Toys in the Attic is a fairly nonsensical episode in the Bebop-verse and is built like a comedy horror story. It’s basically an homage to the movie ‘Alien.’ There are “lessons” strewn across the episode which are representative of the personalities of the four main characters and it seems largely intended to be comic relief before the dramatic Jupiter Jazz episodes. But I feel Toys in the Attic is a bit more than that and acts as a larger metaphor for Spike’s story and how it influences everyone else in his new life, while also acting as foreshadowing for the events of the finale episodes, The Real Folk Blues, and the decisions he takes then. How so?
I will proceed with this assuming the reader is familiar with all the episodes of the anime. Having watched it many times over the years, I feel more and more that Toys in the Attic is a condensed and metaphorical version of the events which culminate the series.
The obvious comparison is that Spike leaves his past in the fridge, doesn’t deal with it, kind of just lets it hang there for a while till it becomes a giant fungus of a mess and spills into the lives of his crewmates but I think it’s more detailed than just that. The theme of the show is Spike’s Karma and this makes sense in that context. The Ganymede Rock Lobster is representative of his life with the Syndicate, the loose ends of Julia and Vicious and his own unresolved relationship with this past. He tries to hide it away from everyone else in his new life, ignores and clamps down on his own emotions, doesn’t deal with anything, till it becomes convoluted enough to explodes in the lives of the Bebop crew one day and is then impossible for him to ignore.
On a side note, I honestly feel he, Vicious, and Julia all belonged in group therapy together. Would’ve helped a lot. But anyway, group therapy not being possible, there were definitely other ways he could have proactively planned around the issues of his past a lot sooner. He knew it was coming one day. But in classic Spike manner, he kind of goes with the flow and waits till it catches up to him.
Toys in the Attic loosely follows the sequence of the events which bring the series to an end. In it, the first one to get bitten is Jet…when the events with the Syndicate kick off in the finale, the first one to get shot is Jet. Next is Faye as she runs into Julia, gets shot at, has to fight the Syndicate ships attacking the Bebop, and in general becomes the next victim of his past. Her life falls in danger because of him.
Keeping with her absence by the time the finale happens, Ed promptly wanders off at the beginning, off in her own world even as all this is unfolding, never to be found again by Spike during the course of the episode. What about Ein then? Ein is the next to get bitten after Faye and initially I could not understand this since he has left the ship by the time Faye starts getting impacted by Spike’s past. But then I realized he may be representative of the Bebop itself, which is the next entity to take a hit. Ein is a mute creature who gets bitten by the blob and becomes ill. The Bebop is a mute machine which gets impacted right after Faye’s run-in with Julia and gets damaged in the attack. It is at this point in both storylines that Spike decides he has to take matters in his own hands.
In Toys in the Attic, once Ein gets bitten, Spike loads up on ammo and sets off on his own to deal with the ‘past’….in this case, to save his crew from the consequences of him forgetting the lobster. In The Real Folk Blues, right after the Bebop is hit, he sets off on his own to deal with his actual past. He comes back once in the middle but largely it’s just a continuation. And this is why I believe part of the motivation behind his attacking the Syndicate and Vicious so destructively at the end is to ensure the people in his life, who have become endangered due to their involvement with him, do not become further collateral damage. He literally has no other option. Even if he chose to stay back with them, Vicious would continue to hunt him down and their lives would be in constant danger. Even if he went away somewhere on his own, they could still get targeted for revenge or used to make him come out and show himself.
The first time that Spike’s past ever explodes into their lives is episode 5 ‘Ballad of Fallen Angels’ when Vicious targets those around him to smoke him out, we see him fish a gun out of the fridge, which is a very odd place to keep a gun honestly. Some firearms can survive in refrigerators but that’s not the ideal place to store them otherwise. I feel that’s again symbolic of him taking a past frozen in time out for the first time. That same motif of the fridge is repeated in Toys in the Attic. In Ballad of Fallen Angels, when Jet asks Spike to not go confront Vicious, Spike says he doesn’t want to do it but has to. Basically, people around him are getting impacted and he can’t just let that happen. If you click on that link I’ve added at the beginning of the paragraph, looking deeply into the events of ‘Fallen Angels’ we realise how much of a trap Vicious had laid out for Spike’s companions. The same misleading dialogue is often repeated during the series, making it seem like Spike goes back to his past out of ego or recklessness but actually he does not have the kind of past he can just choose to detach from. Even if he lets it go, it won’t let go of him.
In Toys in the Attic, in order to save everyone he needs to in fact shove the entire fridge out of the ship. Nothing else will do. Just getting rid of the blob is not enough. I feel the blob represents Vicious, a funny metaphor, haunting ,and chasing Spike, refusing to die even when he attacks it with a smoke bomb and fire. He bombs Vicious in Episode 6 but he manages to survive; his ship explodes partially in Jupiter Jazz but he survives that too. The blob attacks the crew, and even bites Spike in the end, similar to Vicious dealing a serious blow to Spike just before his own death. The fridge seems to represent the Syndicate since by the end it wasn’t going to be enough to just kill Vicious. He needed to attack the whole thing and create a big enough scene that they think twice about coming after the people under his care.
The part about Ed eating the blob seems just comedic relief but I feel that Ed is representative of the evolved Zen soul, transcended beyond past and present, and is hence shown to not be impacted by something which brings everyone else down. Therefore the “blob” of Spike’s past has no power over her and she can consume it easily where others are seriously hurt by it. Even in the show, Ed is the only one never impacted by the events of Spike’s past, even when she is a part of the crew while they occur during Jupiter Jazz.
Which also brings me to why this episode makes me believe that Spike may be alive at the end…though this might be a bit of a stretch, don’t know. In the episode, the entire crew is impacted by the “Vicious” blob in different ways, just like in the finale-Jet gets shot, Faye gets shot at, Bebop gets damaged, Spike gets…well, also damaged. But in Toys they all make it out alive. In fact, the post-credits sequence which sets up the next episode even addresses this outright with Ed declaring that everyone died and she is now the protagonist and the others shouting her down to assure the audience they are alive and there is indeed a next episode. Of course, Spike dying or not dying is a lot more dynamic so you can’t just write it up to this and it’s likely just comic relief.
But otherwise, I feel it can be one giant metaphor and the fact that there are literally no characters other than the core crew members in the episode indicates how important they are to the story. Yes, there is Julia and all of that jazz in the larger story but at the end I do believe Spike when he says he can’t do anything for her because she is dead. While we have a hundred fancy and poetic motivations for why Spike does what he does at the end of the series, I feel it also comes down to a man taking accountability finally and fighting to save people endangered because of him from the vicious lobster he stuck in the fridge and forgot about for three years.
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