the show: a rather beautiful set of stories that go nowhere that portray the nihilism of life in the solar system in that part of human history.
Spike’s “pointless” act in the end underscores this.
There was no redemption for anyone. (Ed is not a character that needs to be redeemed, so her ‘happy’ end is a non-factor; and her being a child doesn’t give the character space for regret)

I’d argue (as I have above) that there’s something bordering on redemption for Faye in the end, but it’s not something that’s easy to grasp, and requires some optimism. Your point concerning Bebop being about “stories that go nowhere” is interesting, though. I’ve never really looked at the narrative in broader terms, but I think you’re spot on. It’s a show about how, in the grander scheme of things, human life is aimless and insignificant, but that, in-spite of this, people can find ways to keep on living and find happiness. Faye is swept away by this sense of insignificance towards the end, but tries to fight back.

In the narrative between episodes, teasing the audience for the next episode, they often allude to it all being pointless and a waste of time. (Bohemian Rhapsody in particular.) For me, it works in a much deeper sense than traditional story-telling because I can relate to it a lot more. Life, in reality, seems pointless or as if it’s just all happening randomly with no valuable conclusion in the end. It’s the same with Bebop, it’s just a collection of stories that all lead up to… nothing, really. What you’re left with is a myriad of thoughts, feelings, and memories and you have to find value in it all for yourself.
Spike’s ending is the best way, because like others are saying, he wasn’t truly alive anymore. Especially with Julia dead, and his past all catching up to him again, he had nothing left to hope for but to cut off Vicious’ coup and prevent the Syndicate from becoming even more dangerous, partially through Spike’s own actions in history. Once this was completed, Spike’s driving force was completely gone, he had no more reason to live and his mind allows his body to die from his wounds. Afterall, he would’ve lived otherwise, look at how much physical damage he withstands throughout the rest of the series and turns out fine after chilling on the couch covered in bandages.

I don’t think Faye regarded the Bebop her true home… She went back there because there was nowhere else she could go. I think she would’ve been much, much happier to find a place she really belonged to, someone who was really waiting for her with open arms.
Anyway, setting all symbolism and philosophy aside, Vicious’ raison d’etre is to kill Spike. Ultimately it hasn’t got a lot to do with Julia (to be honest, I don’t think it was ever really about Julia), it’s Vicious’ own drive and hatred, something Spike also shares. Spike couldn’t have avoided confronting him, and he didn’t even try at any point in the show. Even if Spike didn’t go to him in the last episode Vicious would’ve continued to haunt him, until either of them were dead… but then, Spike didn’t even think of not confronting him.
I’ve always found Vicious and Spike fascinating because while there’s not much we know about Vicious or their past together, there’s still this powerful bond between them, which is, on one hand, the usual “destiny” and “dark side” stuff, but on the other hand something more profound and complicated. Going by Jupiter Jazz, in a way Spike is to Vicious what Vicious was for Gren. I would’ve felt it unfair if Spike stayed alive when Vicious was dead.

I can’t disagree with anything you’ve said here, kuromitsu. A lot of this is down to how we perceive the characters in the series, but thinking about it now, the key to all this ambiguity is Vicious and his unfathomable malevolence. He has no discernible reason for doing what he does, he’s just a nasty bloke that delights in violence and terror. I’ve always found him fascinating in that way.
What was his relationship with Spike? What was it like when they were comrades? All we have to go on are a couple of black & white, silent flashbacks, but then… this ambiguity is a key part of Bebop’s allure, too. I always loved how, when Spike faces Vicious, he meets those other Chinese twins, Lin and Shin, both as strong as Spike and Vicious, and both good friends with Spike. Again, we don’t know why that is, but it’s just fascinating wondering how they once knew each other.

Yo bromalade, Julia was Vicious’s gf/wife who cheated on him with spike. Later, Spike tried to get out of the mafia org. Vicious confronts Julia w/ the choice between killing Spike and living or being killed by Vicious. Spike barely survives the oncoming shitstorm and becomes a bounty hunter. So pretty much, Vicious and Spike have a background of epic bros until Julia cheats on him with his best bro and later ditches the org. they both work in. It’s kind of obvious that vicious is pissed. (And wants to fuck >_>)

I don’t know if I see it so much as being “sucked into the past” as Spike being falsely in the present. Throughout the series he has a fairly thin characterization; doesn’t smile much (but isn’t gloomy), doesn’t laugh much (but isn’t dreary), gets the job done about as cleanly as he can and doesn’t piss off everyone else on the ship too much. He has no real attachments to the present, and never gets more than fleetingly close to Faye and the rest. In contrast, Faye’s attachment to Spike seems to grow despite her wishes.
He’s living, but only to find a place to die. Spike and Jet’s dynamic seems to portray this – Spike does stupid, risky things and Jet seems to just sit back and watch. The only time Spike seems to show any emotion is during his confrontations with Vicious, as well as the Jupiter Jazz episodes with Julia. While I’m sure he likes the crew, his only attachments to the world seem to be those in the past. It just so happens that he exists in the present.

But if he’s “[…] living, but only to find a place to die,” why not just give up as soon as he’s betrayed by Julia/Vicious? I have to believe that there’s a part of Spike that wants to go on living, but in the end, he just loses his will to live, or his desire to go on ‘carrying that weight.’ Indeed, I don’t really disagree with your assessment of Spike at all, it’s just… I think he’s being a quitter, or ‘doing a Nico Robin.’ Perhaps Faye and Jet could have made more of an effort to persuade him to stay? I just want to see more optimism in Bebop. I hate thinking that Spike’s “only attachments to the world seem to be those in the past” 🙁

I agree, Spike did form a bond with the other crew members, we can see that he and Jet were clearly upset when Faye, Ed and Ein left.
Also, in one of Watanabe’s interviews he said this:
DT: You said in your lecture that the characters you relate most to are Mugen and Spike. Care to explain?
W: First, I’m often shooting people and slashing them up with a sword … It’s a joke. [Laughs] Spike and Mugen aren’t very straightforward in expressing themselves. For example, even if there’s a girl they like standing right in front of them, they don’t pursue her directly – in fact, they do the opposite, they ignore her almost. I think that part is kind of like me. If I was to sum it up, it’s kind of like being a little contradictory or rebellious.
DT: Are you talking about Spike’s relationship with Faye?
W: Of course. Sometimes I’m asked the question, ‘What does Spike think of Faye?’ I think that actually he likes her quite a bit. But he’s not a very straightforward person so he makes sure he doesn’t show it.
So, yeah, he did like Faye, but I think this isn’t just about her. Spike acts aloof to mask the fact that he cares.

Maybe I’ve got this wrong, but I thought the reason Spike went off to face Vicious at the end was because he had to finally face his past straight on. He couldn’t have stayed on the Bebop with Faye and Jet because this same scenario would catch up with him time and time again in the future.
Now that I’ve read this post though, I feel like I’ve misread something. I need to re-watch the show I guess, but the dvd boxset I have only has the first half 🙁

Your interpretation is basically correct, Scamp, but I don’t think Spike does it for Faye’s or Jet’s sake. It’s just like… he’s reached the point of no return. You should re-watch it sometime, Bebop is one of the few examples of a series that only gets better with age.

i think you’re spot on about spike having to face his past, or directly, vicious. i believe he chose to do it then because of the coup vicious eventually pulled off. he had to go because if he had just left then vicious would’ve used all the resources of the red dragons to hunt him and anyone who was with him down. more than likely killed them in some horrible typical-vicious manner.
spike had to stop vicious before he could issue any orders as the head of the red dragons. nip it in the bud, so to speak. also, he would’ve endangered his friends by just being around them. by stopping vicious, he showed just how much he cared about them.
also, shin alluded to this by saying ‘i was waiting for you to come back and take over’. it was spike’s destiny to take over and no matter how much he ran from it, it would’ve caught up with him eventually. and i think he chose that time to strike because vicious’ rule was still in it’s infancy.
however, all this is just speculation and the only one who truly knows is mr. watanabe.
p.s. i would be nice if he would shine a light on it for all us bebop-crazy fans!

No, i totally agree with you. I think that is essentially why he did it. He needed to face his past and find out whether all these years of living in the past were really well spent or just to, ultimately, like they did, end in his “maybe” death.

I also think that one of the reason spike went off to face vicious was that he didnt want that all his friends get involved in his past, since Annie died in the end because of the mafia organisation which pursued spike. As she died spike had a guilty conscience. And Julia also died. I think, that are also reason why he didnt avoid to face vicious.

Thats the beauty of Bebop’s ending. Its ambiguity has held up nicely over the years. And ya Faye’s apparent growing infatuation towards spike kept on escalating as the show went on, despite her not wishing for it to happen. Its sad that she just probably wanted a place to belong to, a person to thoroughly witness her existence. Its too bad it had to be Spike.

Faye has cursed luck. The episode where they find the old video tape of her as a kid sending a message to herself in the future is still just so god damn heart-breaking.
Out of all the characters, she’s the one I really wanted to see pull through. The others all seemed stronger, or at least, more able to conceal/ready to accept their situations, but her desperation to forge a better life for herself makes her seem so much more vulnerable and in need of security.

Yeah Bebop’s truly beautiful in its ambiguity. I haven’t yet tried to come up with an articulation of the meanings in Bebop yet that’s satisfying for me (for example, I’m fairly satisfied with my articulation of Tatami Galaxy), but I think a lot of it do hinges on what you’re talking about, about dealing with past/your attachments, where the idea of being ‘alive’ or dead plays important role. In that respect I don’t think many ‘filler’ episodes weren’t fillers at all, since those people and subjects in question were very much related to what Spike, Jet, Faye were all going through. One thing I’d disagree is that I don’t think Spike’s decision should be seen as ‘giving up’ in Nico Robin’s fashion because being with Jet/Faye has very different meaning for Spike compared to Rico being with Strawhat’s crew.

I definitely never looked at any episode of Bebop as filler. I’ve watched the whole series 3 or 4 times now and every episode is, quite simply, on a scale between AWESOME and VERY, TOTALLY AWESOME. With regards to the ambiguity, when it ended, I went back to that last scene between Jet, Faye and Spike and transcribed the dialogue. There’s this great, almost poetic exchange between Jet and Spike:

(Spike) Do you know a story that goes like this?
There once was a tiger-striped cat. This cat died a million deaths and was reborn a million times and was owned by various people who he didn’t care for. The cat wasn’t afraid to die.
One day, the cat was a free cat, a stray cat. He met a white female cat, and the two cats spent their days happily together. Years passed, and the white cat died of old age. The tiger-striped cat cried a million times, and then died. It never came back to life.
(Jet) That’s a good story.
(Spike) I hate that story. I hate cats.

In purely black and white terms, I suppose this is Spike’s way of saying he has no intention of crying about Julia’s passing. He’s going to go out with guns blazing.

I disagree about the meaning of that story… I think that he says he cried a million times for losing Julia and then died himself and never came back to life…even though his body is still here, without her he’s dead inside.
I agree that he’s destined to go out with guns blazing but only because he’s already dead inside and has nothing to lose.
Juxtapose that with Faye who starts out with nothing to lose (because she lost her memory) and near the end of the series realizes that she finally does have something to lose in that she has found a new family in the crew of the Bebop…

I suppose that it could be argued that the key to Spike’s decision is the content of the earlier episodes of Bebop, or at least in his inability to settle anywhere during them. All that time spent kicking his heels around the galaxy with Julia on the mind and no way to find her, then a bucketload of trauma all at once. But then, given how immaculately stylish Spike seems on his way out any kind of psychological justification for his behaviour feels a bit dodgy to me.
Thematically then, why would watanabe do it? I’d say that in a media-saturated role-playing setting death is the ultimate reality/authenticity factor, and the only way to make sense of the Julia relationship is to frame it in those terms – but going from the above responses we all have our own way of justifying it.

Yup, the ambiguity of Bebop will, I’m sure, have people debating its end for decades to come. I like the idea that Spike’s demise is Wantanabe’s way of making sense of Julia’s role in the series and I admire him for making such a bold choice, but I wish Jet and Faye weren’t left hanging 🙁

I agree with those who said that Spike wasn’t really alive or rather, he was “falsely in the present” (such a great way to put it, Celeste!), and his only real attachments were to the past, the only thing that could make him alive . He’s still around but he has no reason, no purpose, he just sort of floats. He’s not living in the present.
I think given the nature of the show it’s easy to overestimate the strenght of the bonds between the Bebop crew members. Many people call them a “dysfunctional family” and forget that the “dysfunctional” part is very much in effect here. Whatever camaraderie existed between him and the rest of the crew, it wasn’t enough for Spike. The only things that can stir up emotions in him are all related to the past: Mao, Julia, Vicious. I think both Fallen Angels and Jupiter Jazz shows this very well. In the former, Spike only goes to save Faye because it involves Vicious, and because he feels he has to avenge Mao. In the latter, Spike hears the name “Julia” and takes off without thinking, not caring about anything, including Jet and Faye. It’s Jet who reaches out to him (and Faye), and still Spike only goes back because he didn’t find Julia and he couldn’t kill Vicious. The moment he finds Julia he’s gone from the Bebop, and he goes back only when he loses Julia… and only to prepare to confront Vicious because he’s all he has left.
I don’t think he’s doing a runner, partly because there wasn’t much to keep him where he was. He tells Faye: “I’m not going there to die. I’m going there to find out if I really am alive.” He has lost what kept him going throughout all these years, and now has to somehow put an end to it, to confront his past, or rather, his own, personal ghost of the past, and see what happens. I think the main theme of Bebop is that you can’t outrun your past, and in Spike’s case this weight, in the end, pulled him down.

To be honest, I still can’t fathom that last line from Spike to Faye, “I’m not going there to die. I’m going there to find out if I really am alive.” Do you think it’s intended in the sense that he can only prove he was alive by dying? Argh, what a sad thing to say 🙁

I know I’m commenting late.
But it isn’t sad at all. It’s a divine comedy… the way ‘out’ is ‘through’ and that means death. It’s about letting go.

I do not see the reference to Dante’s Inferno, since there are no references made in Bebop.
I do understand your comment about the way out is “through” and that means death, etc. I am not saying I agree with it; just that it is one way of looking at it.

I think you really hit the nail on the head when you said Spike is just kind of “floating” in the present because I think he just really doesn’t belong there. And i think this is why the director chose to put “you’re gonna carry that weight” because spike was never going to get rid of the weight of the past unless he faced it head on. His past, in my opinion, was one of the only things keeping him alive because he was just waiting for a way out during the present.

A Certain Anonymous Imageboard was having a discussion about the phrase that was tattooed on that lovely young lady’s shoulder on your picture there, and in the middle of the usual rabble, there were some interesting posts:

People actually call Bebop “pretentious”? My god, we need to strike that word from the dictionary. But yeah, it’s always interesting to see how people perceive the meaning of such a philosophical phrase.

It’s mostly just trolls trolling trolls, but the anonymous perspective always fascinates me. And I honestly didn’t make the connection to the Beatles’ song until reading that.

I think I agree with what one person said above about Spike not really living in the present but rather in the past. Whenever I saw Spike on the Bebop, it always seemed to me that his mind was somewhere else or that something was hanging over him. It’s like he was only a part of the Bebop crew in order to occupy himself with something but ultimately that could only last for so long.
Someone also said that they didn’t think it was all about Julia for Spike and I agree but it was about 50% at least. He was still in love with her, maybe even infatuated and she was his link to the past. He didn’t care about Vicious or the syndicate anymore and this was evident when he asked Julia to run away with him (if I remember correctly). Julia getting killed was the spark that Spike needed to put an end to his days on the Bebop.
Anyway what I mean to say is, we all know what kind of character Spike is, we know what he’s like; could we really imagine Spike living out the rest of his days on the Bebop with the rest of the crew??? I know I couldn’t. That type of life is just not in his character, to me, his time on the Bebop was just a filler or the quiet before the storm.

I would like to think he’d be able to get over his trauma with his friends help. That’s not to say I can imagine him actually opening up to Jet or Faye, it’s just… it seems a shame to die, you know?

With Vicious always hovering behind him? No.
With the demons excised…maybe. And perhaps Watanabe could as well. He’s never said that Spike dies at the end.

New live action Cowboy Bebop movie coming in 2011, but I think the views are mostly gonna come from Reeves, because everyone probably forgot about the Bebop crew (unfortunately, plus there wasn’t much (understatement, but there was a lot) viewers), and hopefully it’ll do good in the box office (but I really think the person playing Ed should be replace)!

I don’t know what to think about the live-action movie at this point. I really hope it’s good, but I’m having trouble seeing Keanu Reeves as Spike and I expect they’ll just main-line his story with Vicious, meaning we’ll miss out on a lot of what’s so much fun about the show, like Mushroom Samba, etc, and we’ll end up with one hella depressing film.

…Now I have to re-watch that whole series.
Those were some very deep ideas, man. I believe this has probably been stated in a comment somewhere, but I don’t think Faye thought of Bebop as her home. Seemed more like she screwed over Bebop a lot in the series, like she was using them as a place to stay. Even in the end, when she realized there was nothing waiting for her, what was she going to do? Go buy a house and get a job?
Bebop was familiar, she knew the people there, it’s hard to make a drastic life change like she would have.

I don’t know if she thought of the Bebop as a home, but when she had nowhere left in the world to go, no-one to turn to, nothing to give her a place to stand, she went back.
The place you turn to when you need an anchor, the people who tell you who you are? That’s what home is.

I’ve often thought of Bebop as a story about missed opportunities. That’s what makes it poignant.
Faye, as a person with no past, has no missed opportunities. She has nothing upon which to build, no mistakes, nothing to hang a hope on. She finds out her past, and sees it has no value anymore. It’s a mirage. Her story in Bebop is to build a past. Her relationship with everyone on the ship, how she treats them, what she created emotionally and what she missed out on with her callousness– what becomes clear by the end of the show is that her time on Bebop has been her life, her past. As if often the case, you only really know what you’ve got once it’s gone.
It hurts to see her missing the boat, so to speak, at the end, but in it’s own weird way, it gives me hope for her– she finally really wanted something real, in the present. Sometimes you’ve got to really f*ck up to know how important some things are to you, so you’ll act different in the future. That’s growing up, right? It’s like she was a kid, a teen, for almost all the show, stunted emotionally, because she wouldn’t allow herself to care for anything, she’d never allowed herself to get attached, she’d never made a real mistake. Bebop is watching her do that. So, yeah, it’s own way, I’m hopeful for her future because I finally feel like she’s in the present.
Spike’s a harder nut to crack. The line about “I’m going to find out if I’m really alive” is very key though. Yes, he’s obviously living in the past. He’s made his mistakes. Now he can’t let them go, live in the present. I’d never noticed how he and Faye are paralells in some way, going in opposite directions as they pass each other– he’s all in the past, trying to get to the present, while she’s all in the present (or limb0?) trying to get to the past.
Is there something sad about Spike’s choice at the end? Yes. But what else could he do? He atleast finally sees how he’s trapped in this cycle he can’t seem to break out of. It’s clear to me by the end of the show that he doesn’t want to live in the past anymore, but can’t seem to figure out how not to. So, it’s a suicide mission, because either he accomplishes what he needs to and finally gets to start living, or he dies trying and atleast doesn’t have to go on “half-living”. That’s a tough decision, but not totally nihilistic to me. If he lives, there’s hope for him (to me). If he dies, he was atleast finally trying to break that cycle.
That’s good to me. Sad, but good. That’s why the show’s bitter sweet to me. Which is partly why its amazing.

It also occurred to me later today, that the movie is not often discussed in the arc of Spike’s character development, but I’ve always found it essential to really getting a handle on him. Did you watch the movie in sequence with the episodes bateszi? I really feel like Vincent, and Spike’s response to him, is very much a catalyst to Spike’s own final decisions. Vincent is very much a man living in a dream, clearly, and I guess part of the reason I always have looked at Spike’s final decisions in a semi-positive matter is because I felt like he saw himself in Vincent, saw where that led, and decided to attempt something different.

Unfortunately, no, I didn’t watch the movie in sequence with the episodes. It sounds like a really good idea though and I’m kicking myself for not trying it. I’m sure you’re right anyway, Steve. I can’t really add anything to your comments, other than to say it’s been awesome reading your interpretation of the show.

What I felt at the end was sometimes you have to do some things, it does not matter if you are going to die because if you skeep it your life will not be the real one you deserve. That’s the weight we must carry, to do the right thing no matter the consecuences, the same as Heracles and Spike did.

For Spike the life is pointless for him
i think he trying to find a “new life”
he can forget the past forget his old memory
but he can’t
He realizes he is never gonna over those past when he see Julia’s death
In the story , Jet and Faye are the example for people who leave behind their past
but i think the director just totally believe people can’t over their past.
OH~ apology for my poor english
i want to say so much , but i just couldn’t

No apologies needed. You communicated your point wonderfully. I think your point about Jet and Faye both acting as foils (equals and opposites) for Spike is extremely insightful, actually! In that respect, you could see Ed in a similar light, as someone who doesn’t seem to have a past to let go of.

I know you are just commenting about a good, old anime. However, your phrase also made me reflect about my life itself, and how I’m wasting it living in the past.
“How a person deals with that allure or attachment to things long since passed is telling of a person’s potential to thrive in the future. In other words, can you put the past behind you and move on?”
Many thanks by that!

I guess i just feel like as much as there is a large level of ambiguity to the show, there is also a single point that always makes me think the ending was slightly more hopeful than many people give it credit for. It’s Spike’s line “I’m not going to die; I’m going to see if I’m really alive.”
Spike has been asleep for three years, wandering, drifting, dreaming, whatever you want to call it, and has now decided for the first time to face his past. One eye sees the past, one the future, but spike does not close one eye at the end and face only his past, he instead sees everything fully for the first time. He “carries his weight”; the weight of his past.
It was dark, and it was ambiguous in that we can’t really know that he succeeded in doing anything positive(Is he awake? Does killing vicious accomplish anything?), but the hint is it does. Firstly spike’s last word is one of triumph. “Bang” he says aiming at the syndicate members (note that he has done this once before in “sympathy for the devil” in that case to show his lack of understanding about why someone would be glad to die). Secondly, the final frame of the show that we see immediately after spike’s star flies across the sky is an up close of spike. And correct me if I’m wrong, but it looks like he’s smiling.
Anyway, this is all just my take on a very dark and very brilliant finale.

Thank you for your comment, it has invaluable insight on the ending and Spike’s mindset. You made a mistake though, Spike has his left eye closed as he points to the syndicate guards and says “Bang!”. I believe this means he is letting go of his past, by shutting the eye that sees the past, and moving on, which is why he dies with a smile on his face.
All things considered, “You’re gonna carry that weight” possibly means carrying your past with you. Whether this is advice or warning to the viewer or something, I don’t know.
And I don’t think Spike went to kill Vicious to protect anyone. He wanted closure, and he got it, that’s why he dies with a smile. Far from a hero, Spike is human.

Spike tried to escape the syndicate with Julia because, ultimately, he had a good heart and could no longer stand his life as a dangerous gangster. Love for Julia changed him. That’s what he’s explaining in his speech about the tiger-striped cat becoming a stray, and having the white cat companion.
Since the source of his humanity is gone, he can’t just replace her with Faye, or anyone. He never could. His bond with her was stronger than that of a simple marriage–his heart and mind were Julia’s since the moment she had that effect on him, and he never stopped longing to be with her. It was the fantasy that drove him forward.
With Vicious responsible for her death, and the deaths of so many others, Spike knows he has to bring him to justice. Furthermore, he knows he’s the only one that can, and this is his best opportunity to strike. In staying true to the ideals instilled in him by his love for Julia, he accepts his destiny to negate his old companion’s evil, and goes to his fate with bravery. There is no sadness at all in a life so lived…
Spike uses his life to effect change in the world, and protect all future victims of Vicious and the syndicate, in a way that only he could have. A true hero.

Zombiecross is the only one who makes sense. The rest of comments are just a bunch of whiny sissy pseudo-phylosophical BS.
“Dream never ends…stripy cats loving each other…ooh it’s sooo deep and complicated that we can’t conceptualise it…” – grow a pair! If you can’t appreciate how hardcore this story is – watch hello kitty instead.

The story about the cats is *the* simplest analogy in Cowboy Bebop. If you didn’t get it or you think the ending is simple or “hardcore” you should go watch Saint Seiya or Dragon Ball Z, you know, something you can actually understand.

This quote answer it all in my opinion
There once was a tiger-stripe cat. This cat died a million deaths and was reborn a million times and was owned by various people who he didn’t care for. The cat wasn’t afraid to die… One day, the cat was a free cat, a stray cat. He met a white female cat, and the two cats spent their days happily together. Years passed, and the white cat died of old age. The tiger-striped cat cried a million times, and then he died too. Except this time it never came back to life..
What it means is for Spike.. life is just a dream you know.. thats never ending.. its hard to explain…
But in a jist.. after Julia died.. there was nothing else worth living for.. the show leaves small hints about the characters personality…

I really enjoyed reading this post and the following discussion. It really helped me solidify my feelings about the ending of the brilliant series.
I think its important to remember though, that Spike was a syndicate enforcer. He was vicious in essence – killing for money or just because he was told. That is one hell of a past to try and escape. Even though we only see Spike and Vicious standing back to back in flash-backs we know from the rest of the story the types jobs they would have been doing for the syndicate. I almost wonder how an ex-cop in Jet and a probably wanted criminal in Spike would have become partners. The ISS police force seemed aware of Spike as an ex-syndicate man – would he not have a bounty?
I think Spike decided to face his past to see if he had been alive for the past three years aboard the Bebop. Had he really changed from the syndicate enforcer he had been in his past life. Had really been a new person or just a shadow of his past. If he could defeat Vicious, he justified to himself that his life for the past three years was not a dream. His past was the dream he wanted to wake up from.

Why Spike did what he did, let’s count the ways:
– he got tired of his past catching up to him and all of Vicious’ shit so he went to do something about it
– Julia died and her death had to be avenged
– life = been there, done that. wanted to find a conclusion. thought it better to go out with some style. refer to Spike’s last word, ‘bang’.
– Julia’s last words: ‘it’s all a dream.’ Spike’s response: ‘yeah, just a dream.’ motivation for storming the syndicate: ‘ I’m going to find out if I’m really alive.’ inferable conclusions: validating existence by severing all connections to the past to start anew or wake up from life by dying. either one was preferable.
– ‘I felt like I was watching a dream I could never wake up from. Before I knew it, the dream was over.’ In other words, Julia’s death was a really hard slap to the face coz it was REAL. it was not just another pointless day in a pointless life.
i’m sure there’s a lot more but that’s all i can think of for now.

Actually, the first time I watched it I really felt like, in the end spike wasn’t dead. He lived. What I mean is that he realized after Julia died that he didn’t have a reason not to end all of it at that point. So he set out to eradicate the remainder of the syndicate, and after Vicious was killed, that was his past that died. All of what kept his focus from reality, gone. He was free. So no matter whether he received medical care and survived or died. He lived it in the PRESENT. So, however long, he truly lived. Also the story about the cats, he told Jet a simple story that seemed to be a way of making an analogy(hence why it was simple), but in reality he only said it so he could tell jet that he hated it, because he hated cats. The meaning behind this is “The way I act, really is who I am, so you know now that every time I came back, that was really who I was. So why should I let you down this time around? After all, I have to stick around for one more fine dish of bell peppers and beef right? If he died, it wasn’t his intention to go there to die, but to discover that he was, in fact, alive.

Spike’s life was enough… When he was talking with Jet (last conversation), You can see in his face like he seems to be ready to die… After all, Julia died, and he didn’t have another reason for live (i guess) His life was in the end. So he did what he must do, he even dont care to die.

I kinda think the end of the show was about how one faces death and destiny. When Jet went to the wise man, the wise man said that death is always with us; if you accept it and don’t fear it, you will die peacefully. Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe that the wise man also said that Spike’s star had already faded (or was destined to fade soon). Essentially, in a sense, Spike was already dead. The one thing that tied him to this world, Julia, was gone. His destiny was to kill and be killed by Vicious (I believe this was referenced while they were fighting). The only thing that remained was how he was going to face it (bravely and willingly, or with fear and hesitation). When he told Faye that he wasn’t going to die, but to find out if he was really alive, I think it was a way of saying that he was going live his destiny with honor. It kinda goes along with that “All men die, but not all men really live” quote from Braveheart. He wasn’t going to die by giving up, he was going to die by living his destiny.
After killing Vicious, he staggered toward the syndicate, pointed his finger and said “Bang.” I think that was to say that if he wasn’t already about to expire, he would continue to take them all on even if that would further seal his fate (because he knew the odds were still heavily stacked against him). He accepted his death and the last scene was of him, contented and peaceful. He died willingly and with honor (like a brave cowboy at the end of a western). The last quote of the show “You’re gonna carry that weight” is a message to the viewer saying “You’re going to have to decide how you will accept death in the end.” So, will you accept your destiny, regardless of what it is, or will you try to run from death, only to have it take you unwillingly?

Spike was in fact alive all his life. He was still alive during his time on Cowboy Bebop. What makes that point valid is the fact that they show a star (Spike’s star) finally fading. If he had died earlier, showing the star fading would contradict that.
Spike always thought he was dead during his time at bebop. But the real problem with him is that he had the wrong thinking about death. He believed death to be sad and so dark, like many of us think. He had no emotions, no big laughs or smiles. Of course, he might be thinking, why would he be happy when Julia’s so very far away?
Things change over the course of the series, though. He starts to realize there is happiness in death. At first (I’m referring to that episode with that really old guy in an immortal body), he thought being happy to die was ridiculous. But by the time Julia tells Spike that life is just a dream, you finally see him agreeing to that fact. He later comes back to Bebop, and there are noticeable changes in him. One key thing is his story. He basically tells us that he knows he can be free now and knows how to do it. Another really unusual thing is when he laughs like crazy after that story. That never happened before with him, and it really made me smile. He was ready for death.
He said he wanted to see if he was really alive. In other words, Spike was going to make sure for one last time, that he was alive this whole time he was at Bebop. So basically, I think he was just saying in a fancy way that he was going to get killed by Vicious; he knew it, but just wasn’t scared of it anymore. The importance of his statement is the fact that he’s labeling death as something not to be afraid of. It’s just a continuation of the dream; it just mattered how you wanted to get on that path. For him, the only way to be happy about death is to relinquish what “killed” him in the wrong way (in other words, his past, which has given him a wrong sense of death. If you recall the movie scene when Vincent apparently killed Spike, Spike said that he was actually scared to die at that time). To relinquish the past, he had to face Vicious, the last thing tying him back. He carried the weight, finally, with courage, and accepted death happily and without any fear or regrets. You could say he joined Julia’s afterlife dream, no way would he want to come back to life now.
In short, Spike always used to think he didn’t care about death. But indeed he was scared of death. That meant that he was fearless of death for the wrong reasons. Once he finally faced the weight he had been carrying, he happily left the world. There’s nothing wrong about carrying weight. The important thing is that you accept the weight and embrace it. Embracing one’s weight doesn’t necessarily mean you will now die. He just so died because all this time he unfortunately was 100% living in the past for a long time, which was unique only to him. So, Spike conquering his weight = losing the past = losing his life.
As he died, he said “Bang.” He was happy because he knew he toppled all his enemies and fears and understood death. So, that was all he needed to say.

Thanks to you all. I watched Cowboy Bebop as a teenager and even so many years later (im 24 now) the story still amazes me. You guys posted so many brilliant analyzes – you inspired me.

I can never quite shake the feeling that Spike was in a very literal sense going home in the last episode. I don’t think it’s about justice or anything like that. If he were solely interested in justice he could have just blown the building up and lived.
The syndicate was his home in the past. But in a more emotional sense, he never seemed to be having much fun except when he was fighting. You look at the scenes where he’s fighting Vicious or, we’ll pretty much anyone –
“The same blood runs in you and I; the blood of a beast who wanders, desiring the blood of others.”
“I’ve bled all of that blood away”
“Then why are you still alive?”
The unspoken question there being, of course, IS he still alive. And Spike’s answer? He pulls the trigger on his gun.
At the end he goes there, goes back home, to find out if he is still alive…. I don’t think that’s just a fancy way of saying he goes there so that Vicious can kill him. I think it’s more to find out if the life he’s been living on Bebop can compare. Whether he’s just been walking around stoned, in a dream – trying to hang onto the past, where he really lives, in those violent moments that bounty hunting brings his way.

Right before Spike left he told Faye that he lost one of his eyes in an accident. (I’m assuming the accident has something to do with why he left the syndicate.) He said that he saw only the past in one eye and the present in the other. This makes sense because I’m sure he knew that he would eventually have to come back and finish what he started, but he chose to try to live another life instead. With this constantly in the back of his mind his past replayed itself to him while he was living his life and he watched it ‘like a dream’. The ‘dream’ or reality never really caught up to him until Julia died, thus waking him from the dream of the past. I think this showed him that the reality that he made for himself on the bebop was also a dream. The first words Vicious said to him (“So, you’re finally awake”) also hint towards this. After Julia dies both eyes then see the present but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the dream is over because his life itself is now what he sees as the dream and the only way to awaken from it is for him to die. Throughout the series he faces death many times and it never really phases him. The only time it even frightened him was in the movie and even then he still chased it. Only in his death can he be sure whether he was dreaming or not which is what I believe is what he meant when he said he was going to see if he was ‘really alive’. What better way could he prove to himself that he was really alive than by dying?

Spike couldn’t run from his past, nobody can run from their past that’s what the show was trying to hammer home as we went into the back-stories of all the main characters. In the end he had no choice but to face Vicious, running away while an option would not have vindicated Julia’s death (and surely it was her death that made him stop running). Now that he’s stopped dreaming he’s probably up there with her right now.
The Bebop crew were all living a reverie, using their life as bounty hunters to run away from the real world -what better way to take your mind off your troubles than to blast off and become an interstellar space cowboy?
The moral in my opinion is never to run away from your past, but to accept it before it catches up with you so quickly that you have no choice but to drown.

Truer words have never been spoken, I really don’t know how many times I’ve watched the entire series but it’s definitely double digits and I’ve really been trying to find words to convey exactly how I feel about the series to this extent. Everytime I finish off the last episode I spiral into a funk that lasts a couple hours or three analyzing the meaning of the last episode and why the choices that were made, were made and what happens in the aftermath of this…

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the last episode of Bebop. It still is one of the most powerful endings in any series I’ve ever seen. Though, the first episode with the young couple dying tragically in space, I believe, is a very obvious foresight into what you are in for when you sit down to watch the remainder of this great series.
This show was never intended to end happily.You have edward who really doesn’t have much of a life and nowhere to go, and then you have faye who wakes up remembering nothing of her past only to later find out she is the same physical woman when everyone else in her generation is dead or very old. Jet, who lost his love as well as his arm, and then Spike who’s past resides in a woman who is nowhere to be found. These characters are all connected to the fact that they all have terribly hard tragic pasts. And it’s certainly true that every episode has a story that indeed goes nowhere. By the end has anyone really made a life for themselves? It’s a nihilistic view on these individuals lives. But with that said, I love how we are given an insight into each characters life, it isn’t always just about Spike.
But Spike was always going to die, there was never any other way to go about this. Again, all of the close calls he had to death were foresights that inevitably the time was coming where he wouldn’t heal, he wouldn’t come back, he would just be put down. The entire series was engulfed in death and tragedy, sure there are some funny and light moments, but the real story here is the suffocating nostalgia these characters face.
And faye’s past when you think about it, seems to be the most difficult because she has such a unique obstacle to overcome the rest of the crew couldn’t begin to understand but yet in the end it does seem as though faye and jet seem to want to try to push forward, to try to make some kind of life and thats why in the series they get angry at Spike because they wish he would look forward and try to make a life instead of always effortlessly trying to die. But at the end Jet lets Spike go because he already knows there isn’t any stopping Spike and he comes to terms with it and though Faye isn’t as accepting as Jet, she too has to eventually realize that Spike just will never be content with the present or the future and thats why he has to go.
In my opinion, Spike’s past killed him a long time ago and throughout the series he is primarily a shell of himself living out a life he really has no means to care for. And it isn’t until the parts with Vicious that he really shows life in himself because Vicious is a key to the past and even though he is a violent, negative key he still unlocks the past for Spike and the same goes for Julia in the end, these two characters are the only ones who can bring the past back into reality for Spike and its why he goes to the ends of the earth for either of them, whether its chasing Julia or scuffling with Vicious.
I’ve read alot of people’s views who think that Spike did not die in the end that he just merely collapsed due to his injuries…..that is absolutely ridiculous! If you watched the show and truly understood the story it portrays, then you can see how Spike staying alive makes no sense at all. His character will always be infamous in anime, and I understand people wanting to believe he didn’t die but most often these great characters usually tend to perish this way. But most importantly, if you watch the ending when Spike and Julia die, both scenes have white birds flying off into the sky and this is indicating their souls drifting up into the blue of the sky.
It’s easy to write off Spike’s death as being too sad for the ending of the series but when you really sit and think about it Spike’s death isn’t really all that sad, more of a bittersweet because now he can finally rest with Julia in a place where they can now forever be eternal. Spike and Julia were two characters who were never really satisfied with their realities, they both looked at their lives as dreams and seemed to always wanted to escape into something “more” and the ending of “the real folk blues” finally gives them their ending to the tedious dream.
But “you’re gonna carry that weight” is such a powerful way to end the series because for one last time it locks in the true embodiment of this series and that is in life your past is always going to be something you carry on yourself, and there will always be the ones who have perseverence and will always be able to push forward with an eye to the future as Jet and Faye were beginning to do but then there will always be those of us like Spike, as much as we try to look to the future, ultimately we will always live in the past.

Very late to the discussion. Very good points everyone has raised (and goosebumps all over my body after remembering the series and the time of my life when I watched it…).
I think everyone is forgetting something. Namely, the two stories that Jet and Spike swap during the story.
“There was a man who was injured on a hunt. The man had no means to treat the wounds and his leg began to rot and death approaches. In the last moments of his life a rescue helicopter picks him up and rushes him to the hospital. As the helicopter flies the man looks outside the window seeing white capped mountains glistening in the sunlight and he thought “That’s where I was going” … I hate that story. Men only think of their past right before their death, as if they were searching frantically for proof that they were alive.”
Jet’s story is about how your future can be taken from you at a moment’s notice. The meaning of this is that having your future taken from you *is death*. Faye is the most alive character throughout the series – she has no past at all – she has only future. But opposite to Spike, she is trying to find her past.
Spike had his future with Julia taken from him. When that happened, he died, and remained a ghost haunting the past, trying to move to the present so he can have his future back.
Faye is attached to her past. Spike is there as her lesson to let the past go. Living in the past is like being dead, because it robs you of your future.
Remember Spike’s story about the Tiger Striped Cat. Spike *is* that Tiger Striped Cat, having lived many lives and done many things – but always returning as the Tiger Striped Cat. This is every episode of the series, coming full circle always back to the same place. At the end of the story, though, the Tiger Striped Cat’s lover dies… after which he himself lays down, and never wakes up. In a way, it’s about accomplishing what you were meant to, experiencing what you were put here to experience… and then moving on.
Spike could not move on until Julia was dead. Julia is what kept him in the past – it was his tie to Vicious. When Spike said he was going to see if he was really alive… he was going to see if he still had a future.
Sorry if this didn’t make sense and was a bit rambly.

Yes, I was quite thinking along the same lines. The fact is in his eyes both the past and present exists yet there is still a future to be determined. When we went for the battle finale against Vicious and left Faye alone, he was not really going back to his past. His past is with Julia, as Julia died, he had no bonds left with the past. All that remains is an unforetold future, and if we think about it in a wishful way, it would be with the bebop. However, he also knows that there is no future with a lingering past that has yet to be resolved. I think Spike went back to fight Vicious because of the future, for what he still has yet to discover, not to go back for vengenace and whatnot.
If we go back to the story about the cats, when the white cat dies, the striped cat mourned for a period of time and died afterwards. It’s ironic how the cat is portrayed to be Spike, that even after all the physical and brutal encounters it has faced, the cat still survives only to die by feelings. This is compared to Spike as he gets multiple gunshot wounds yet dies fighting for what he believes in again. I think the moral of the cat story is you aren’t really living until you have come to terms with your feelings.
Both faye and Jet have finished up with their mixed emotions, from Jet leaving the girl with the bounty hunter guy, and Faye trying to relive her innocent memories only realising that there was nothing left hence she returned to the bebop where there was still a sense of reality.
Ultimately, i loved the anime. The character development really hit its toll on the final episodes after Ed left, to Spike’s death. The adventures they shared together were only a glimpse of how they were living until they each tried to find their means of moving forward whether it was for the past or the present.

i think it comes down to what you value in life, or if you value life at all
it’s not something asked often, the societies we live in value life a great deal, but don’t often give very solid reasons why it should be valued, or what to, objectively, value.
there are always things to value, you can always find that next thing that’s worth doing
but when you really think about it there is no instruction manual for this life, people smoke, bungee jump, parkour, race cars, do all this crazy stuff that eludes to the fact that simply being alive as time passes is not what life is really about
you can put your value into anything you want, endlessly, until disease or old age takes you away. or you can value what you want for how long you want and bid adieu to this world

..The samurai “identified with the cherry blossom particularly because it fell at the moment of its greatest beauty, an ideal death.”
The daimyo (or warlord) Asano Naganori captured this sentiment before committing ritual suicide:
“Sadder than blossoms swept off by the wind, a life torn away in the fullness of spring.”
As Spike said before leaving “I’m not going there to die, I’m going there to see if I am still alive.” The purpose of life is not to have a hot girlfriend and eat good food in samurai culture or Vedic culture. The purpose of life to is ascertain one’s individual duty and fulfill one’s purpose, without attachment to survival or the fruits of one’s actions. Spike’s death was sad, but for who he was, probably the noblest way he could have used his abilities in dying. Props to the writers for a beautiful series.

Late to the party but whatever. I just finished watching Cowboy Bebop for the first time in my life and boy have I been really late to the party.
To the whole issue of why, why not, what is the point, this could have gone so much differently:
Yes it may have. And I was wondering myself what exactly was the purpose of it all and whether or not it was the best possible decision and outcome.
What was the message behind all of this? What should I take from all of this?
And then I saw the sky. I saw the clouds. I kept looking. The sky was passing through and I was going further and further up. I saw the stars, the numerous ships and more stars. And I felt so normal. This feeling is so rare nowadays. Everything is trying to make you feel special. Everything and everybody. Except, I’m not special. I am normal. Just normal. No strings attached.
And that is how I came to this realization. There is no meaning in his death. Death rarely has a meaning. It should never have a meaning because it is death, the very ultimate lack of meaning, the very end and nothing.
It is hard to put this into words but I feel as there was a bubble here that was inflated a lot and when it burst I realized that it was a bubble and nothing else as well as the fact that it’s gone now. Nothing to see here, move along.
You’re gonna carry that weight.
Why? Not because there is some hidden philosophy behind it all but simply because you cared. You know him. You know how he felt. You know how he died. You know that he is dead. You know who he left behind. He left Jet, Faye, Ed, Ein and You as well.
When people I knew and cared about left me I didn’t think about the purpose of their death or looked for a hidden meaning. Death happens. To all of us. and I’m gonna carry that weight because I am alive and there are people who I love that are not.
Of all the comrades that e’er I’ve had
They’re sorry for my going away
And of all the sweethearts that e’er I’ve loved
They wish me one more day to stay.
But since it falls onto my lot
That I should rise and you should not,
I’ll gently rise and softly call
goodbye and joy be with you all.
See you space cowboy…

I’m very late to this party as well… I don’t know how many people are still into Cowboy Bebop, wondering about its meaning and mulling over the subtle hints we get throughout the show, but I’ll put in my two cents in anyway.
First and foremost, I want to say that as soon as I watched the final episode, I knew Spike lived. That’s the beauty of ambiguous endings… the type of ending you decide on ultimately reflects if you’re more of a half-empty/half-full type of person. Why do I think he lived? Well, it is implied that Spike was slashed across the stomach but we never really see the wound. We don’t know how deep it is or how serious. There is a very important scene where he walks down the steps and the scene shows him holding one arm over his stomach. One look at this scene tells you he’s injured, of course, but no blood is drenching his shirt or coat (there’s only blood on his sleeve from the arm wounds). This is very important because if you get slashed and your stomach is split open, you bet your ass you will be gushing blood. Annie, who was [shot? stabbed?] in the stomach, had both of her arms over her wound and the blood was pouring out, drenching her shirt and arms and everything. And that was only a [gunshot?] wound. Why was Spike, who supposedly had his stomach split open with a sword, not gushin blood if his wound was so severe he died? No, Spike didn’t die in the literal sense that day. He collapsed out of exhaustion. The cronies didn’t shoot him down because he is now considered the leader of the Red Dragons.
Now, let’s move on to the motives behind Spike being a lunk-head and going suicidal.
Most Bebop fans assume he lived only for his past, that once he was done with his past, there was nothing left for him, but I don’t think that is the case at all. Spike was haunted by his past, yes, but he was such a strong character that he was able to move on with his life, to some extent. He kept on living. He made friends with Jet and Faye and Ed despite his painful past. It is clear he cared about the Bebop’s crew. He had a new “family” so to speak.
Based on what we know, it can be said that Spike wanted closure from his past. He wanted to close the book, so to speak. Once he attained the closure he so desired, he would be free from the burdens of the past, ready to move on for good.
People say Julia was his whole purpose of living; the reason why Spike was still alive, but I call BS on that too. He loved her at one point (three years prior to the events in the anime) but remember he believes she betrayed him. He “died” that day because she never showed up. So if you think someone has betrayed you and you wallow in that hurt and anger for three years… you won’t love that person anymore, trust me. Three years is a long time… enough to forget those feelings of love, especially when they are clouded by betrayal. What Spike really wanted to know was if she really had betrayed him or not, I don’t think he wanted to get back with her romantically. He wanted answers. He wanted to know why she didn’t show up. He wanted closure for his wounded heart so he could finally find peace. Notice that whenever he talks about his feelings for her, he speaks in past tense. It’s done, over. If you love someone, you always speak in present tense. Here is one quote from Spike:
“There was a woman. First time I’d found someone who was truly alive. At least, that’s what I thought. She was… the part of me I’d lost somewhere along the way, the part that was missing, that I’d been longing for.”
He thought she was his reason to live… maybe she was at one point, but not anymore. Not after three years of pain and betrayal. Not to mention that when he finally finds Julia again and she cries and begs him to run away with her, he never actually agrees to do so… he’s just quiet and stoic. When she hugs him, his face is hard as stone and he doesn’t return her hug. In fact, later on we see that he actually clearly refused her offer, opting to stay behind to fight Vicious instead. She tells him they won’t need guns if they run away but Spike ignores her and loads his gun anyway. No, Spike is no longer in love with Julia at this point. He states that he hates the story of the striped cat because he hates cats, but I feel safe in assuming he hates the story because he doesn’t want Jet to think he is like the cat. He isn’t going to die because Julia is dead. That part of him, the part that loved Julia, died three years ago anyway.
The whole point to his personal vendetta was to get answers and finally rid himself of the past that haunted him. He was going to fight Vicious one day anyway, it was inevitable. Vicious would want to take over the Red Dragons whether Julia was alive or not, and everyone (at least all the seemingly “good guys” in the syndicate) believed Spike would come back and be leader. So that match between the two beasts was going to happen and not necessarily because of Julia. The reason why Spike chose to go on his suicidal mission was to avenge Julia (not because he loved her, but because he felt he needed to since it was because of Vicious that she died, he probably felt responsible because he did not kill Vicious earlier) and to finally turn the page on the past. The fading star at the end was the death of the old Spike Spiegel, the one who was tortured by his memories. With every death of a star, a new star is born. This is true for Spiegel. He can be “reborn” again, free from the shackles of his past.
Now, to end this whole thing, to finally wrap it up, I leave you lot with the confirmation that Spike actually survived. This is coming from Watanabe himself (from an interview back in 2013), so it’s canon:
“I think people who watch that and think that Spike is asleep are probably right. Just sleeping.”
So now we know he survived and that’s ok. He has the Bebop to return to… he has his friends; his family. They can get into all manner of shenanigans again, not one of them shackled by the past anymore, since they all have come to terms with their demons. It’s time for a new life… new adventures… new beginnings.

Your analyse was awesome and you figured out the piece of the puzzle I was having a hard time putting into words. For that thanks you. But I think you missed one thing. You say:
” It makes for an ostensibly cool finale, yet the more one thinks about it, the more it feels like such a pointless, tragic waste. Life is for living, after all! Spike should’ve stayed with his friends, on the Bebop!”
You are only looking at this from a thematic perspective, so yes it does look a little “dumb” of Spike to go kill himself but that’s only half of it. Look at it from a plot perspective. Plot wise if Spike doesn’t go back Jet and Feye are going to die the way Anne(convient store/mother lady) did;because of Spike. Looking at it this give the phrase “You’re gonna carry that weight.” a double meaning. The meaning you mention about carrying the past and also the meaning of carrying the guilt associated with it.

I’ve always looked at Faye, Jet, and Spike being confronted by the horrible realities of time, and in which state of time they each get caught up in is made all too clear at the end of Real Folk Blues.
Faye comes to the realization that the past holds nothing for her, but she looks to the future now for comfort by the end of it all. By the end of the series, Faye probably comes out the most enlightened, because she can only move forward toward the future.
Jet is a weird case. He’ll never look back to the past, but nor does he have any larger goal for the future. Neither the future or the past hold any significance to Jet anymore. He’s a man perpetually lost in the present, with the concepts of going forward or backwards being completely redundant to him. His story ended as it began for him: Maintaining the Bebop.
Spike is an interesting case. The future holds absolutely nothing for Spike, and he more or less just gets by in the present, taking everything day by day. But he’s forever haunted by his past mistakes, and when the final token of his past (Julia) is taken from him, Spike has nothing left in his mind. He goes back to confront his past, of which he’s ultimately crushed by the weight of.
The point I’m trying to make here is that for Spike, there was never any choice in his mind. Faye may have seen it differently, but truly in Spike’s mind, there was no choice for him to make, which is why he was able to leave so easily. Jet, as a man with nothing to look back on or look forward to, understood Spike’s plight on some level, and perhaps had always seen this coming.

Hey, just like alot of things it is just a show. A story of an individual cleaning up his mess much like the cat in the hat and in the end he had to leave.

I just finished watching the show for the second time. I was so moved by the ending that I couldn’t think of anything but to start watching the show again right away. I believe Spike didn’t die at the end and it is evident in the show.
I don’t know where to begin. I think of Spike’s story more of as a guy who wants to get away from his past but it keeps coming back to haunt him. Kinda like Carlito’s Way. I say this because nowhere in the show it is evident that he is looking for Vicious or Julia. In Ballad of Fallen Angels he happens to come across Vicious. In Jupiter Jazz part 1 he goes on a hunt for Julia after Ed receives a ping from her on his/her computer. I will cover the last episode later.
Ballad of Fallen Angels, Jupiter Jazz and of course the last episode are the major pieces in the puzzle of Spike’s past. In Jupiter Jazz when Spike hears Julia’s name he reacts madly, a negative emotion. He goes out to find her to not be with her but to end it all. Just like he tries to do so in Ballad of Fallen Angels.
Let’s talk about the last episode. Spike and Jet are shown casually drinking in a bar when they get attacked by the syndicate. Jet gets hurt and Spike takes him back to Bebop. Jet gets a call from his cop friend who warns him of the entire syndicate coming after Spike because of Vicious’ coup attempt. Even though Spike was never part of Vicious’ coup but elders are not sure of it and they want to eliminate every possible suspect. Jet asks Spike to let go of the past and move on but Spike knows from the day he fled the syndicate is gonna come after him. He knew one day or the other he would have to face the syndicate. Third time in the show Spike is going after the people from his past and for the third time it is not his initial plan but he crossing paths with his past. As Spike is getting ready to leave and fight the syndicate Faye returns to Bebop and tells him about Julia. It is at this moment he finds out Julia is here and involved in the same mess as him. Finally, for the first time in the show we see Spike and Julia meeting in present time. There is a of difference here in both Julia and Spike compared to his visions of the past. Three years ago when Spike was part of syndicate, he fell in love with Julia. He wanted to start a new life with Julia away from Syndicate. He tells Julia they can leave Syndicate and go far away just like a dream. Julia warns him syndicate would come after them and won’t stop until both of them are dead. In the past it was Julia who didn’t show up and Spike was left hanging and in the present it is Julia who is found holding on to the same old plan when we can clearly see from Spike’s response that he has moved on. We don’t see any excitement or softness in his face, body language or dialogues when Julia is hugging him or when she is trying to talk him into fleeing. Spike and Julia get out of the graveyard and pay a visit to Annie. Annie is wounded and is dying. She tells Spike she is happy to see him with Julia again. After she dies we see Spike loading up guns as if getting ready for the war. Julia doesn’t believe it. She sees Spike not caring about their plan or her but wants to fight syndicate. Julia gives in and tells Spike she will be by his side till the end. Again, we are not seeing any kind of positive reaction from Spike about any of the stuff Julia is saying. During the battle Julia gets shot and this is the first time we see a significant reaction from Spike. He runs up to her and hold her in his arms. She says something which is inaudible but is made clear in the end. Spike goes back to Bebop and tells Jet a story about a tiger striped cat (please search for the entire story if you like). Jet asks him if the story is about the girl to which Spike replies, she is dead and there is nothing he nothing he can do about her. He is leaving again as syndicate and Vicious is still out there to get him but Faye stops him this time. She doesn’t want him to go. Spike tells her about his one fake and one real eye and that he sees the past in the fake one and reality in the other. He also tells her he is not going there to die but to see if he is alive. This statement by him makes a lot of sense in the end. He is again seen fighting the syndicate and finally meeting Vicious for one last time. He kills Vicious and as he is walking down the staircase we hear Julia’s last words to him. She says, it is all a dream. Spike replies yes to her but the look on his face is of complete shock. As if his reply would be anything she wanna hear in her last moments. Spike doesn’t believe he is dreaming and this is where it makes sense what he said to Faye. When he says he is going there to see if he is alive he is actually going there to prove Julia wrong. It is not a dream he is living in but the only way to prove it is by facing his past and put an end to it.
One of the giveaways he is alive is his eyes. Even though Spike never mentions which one of his eyes is the fake it is evident in the show whenever he recalls his past the camera zooms in the left eye (fake) and whenever he wakes up from em the camera zooms out of the right eye (real). After killing Vicious he looks up and the camera is on his right eye. Also, as he falls on the staircase it is his left eye covered in blood and the camera zooms in on the right eye.
Throughout the show we see each of the main characters coming face to face with their pasts and coming to terms with it. Jet throws away the watch and Faye leaves the destroyed piece of land where once her home stood.
Throughout the show it doesn’t look like Spike was living in the past except of the parts where he came across someone from his past. He knew running away from syndicate doesn’t end there. Also, with his new life on Bebop and its crew it is not safe for them to be in danger because of his past. He cares about Bebop and it is for them and his new life he decides instead of running away from syndicate he should put an end to it all even if it results in his death.
Broken star is a confusing part. We see only one shooting star in the end of Jupiter Jazz when actually two people dies in that episode, Gren and Lin. In last episode it is one star going off, completely different thing from the broken star in Jupiter Jazz. This star could be of anyone Julia, Shin, Vicious or Spike.
If Spike was really attached to his past and sad throughout the show we wouldn’t see him coming back from being almost dead at least at two occasions, session 6 Sympathy from the Devil after almost dying in the previous episode fighting with Vicious. Secondly, in session 20 Pierrot le Fou after fighting with Mad Pierrot.
I agree with Avishai’s comment above if we talk about physical wounds on Spike’s body, he got shot in the right arm, one dagger in the right shoulder and a cut across the stomach probably a minor one like the other wounds as no blood was coming out of it as he stood there after killing Vicious and when he walked down the staircase.
Last but not the least, Watanabe did say back in 2013 that people who think Spike is sleeping are probably right.

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