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The Awesomest Anime Characters in the History of Forever – Part One

October 21, 2010

Been meaning to do a series of “like, OMG, these characters are totally radical and stuff, dude!” posts for some time. Rather than doing a straight-ahead list or whatever, I think I’ll spread them out into individual posts so I don’t feel obligated to shortchange anyone when it comes to the almighty word count. These posts won’t be in any sort of ascending/descending/transcending order or whatever. I can safely say that Hamyuts Meseta from Book of Bantorra is my all-time favorite character, but after her everyone else that’ll get mentioned in this series is playing on the same relative field of awesomeness.

So let’s get this shindig going with a pair of dudes that’ll likely make for my most mainstream choices on this list.

Andy Von de Oniyate and Spike Spiegel

You know which episode of Cowboy Bebop is the best? It isn’t Ballad of Fallen Angels or the two-part finale or the episode where everyone dies because of a mutant lobster (Although that lobster episode is pretty awesome.). Nope, the best episode of Bebop is Cowboy Funk, where Spike gets put down harder than when Vicious kills him or when Ed’s dad makes him look like a punkass sissy boy.

Spike’s a cool, hardened, badass type. He’s the Han Solo of anime. But isn’t he something of a dick? He can be insensitive, brash, and thick-headed at times, much like many other cool, hardened badasses. Jet and the others know this, but they aren’t going to confront him about it because he’s their buddy. It isn’t like his dickishness is some sort of tragic flaw or whatever, that’s just how he is. Then Andy comes along and exposes Spike to all of his annoying little traits.

Andy is Spike. Despite whatever background details and stylistic bits that differ, they’re the same damn character. They’re physical equals and share the same mix of awesome and obnoxious character traits. And they know it. Andy and Spike know that they’re looking at a reflection of themselves in that prick staring at them across the room. That’s why Andy is so awesome. Through Andy, the series humiliates, pulls apart, and deconstructs its main character.

I’ve never seen another anime pull off this sort of stunt to this extent or with this much style. It’s all worked into the overall scheme of the series, as if this was a moment that the series was working up towards. We get to know Spike, see all of his strengths and weaknesses and quirks, and once we have that intimate knowledge we see it used to all but disintegrate everything we liked about him.

Without this character assassination, I don’t think I’d like Spike nearly as much as I do. Yeah, he’s the Han Solo of anime, and in that regard he’s comparatively unique in the medium (since that’s an archetype that isn’t utilized in anime nearly as much as it is in other mediums) but he doesn’t quite have that x-factor that pushes him over the edge. He’s something of an audience cypher, like the vast majority of anime characters. He’s the guy we’re supposed to relate with– the dude through which we’re supposed to use to experience the Bebop world– and he’s sketched broadly enough to allow for the wiggle room needed for such a character. That’s cool and all, and plenty of fans dig those sorts of characters, but it makes Spike a bit dry for my tastes. He’s cool, but he’s too “safe.”

By tossing his very nature through the ringer, it makes him a far more fascinating character. By emphasizing and dissecting his faults (rather than celebrating them the way most Spike-centric episodes tend to lean), it helps remove that cypher role and turns him into his own person. You’re seeing him through so many filters that you can no longer see yourself in Spike, or something like that.

That’s what makes Andy (and, by default, Spike) truly awesome anime characters. He’s the enabler that allows for Spike to transcend his trappings. Without Andy, Spike’d just be another generic (if fairly interesting) anime lead.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 21, 2010 8:28 PM

    I NEED to watch this episode again…I think it may be the only once I’ve seen just once. I’ve always read that Andy is just as cool as Spike, and I totally did not get that when I first saw it, though I understood they were meant to be mirror images. Maybe I had a knee-jerk reaction against Andy’s cowboy-self, being from Texas.

  2. October 21, 2010 8:43 PM

    “Cowboy Funk” isn’t my favorite episode of Cowboy Bebop, but it’s easily in the top five, and maybe even in the top three if I thought about it hard enough. At the very least it’s definitely the funniest episode in the series. I think my favorite part is that Spike and Andy get SO wrapped up in each other that they flat-out ignore the mad bomber dude. He doesn’t matter at all, because he never mattered to them in the first — he just gives Andy and Spike an outlet to show how awesome/obnoxious they are. It’s hilarious.

  3. June 27, 2012 10:11 PM

    The greatest obstacle a hero or heroine faces is his or her own flaws. Those flaws humanize the hero because without them he or she is a god or goddess. And it’s tough for mortals like ourselves to feel much compassion for the gods. A flawless character also makes the writer’s task more difficult because it’s had to build suspense.

    When a character is perfect or near perfect at the beginning of a story, there’s little room for that character to grow. And if the character doesn’t grow, then chances are that character isn’t interesting. Andy is Spike’s final test before facing Vicious. And in it he’s forced to confront things about himself that he’s likely never faced. Andy is unlike any of the foes Spike has faced because Andy cuts into the core of Spike’s psychology. Spike is a character who’s used to being in control, but when there’s humor at his expense, like the Helium incident in “Waltz for Venus”, he loses his cool. He shows his weakness. And Andy is about two lungfuls of Helium in Spike’s lungs.

    You are spot on when saying Andy completes Spike. It makes Spike more than a cool cat who can fight or fly his way out of every situation. And while the episode is funny, you really feel for the guy. And that is the touchstone of good writing.

    Nicely done, Chad.

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