Thursday, August 30, 2018

A Game for Young and Old and Very Old

After being sidelined for a couple episodes, Edward takes a central role in the fourteenth episode of Cowboy Bebop. It's the first of several episodes where some specific element from the distant past exerts strange and surprising influence on the present; in this case, chess.

Session Fourteen: Bohemian Rhapsody

Obviously the title for this episode comes from the famous song by Queen. Certainly the lyrics would apply to several characters, particularly Edward (Aoi Tada), who does seem content to go "any way the wind blows." On the other hand, the song is filled with anxiety and sorrow, two emotional states seemingly alien to Edward, though this episode is one of the few where we see her become genuinely upset. Only misfortune in a chess game seems to hit Edward where it hurts.

Spike (Koichi Yamadera), Jet (Unsho Ishizuka), and Faye (Megumi Hayashibara) have reluctantly decided to pool their resources and split the bounty (after Faye had initially suggested they all work alone) on the elusive mastermind behind the bombings of the hyperspace gates ships depend on to get around the solar system. All the legwork for the crimes has been carried out by petty criminals who don't know who hired them or for what ultimate purpose. The only clues the three bounty hunters have are white chess kings that somehow ended up in the possession of the crooks.

Edward immediately recognises these as data storage devices designed for an online chess game and she immediately starts playing a game with Chessmaster Hex (Takeshi Watabe). We'll eventually learn the lonely and senile old man lives alone in a floating junk yard with a variety of transients--along with a parrot and a whole lot of marijuana.

In some ways, this is a lot like Edward's first episode where she bonded with an old, lonely computer on a satellite. The two main differences here are that the elder entity is a human being and he and Edward bond over a shared passion, chess. And chess presents a significant difference from "Jamming with Edward" in that it is the real and familiar game that's been around for centuries; it's an actual game that has endured and seems likely to continue to endure. It's not Three Dimensional Chess or some other futuristic variation, and Edward and Hex are clearly playing using the real rules, not random made up rules like in Code Geass.

You can see here when Edward first says she's about to checkmate Hex that by taking his pawn on g7 she really will be giving check though not technically mate since Hex can take Edward's knight with his queen on g5. But instead of this move, Edward says she'll let him live and "carelessly" takes his rook on D6 (the English subtitles on my copy take the liberty of translating Edward as saying she'll "fork the king and rook" which is not what she's doing) which is actually the better move.

Edward, who as I said before is like an anthropomorphisation of the future depicted in Cowboy Bebop, where the past has been replaced by chaotic new configurations, is revealed on some level to be similar to the very old man whose senility has made him like a child but at the same time has made him even older. Now all he cares about is this ancient game, he's forgotten all about the hyperspace gate and even the crimes he set in motion fifty years ago.

The episode also has some nice moments of the other characters doing detective work. I particularly liked Jet planting a bug in the offices of the corporation who controls the hyperspace gates.


This entry is part of a series of entries I’m writing on Cowboy Bebop for its 20th anniversary. I’m reviewing each episode individually. My previous episode reviews can be found here:

Session One
Session Two
Session Three
Session Four
Session Five
Session Six
Session Seven
Session Eight
Session Nine
Session Ten
Session Eleven
Sessions Twelve and Thirteen

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