- ―Spike Spiegel[src]
Spike Spiegel is the main protagonist of the Japanese animated series Cowboy Bebop and the movie, as well as the manga adaptations. He is a bounty hunter or "cowboy" (as he's referred to on several occasions) on a spaceship called the Bebop, travelling through space with his crew consisting of his old friend, Jet Black, and recent members, Faye Valentine, Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV, and Ein.
Spike is tall and lean in appearance; he has black hair with a green tint and brown eyes, one of which is later revealed to be artificial and lighter than the other.
In a flashback in Session 6 it's revealed that his right eye was surgically replaced by a fully-functioning cybernetic eye (although Spike himself may not have conscious recollection of the procedure since he claims to have lost his natural eye in an "accident").
Spike is usually dressed in a blue leisure suit, with a yellow shirt and Lupin III-inspired boots. He also occasionally wears a long brown trench coat. He is often seen with a cigarette between his lips, even if it's raining or there's clearly a 'No Smoking' sign where he is sat, standing or walking through. Spike's constant smoking is a homage to Lupin III, as Lupin's partner, Jigen, smokes cigarettes that are usually in very poor condition, similar to Spike.
There is also quite a distinctive reference through Spike's rebellious demeanor and fluffy hair to the famous musician Bob Dylan.
His appearance was primarily based on the main protagonist of Tantei Monogatari, portrayed by famous Japanese actor Yusaku Matsuda. Although Yamadera was a fan of Matsuda's, he avoided imitating his distinctive manner of speaking, noting that it "wouldn't have sounded right" for Spike.
Spike is a slothful, nonchalant, indifferent, and lazy character. He passes the vast majority of his time on the Bebop lounging, watching TV, or sleeping. In a few rare occasions, he is also seen practicing Jeet Kune Do, a martial arts practice he is very skilled in, being among other things passionate of Bruce Lee and his philosophies (for example, he follows Lee's "water" analogy for his style of fighting). He is a hardened smoker, shown with a cigarette in his mouth in practically every shot (the poor conditions in the cigarettes that are depicted recall those of Daisuke Jigen.) Although he rarely acknowledges it, Spike has very little patience. He repeatedly states he hates dogs, children, and women with attitudes, and is anything but happy when each one of the three joins the Bebop, but as the series progressed, he warmed up to Edward, Ein, and Faye, all three of which fall in the category of the three things he particularly hates. He also claims to dislike cats. Spike is rarely seen excited about something and, even less frequently, says he likes something.
He usually behaves phlegmatically and walks slouching almost as if he is sleepwalking. He appears to be tormented by the ghosts of his past and has frequent nightmares of his life in the Red Dragon. He considers he already died once and therefore doesn't show the slightest fear of the possibility of being killed, often acting as if to challenge death, so to prove he is still alive. However, in a conversation with Faye, he admits to not wanting to die because of "the hate to."
One of the recurring themes surrounding Spike's character is how he views himself and his life. Following the implant of an artificial eye, he says his left eye, the real one, sees the present while the synthetic right eye sees the past, making the past indelible in his mind, not allowing him to get rid of or forget about it. Despite that, he usually encourages others to forget the past as "not important." Spike's star sign is Cancer, which fits with his inability to let go of the past.
When he is not working, Spike is very laid back, sarcastic, and lively to the dismay of his crew mates. He is typically found either resting on the couch or reading magazines. Spike's philosophy seems to be based on the ancient samurai ideals of immediacy, such as considering oneself as dead and the idea of death as being an awakening from a dream, which are both elements of bushido illustrated in the Hagakure.
Although people often talk about cowboys in an almost heroic sense, his image is far from the idea of one and, on the contrary, has characteristics typical of an antihero. He never acts to protect anyone, but only for interest, so he often has to be persuaded to commit himself to a hunt he considers only a little exciting, has a rather sharp and cynical sense of humor, when he pursues a bounty, he throws himself headfirst into action, regardless of damage caused to people and buildings, and doesn't have the slightest moral scruples of having to kill someone. In the movie, he even tells an old woman that he and the Bebop crew don't serve and protect and that their work is strictly business, though Jet doubts that he actually means that.
In spite of all this, Spike still has a good heart and, whether he admits it or not, is more caring than he lets on and more than willing to help out others without expecting anything in return, which is rather ironic considering his line of work. A good example of this is in Session 7, when Victoria Terpsichore offered him a wad of cash, and he only took a single note while saying the rest was for her husband. He has also shown compassion for Rocco's blind sister in Session 8, even buying flowers when he went to visit her in hospital and being saddened and sympathetic by the loss of her brother. He treats Ein as kind of emergency food and Ed as a burden, but in reality, despite never showing his companions appreciation, Spike nurtures an obvious affection for each of them and often seems willing to help them. This affection is shown through his constant choice to not interfere as they face their past, even if meaning he has to pass up a bounty. In particular, Spike shares a genuine brotherly affection with Jet, and it is safe to say that they consider each other their best friend. In fact, they are often seen talking together like two old friends. Although they often fight because of the excessive stubbornness of Spike, occasionally resulting in him being banned from Bebop, these arguments are always resolved in short time. Jet is also the only person Spike confides about his past.
Spike's most complex relationship in the series is the one he has with Faye. Most of the time they usually bicker, however, in moments of danger, Faye has always shown concern for Spike, and Spike has shown some empathy for Faye's situation, but perhaps due to their stubborn natures they can't outright admit to this. Faye has also always taken care of Spike when he was injured, although she still kept a bitter attitude. The affection between them is quite obvious, and many people have speculated that Faye could be in love with Spike and desires to find a connection with him. Watanabe has addressed the subject, saying, "Sometimes I'm asked the question, 'What does Spike think of Faye?' I think that he likes her quite a bit. But he's not a very straightforward person and makes sure not to show it."
Spike has many talents and abilities, including very sharp eyesight, abnormally acute perception, and extraordinary luck. It's implied he has little trouble recovering from even fatal injuries after a few days and usually has strong endurance against pain during fights. Spike makes use of sleight-of-hand techniques to win card games, pick pockets, and even to slip things onto other people unnoticed. He is well-versed in weaponry (such as his personal Jericho 941, or Ruger P85, as well as other guns and explosives) martial arts fighting, and hand-to-hand combat skills due to his past employment with the Red Dragon crime syndicate and occasional training on the Bebop. He follows Jeet Kune Do, the mindset developed by Bruce Lee, though he has a penchant for high kicks of French boxing. Spike is also a pilot, and flies a converted Asteroid racer called the Swordfish II, which is armed with four machine guns, multiple missile launchers, and a single plasma cannon. Spike has repeatedly demonstrated an exceptionally sharp intellect, although he has a habit for neglecting to plan ahead, as noted by Jet. Spike has repeatedly been able to outwit the entire Red Dragon syndicate, predict the moves of his opponents (whether in combat or in the casinos), and use lateral thinking to get out of virtually every situation life throws at him. Spike can also regurgitate objects he swallows at will, like a casino chip or cigarette and spit them back out.
Spike was born on June 26, 2044 on Mars. Not much is known about the 27-year-old's family or childhood apart from his grandmother dying before he was born. Some speculate he was an orphan and his parents died when he was young. His racial background has been speculated online to be anything from Jewish, American, Italian, Chinese, or Japanese. It has also been speculated he could be Latino, a light-skinned african or the last Mohican by select online communities.
Throughout the series, there are some clues given about his past that it can be presumed that he was raised in one of the slums of Mars before becoming a thug, a thief, and then finally a criminal affiliated with the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate where Mao Yenrai, head of the organization, takes him under his wing.
The criminal organization becomes kind of like a family for Spike, and, thanks to his skills, he manages to become, in a short time, one of the top men, even being considered by many in the Red Dragon to someday be the leader. Because of his recklessness, he loses his right eye in an unknown accident, which occurred in a mission on behalf of the Red Dragon, after which he was implanted an artificial eye.
Simultaneously, after joining the Red Dragon, Spike meets a woman named Julia during a pool game; it's implied he fell in love with her at first sight. He also encounters Vicious, and soon, both become candidates for possible successors for Mao as the leader of the organization. While Vicious is ambitious, selfish, ruthless, and willing to do anything to get the leadership role, Spike instead finds no interest in the opportunity. The difference of opinion between the two gives rise to a great mutual hatred as well as a strong rivalry; however, this is not the only reason. They have a shared history and are shown to have fought and worked together in the past, possibly at one point being good friends. In Spike's flashbacks, he is shown fighting alongside Vicious. At about this time, Spike gets involved in a shooting probably not with the police, but the assassins of Vicious. He survives and is rescued and healed by Julia.
It is unclear exactly what links Vicious and Julia, though it seems the most likely that Julia was somehow subdued by Vicious and obliged to obey him, and some elements reveal she might've had a romantic relationship with him, further explaining Vicious' anger at Spike for engaging in an affair with Julia and sending assassins after him.
Having heard of the new bond, Vicious offers Julia to restore her freedom in exchange for the life of Spike, adding that if she did not kill him, they would both end up dead. Spike simultaneously staged his fake death and offered Julia to leave the Red Dragon and run away with him to start a new life. They were supposed to meet in a cemetery on a rainy day. Julia, however, not having the strength to kill the man she loved, decided to go into hiding to protect both him and herself, so at least one of them could be saved. She did not go to the cemetery, leaving Spike waiting in the rain and coming to believe he had been betrayed. Spike finally decided to leave, and so, painfully putting an end to their relationship.
A few years later in 2068, in circumstances that are not told, he met Jet Black who becomes his partner and close friend. They embarked on the ship known as the Bebop and quickly became the most feared bounty hunters of the Solar System. Despite the passing years, Spike continues, every time he gets an opportunity, to search for his beloved Julia.
On the Bebop
In Session 2, Stray Dog Strut, Jet and Spike, while hunting a kidnapper of animals, meet Ein, a dog with an unexpected human intelligence, who they decide to adopt as a pet. In Session 3, Honky Tonk Women, an appearance by Charlie Parker in a dream convinced Jet to try his luck at a casino. Here, the two bounty hunters meet Faye Valentine, who, after a series of events between this session and Session 4, Gateway Shuffle, becomes the self-invited third member of the crew of the Bebop. Initially, both men don't agree on having a woman on board, especially an opportunist like Faye. Over time, however, they become an attached and functional team.
In Session 5, Ballad of Fallen Angels, when Faye decides to try to catch Mao Yenrai alone, unaware that he has already been killed by Vicious, she falls into a trap of the Red Dragon, only to be used by Vicious to attract Spike. Arriving at the appointment in exchange for the life of Faye, Spike faces before the assassins of his rival and Vicious himself. Vicious is more propitious and manages to push Spike through a glass wall, but Spike manages to throw a grenade towards Vicious. Spike falls to the ground, but survived with the help of his fellow travelers who brought him back to the Bebop and medicated his wounds. Following unclear circumstances, Vicious survives the explosion caused by Spike's bomb.
In Session 9, Jamming with Edward, the eccentric Ed joins the trio. Spike resumes his life as a bounty hunter until Sessions 12 and 13, Jupiter Jazz, when Faye flees to Callisto because of her fears of her feelings towards her companions. In an effort to find her, Spike picks up a message perceived to regard a woman named Julia, but the term "Julia" turns out to be just the code name of a purchase transaction of a consignment of drugs (Red Eye) by Vicious on behalf of the Red Dragon. After a new clash with his rival, in which he manages to escape again, Spike returns to the Bebop being welcomed with open arms by Jet, despite the dispute caused by the way he acted to chase after Julia.
After a series of adventures, in Session 24, Hard Luck Woman, the crew is dismembered because Ed, after briefly meeting her father again, leaves with Ein. Faye, adding to the separation, recovered by her amnesia and taken by the anxiety of discovering her parents aren't alive, leaves the ship again. In Sessions 25 and 26, The Real Folk Blues, depressed, though not wanting to admit it, Jet and Spike go to a bar to drown their sorrows in booze, unaware that in the meantime the men of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate are chasing Spike. The assassins of the organization find Spike and Jet at the bar in which they undertake a firefight and Jet is wounded in the left leg by a bullet. Spike and Jet return to the Bebop with the aid of Shin covering their escape. Spike, after finding out that the elders of the Red Dragon stopped Vicious's coup and ordered their henchmen to eliminate any former member of the organization, contacts Faye and asks her to return to the Bebop. Faye returns and tells him, albeit hesitantly, she met Julia who has given her a task to deliver a message to Spike that she's waiting for him (unbeknownst to Faye) at the cemetery from years passed.
Spike immediately leaves the Bebop and travels to the cemetery whereupon he and Julia are reunited. They are soon joined by the assassins of the Red Dragon who chase them up on the rooftops of the city. Despite Spike managing to kill all of the assassins, Julia is shot in the back by a stray bullet and dies in Spike's arms, asking if what happened was just a dream. Spike responds positively and, after watching her die, decides to kill Vicious who has since killed the elders and became the new leader of the Red Dragon.
Duel with Vicious
Contrary to the expectations of his companions, Spike returns to the Bebop, but only to say goodbye to them permanently. Spike asks Jet to cook him food for the last time and then tells the story of his life as a fairy tale. They laugh one last time together, and then Jet lets him go to meet his fate. At the entrance of the hangar Spike comes across Faye who puts her gun to his head in an attempt to stop him. She reminds him of the time he told her to forget the past and live in the present. Spike then reveals that his right eye is fake and that it only sees the past, making the past inevitable in his mind. She then tells him that she recovered her memory and realizes that he and Jet are her only family. She urges him not to die, to which he replies he's not going there to die but to find out if he's alive. As he walks away, Faye, grief-stricken and desperate, shoots her gun at the ceiling and then surrenders into defeated sobs.
Due to an effective surprise, Spike manages to break into the base of the Red Dragon through the front door and, after killing many of the members of the organization and receiving injuries to his left arm and left side of his head, reaches the top floor and the room Vicious is in. During the final battle, he is wounded by a dagger to the left collarbone and a katana to the left quadriceps and abdomen. Nevertheless, he manages to kill his rival with a gunshot wound to the chest.
Shortly later, Spike walks down the stairs, holding his side tightly, and is met with the astonishment of the surviving men. He then stops in his tracks, points his finger to the men mimicking a gun, says “bang” with a smile, and collapses to the ground unconscious.
Although it is commonly believed that Spike is dead from his wounds, Shinichiro Watanabe, the creator, never actually confirmed the character's death and has purposely made the ending ambiguous to let fans decide Spike's fate for themselves. An indication for Spike's death might be a fading star at the very end of the camera's upward movement in the credits, though it could have also been Vicious' star. This could be an allusion to Bull's statement during a conversation with a kid in Jupiter Jazz Part 1/2 (Session 12 & 13) in which he states that a fallen star is in fact the tear of a warrior who has finished his battles and "could not find his way to the lofty realm where the great spirit awaits us all." In a 2006 interview with Watanabe, he stated: "I’ve never officially said that he died. At this point, I can tell you that I’m not sure if he’s alive or dead." He also stated in a 2013 interview: "I think people who watch [the ending] and think that Spike is asleep are probably right... just sleeping."
Either way, the story of Cowboy Bebop finished with Spike laying still on the floor.
- Spike Spiegel: "Jet, you said bell peppers and beef."
- Jet Black: [distracted] "His name's Asimov Solensen. Are you listening to me?"
- Spike Spiegel: "There's no beef in here. So you wouldn't really call it bell peppers and beef now, would you?"
- Jet Black: "Yes, I would."
- Spike Spiegel: [yelling] "Well, it's not!"
- Jet Black: [yelling] "It is when you're broke, alright!"
Jamming with Edward
- Spike Spiegel: "Jet, do you know that there are three things that I particularly hate?"
- Jet Black: [defeated] "Really?"
- Spike Spiegel: "Kids. Animals. And women with attitude.
- Jet Black: [defeated] "Oh..."
- Spike Spiegel: "So tell me Jet... [yelling] why do we have all three of them neatly gathered in our ship?!"
- Spike Spiegel: "Whatever happens, happens."
Cowboy Bebop The Movie: Knockin' on Heaven's Door
- Elektra Ovirowa: "The more you know, the shorter your life will be."
- Spike Spiegel: "I love the kind of woman that can kick my ass."
The Real Folk Blues (Part 2)
- Spike Spiegel: "I'm not going there to die. I'm going to find out if I'm really alive."
- Spike Spiegel: "They say hunger is the best spice."
- Spike Spiegel: "Bang..." [smiles while holding his hand like a gun before falling to the ground]
The producers of Cowboy Bebop have been quoted as saying they chose the name Spike Spiegel because "it sounded cool." It is stated in the special features accompanying Cowboy Bebop The Movie: Knockin' on Heaven's Door that Spike's appearance is modeled after the late Japanese actor Yusaku Matsuda, especially as he appears in his famous role in Tantei Monogatari.
His past and background is similar to Eric Draven in The Crow (portrayed by Brandon Lee, son of Bruce, in the 1994 film) as both were thought to be dead. Both were in love with a beautiful woman with whom they were supposed to be together, and both set out to avenge their loved ones. They also both fought their rivals in an abandoned church and succeeded in killing them in a violent and poetic manner, and both are experienced in fighting with weapons and martial arts.
Spike's age 27 is a reference to the 27 Club, comprised of many famous musicians who have died at the age.
The reason why Spike’s hair appears to be a green color is due to the lighting in the anime. It is actually close to being a dark brown or black shade.