Why Did Edward Leave Cowboy Bebop?

Edward left Cowboy Bebop because, like the rest of the Bebop crew, she needed to move forward with her life.  This is a concept inherent to Cowboy Bebop’s existential philosophy—creating meaning in a chaotic universe.  She isn’t lost, only taking her own path.

Edward is an enigmatic girl with a tendency toward chaos.  It’s hard to describe her.  She’s a unique character that doesn’t behave in a “normal” way yet is sympathetic and endearing.  She’s also a gifted hacker, following her brilliant impulses on a whim.  I believe that’s part of her charm.

It’s All Jazz, Baby

Cowboy Bebop is a creative exercise in genre mashups.  Director Shinichiro Watanabe went meta with the concept of “jazz”, taking the free-flowing collaboration of the music genre and playing with story genre using those techniques.  Watanabe connected story threads from noir, spaghetti westerns and cyberpunk science fiction—all of which are tragic in nature, exploring the tension between outlaws and whatever justice system they are pitted against.

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In fact, each of the Bebop crew members fall into a popular trope within each of these three genres.  Spike is the lone gunslinger seeking redemption, Jet Black is the hardboiled detective, Faye Valentine is the femme fatale with a gambling problem and Edward is the loner savant hacker.

Each episode played inside these genres, whether through plot or aesthetic.  One episode could be about Spike’s sordid history with the Syndicate, and the next would an alien monster movie.  In a world where space cowboys face otherworldly sci fi concepts along with gangsters, outlaws and inner demons, there’s no shortage of motifs to be used.

The ever-changing nature of jazz is expressed in the characters’ personal lives as well.  Their fates are their own, changing as the story progresses.  It’s all in the character’s day-to-day choices, which are usually based around getting a meal.  Edward seems to be the poster child of this concept—easily drifting onto the crew and back out again.  She carries on with life, to her own rhythm.

Edward’s Place in the Story

In the episode Hard Luck Woman, we watch Edward leave and find out more about her backstory.  She was picked up by the Bebop crew as a drifter who hardly made sense.  Her strange use of language and childish antics suggests a savant, so we just go with it.  All they knew about her was her brilliant hacking and desire to stay on board.

The nun that raised Edward said a line that sums Edward up, mentioning that she would come and go like a stray cat.  This would end up as foreshadowing for the Hard Luck Woman episode, but it explains her well.  Her character had cat-like features, both in the way she was found and the way she behaved.  She literally bit a few people and rolled around on the floor.

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In this episode, both Faye and Edward find the climax to their respective stories.  The episode name refers to both characters and stays true to the show’s philosophy.  Faye realizes that she will never be able to return to the past.  She has to make her own way in a strange future.  Likewise, Edward has to hold her future in her own hands and venture forward like her father did.

For us, the sympathetic viewer, we need to see Edward with some sort of family.  It’s human nature to want to protect a stray child.  But Edward doesn’t think that way.  For the most part, it’s not in her nature.  She cares for the Bebop crew—she just doesn’t need to be attached.  Maybe she’s chasing her father, maybe she’s paving her own path.  Either way, she grew and moved forward.

Falling Star Motif

With bounty hunters drifting through the solar system, searching for meaning, the guiding star motif is a clear go-to for the series.  However, this familiar motif is jazzed up.  Instead of something like a north star, a solid guide, the stars followed in Cowboy Bebop are falling, moving.

Only appearing a handful of times in the series, Laughing Bull is a Native American shaman that connects the stars with fate. He comments on how the fall of a star was showing “a lost soul who has finished his battles”.  Framed from the perspective of this thoughtful wiseman, the stars are connected to fate.  They fall because fate is constantly changing.

Then, we meet Edward for the first time, hacking into an old satellite on a desolate Earth.  The forecast calls for “rock showers”, meteorites that fall randomly like a pop-up thunderstorm.  In the Bebop timeline, a warp gate explodes on the moon in a massive catastrophe.  This left a chunk missing from the moon and ring of the debris surrounding and falling to earth.

Right off the bat, we are introduced to Edward among  these “fallen stars”.  This same metaphor comes full circle once we reach the end of the series, as we find her father obsessed with these meteorites.  The falling rocks change the surface of the Earth daily, referencing the constant state of change we experience in life.

The Father Person

 Edward’s father is a weird guy, arguably a savant like Edward.
why did edward leave Cowboy Bebop crew?

His brilliant mind is obsessed with tracking the fall of meteors, obsessed to the fact that he forgets his daughter.  Actually, he couldn’t even remember if it was his daughter or his son.  To be fair, she does express herself as androgynous, but reality is he couldn’t remember.  Spike and Jet can’t believe this guy—especially since he appears to be as skilled in martial combat as Spike.

He suddenly seems super-human, like Spike might actually lose.  Then, we just think yeah, that’s Edward’s dad.

As outrageous as this man is, it’s clear he loves his child.  He has some sort of bond with her, as is seen when Edward interrupts his fight with Spike.  They laugh together, he throws her into the air like a much smaller child—typical father/child stuff.  But something is still a bit off about him.

As his impulse takes him, he leaves the scene as quickly as he showed up.  Another meteor has crashed in the distance, once again changing the map.  There’s a moment when Edward looks shocked and longing as her father leaves yet again.  Yeah, that one stung a bit.  However, it was ultimately a part of her journey, something she faced with courage.

See You Cowgirl, Someday, Somewhere

Feeling bummed out yet?  Don’t worry.  There’s really no inclination that the crew will never see each other again.  Their fates have aligned once and can align again.

Our first clue to this is the song Call Me Call Me, which plays at the episode nears the end.  The mood is somber, sure, but the song casts some hope into the future.  As far away as they might travel, they can always find a way back to each other.

And yes, I mean Spike, too, but I’ll get to that.

My second context clue to this idea is the end note before the credits.  Famous as See you, space cowboy, the show creators give Edward and Faye a special sendoff.

See you cowgirl, someday, somewhere

So, about Spike.  Yeah, we saw him drop before the credits roll.  And yeah, he took a nasty slash from a samurai sword.  But come on, he’s lived through all kinds of injuries.  He survived his first encounter with Vicious after being shot and thrown out of a building.  Pierrot Le Fou juggled him in the air using only kicks to the head.  The guy can take a lot of punishment.

Also, show creator Shinichiro Watanabe seems to have left Spike’s fate a mystery.  Ultimately, we don’t really need to know whether he lived or died.  His story was complete.

However, Watanabe didn’t forget to sprinkle in a note of hope.

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