One of my favourite episodes of Cowboy Bebop finally gives a backstory to Faye that’s surprising but also, in quite a few ways, very much in line with what previous episodes had given us.
Session Fifteen: My Funny Valentine
The title this time comes from the very famous, frequently covered Rogers and Hart song from the 1930s. I doubt there are many who are unfamiliar with the song but, just in case, here’s one of my favourite renditions:
Obviously there’s the connexion to Faye Valentine (Megumi Hayashibara), given her name, but the lyrics, which convey the affection the singer feels for a lover not only despite but because of his or her appearance or behaviour that’s contrary to the ideal, have a broader resonance for the story.
The episode begins with Faye in an initially unexplained flashback strikingly similar to some flashbacks we’ve seen of Spike (Koichi Yamadera). In both cases, each character is naked, apparently unconscious, bathed in a blue-green light, and surrounded by masked doctors or scientists. But, unlike Spike’s flashback, we get some explanation for Faye’s within the same episode.
Faye is being thawed out after having been cryogenically frozen for over fifty years. Like the kid in Session Six and Chessmaster Hex in Session Fourteen, Faye is a person from before the hyperspace gate accident that changed everything, the physical changes to Earth wrought by meteors being mirrored by chaotic cultural changes. We see this in a funny moment when Faye wakes and misinterprets everything in the room, from the washing machine she thinks is a television to the thermometer she thinks is a cell phone. Not unlike the many other misleading signifiers of race, gender, and apparel seen in other episodes. Now Faye embodies the experience of the series.
But the biggest mistake is her Prince Charming, Whitney Hagas Matsumoto (Akio Otsuka), who immediately compares her to Sleeping Beauty. Faye wakes with no memory of who she is or anything about herself and in this vulnerable state she has little choice but to trust this guy. And then we see, in the present, he’s a complete fraud, in fact a small time matrimonial conman who’s nabbed by Jet (Unsho Ishizuka).
And now, like the subject of the song, Hagas Matsumoto is hardly the physical ideal of a Prince Charming due to some fat implants. He’s also, one should note, one of the show’s typical conglomerations of race and culture, his three names each originating from different cultures and his appearance not easily identifiable as any race, though he does reveal the black doctor, Baccus, is his uncle.
Baccus tells Faye his name is a reference to the god of wine and this makes sense for the con artist he ends up being. It turns out they’ve thawed Faye just to unload a whole lot of debt on her. So the character defining enormous debt we’ve known about was, at least at the beginning, not her fault. But she believes it is and even when she learns better one assumes that kind of thing, coming right at her rebirth, would have a lasting psychological effect, like a girl being taught women are responsible for original sin.
There are serious implications to that and later episodes will introduce a more sombre tone to Faye’s story but for this episode there’s an engagingly light tone as we sympathise with poor Fay even as the strange encounters with the future are as ridiculous as they are frightening.
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: