How Spike’s rose hints at his true anime ending
Cowboy Bebop ends on an ambiguous note, but a detail involving Spike Spiegel’s rose hints that the anime may have a definitive end.
The beloved anime Cowboy Bebop ends on a seemingly macabre note, but Spike Spiegel’s rose hints that the ending might not be what it appears to be. Cowboy Bebop follows Spike and the rest of Bebop’s motley team of bounty hunters as they come to terms with their respective pasts and attempt to make a living. Spike, once a member of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate, left the organization to become a bounty hunter, which led to the events of the anime. In the series finale, Spike appears to die killing his nemesis, Vicious, who has usurped union leaders. One detail, however, implies that Spike may have survived.
In the Cowboy Bebop In the series finale, “The Real Folk Blues,” Spike is reunited with the woman he loves, Julia, only to have her die in a shootout with Vicious’s Red Dragon executors. Having reached the peak of desperation and his feud with Vicious now at a boiling point, Spike embarks on a seemingly suicidal mission to kill his rival and shut down the Red Dragon Syndicate. In Cowboy Bebop, Spike manages to kill Vicious and wipe out most of his strength, but the fight leaves him badly injured and he apparently dies in the final moments of the episode.
While it appears that Spike died of his wounds after killing Vicious and most of his henchmen, a recurring symbol may indicate that Spike survived the decisive fight. Cowboy Bebop often showed a red rose lying in a puddle, representing his doomed love for Julia, and the symbol reappears in the finale. Several petals blow across the ground in the wind shortly before Spike goes on a suicidal mission, but they’re all in color. Although Spike’s reason for living, Julia died and the visual symbolism of the rose indicates that Spike may have survived, despite his injuries.
The first part of the series finale ends with lingering shots of Spike’s rose in full bloom and color, further supporting this symbol of his survival. Spike Spiegel himself assures Faye that he was not confronted with Vicious with the intention of dying, but to “find out if he is really alive”. While cryptic, the line lends weight to Spike’s survival. All along Cowboy Bebop, Spike has a fairly indifferent attitude towards his survival during his many dangerous missions, so Spike may have simply collapsed from exhaustion, rather than dying from his injuries.
There is just as much evidence that Spike died after finally killing Vicious. Spike no longer felt the need to live after losing Julia, and all he had to do was avenge her by killing her rival. With the death of Vicious, Spike finally came to terms with his past and was able to die in peace. Symbolically, the finale shows a shining star flickering before it goes out at the end of its credits, coinciding with a prediction made by Spike’s ally, Laughing Bull.
Cowboy Bebop has an intentionally ambiguous ending, with creator Shinichirō Watanabe refusing to confirm either outcome and admitting that he doesn’t have a definitive answer for himself. The conflicting visual cues and the abrupt nature of the anime’s ending allow viewers to decide for themselves, but Spike’s character arc ends beautifully anyway. Whether the next live reboot ends on an equally ambiguous note remains to be seen. For those who wish Spike to survive, however, the visual clue given by his rose may be enough for them to assume he survives. Cowboy Bebop’s end.
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