Oooooooooh yeah…! We’re getting down to nitty gritty (as Randy Savage would’ve said).
I wanted to try to be bigger and avoid turning this into one long comparison between CHAMPLOO and BEBOP, but it’s really hard to when nearly every episode demonstrates how much Watanabe’s grown in executing a show like this. When BEBOP started its multi-part series capper, I sighed like a kid whose in-class horseplay was interrupted by the teacher insisting on finally setting everybody down for the lesson plan. I really can’t understate how profoundly disinteresting the long-arc plot thread with Vicious was in comparison to all the inventive one-off episodes.
Here, Watanabe’s found just the right tension. He's tying the show together into some greater tapestry while still keeping the threads loose enough so as to preserve the anarchic, flippant tone. The revelation that the government’s been tracking this trio for their various offenses is out-of-left-field enough to be an exciting turn, but still sensible enough to fit in with the scattered clues we’ve gotten throughout the series. Indeed, for “boss characters” who’ve been introduced in the last eighth of the series (or so), the unrelated master assassins exude the proper "menace of the unexpected" you'd expect from thieves in the night. Their arrivals are sharp and horrifying on a truly visceral level.
Indeed, “visceral” is a term I’ll probably be using a lot more when I look back on this series, in full. Granted, there’s plenty of calculated abstraction to this show, but there are also plenty of scenes that feel almost startling authentic. I’m specifically thinking about the part where Fuu pushes Mugen and Jin away with her spurious, stumbling fancy cakes pretext. Like I’ve said, you’ve got to appreciate a show that's smart and composed enough to allows its characters to act as awkwardly and stupidly as actual people do.
Watch this episode, "Evanescent Encounter, Part 1” below and decide for yourself, then read my comments on the previous episode here.