black and blue Jet Black shrine

down these mean streets a man must go

who is not himself mean

Black and Blue >> Who/Why

N.B. This page does not contain direct spoilers concerning the plot of Cowboy Bebop, but will make more sense to people who have seen the series. If you're a Bebop newbie, you can find pages through the Links that will be helpful to you.

Jet Black is what might be termed the secondary hero of the anime series Cowboy Bebop. His personal stats are as follows:

Date of Birth:

3 December, 2035



Star Sign:


Blood Type:



188 centimetres


Unshou Ishizuka

Jet is a former detective of the Inter Solar Systems Police (ISSP), a native of Ganymede (a moon of Jupiter), a bounty hunter in partnership with the maverick Spike Spiegel (playing Chewy to his Han Solo) and owner/operator of the Bebop, an extensively overhauled but not fully explored trawler vessel designed to navigate both on water and in space. In the ISSP he was nicknamed 'Black Dog' because of his dogged tenacity, reminding me somewhat of Watch Commander Sam Vimes in the Discworld books, who is nicknamed 'Vetinari's Terrier.' He's my favourite character.

In an attempt to explain his appeal to me, I'll open with a lengthy quote from an author I admire.

'In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man... He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honour, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honour in one thing, he is that in all things.

He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man's money dishonestly and no man's insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.

The story is of this man's adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right because it belongs to the world he lives in. If there were enough like him, I think the world would be a very safe place to live in, and yet not too dull to be worth living in.'

- Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder.

Now, if you read 'bounty hunter' for 'detective' - and a bounty hunter, it can well be argued, is often a species of detective - isn't that a spot-on description of Jet Black? He is most definitely a Chandlerian hero; even his career path echoes that of Philip Marlowe, leaving the police because his own principles made the force too hot to hold him. (At least no-one shot Marlowe's left arm off.) The real powers that be in Jet's world are crime syndicates and big business; despairing of law and order, he has found his place in the front line of frontier justice. He has a painful past, bears physical marks of his experiences, and is a man of shifting surfaces, with surprising aspects coming to light as the situation demands. To me, a character like that is the essence of intriguing romance.

Why else do I like him? I just think you've got to love a man who

- has dreams in which Charlie Parker tells him the secrets of life

- named a spaceship Bebop, of all things

- can tell fairy tales and hang out wet laundry simultaneously - and does so voluntarily

- talks to his bonsai trees - that's right, his bonsai trees, which reflect a patience and gentleness in his nature that you might not expect such a hulking badass to possess. Reminds me a bit of J.K. Rowling's description of Hagrid as 'one of those Hell's Angels who gets off a huge motorbike and starts talking about how his garden is coming.'

- goes to a fancy-dress party as a hippie with a gigantic cannabis leaf printed on his teeshirt

- talks to his dog like it can talk back - 'What? Beansprouts are good for you!'

- is so calmly accepting of who and what he has become in his journey through life, by chance and by choice: 'This arm is my arm; this ship is my ship.'

- is a grizzly bear on the outside and a teddy bear on the inside (not the explosive kind - or maybe...)

- looks totally right wearing a fedora

- really sucks at 'Odds or Evens,' to the point of losing not only his shirt, but also his boxers

- always comes through for his friends, even against his better judgement or bad temper

- loves truly, deeply and without blame.

There is so much to wonderabout Jet - for example, we know the story of his arm, but what about the scar over his right eye and the metal plate in his cheekbone? And what the hell kind of a name is 'Jet' Black? Was he christened something awful like Trismegistus? As his past is revealed to us, he's in the process of freeing himself from its hold on him, realising that time didn't stop when the first love of his life came to an end. He is a man full of possibilities and potential. Frankly, I think that if anyone with that kind of daddying talent stays single, it's a crime. The overwhelming drive in Jet's life seems to be to take care of someone, even while his blokish emotional reserve and unwillingness to open himself to being hurt again prevent him being overtly affectionate.

The other denizens of the Bebop are all estranged, alienated from the rest of humanity in some way, Spike by his dangerous past, Faye by the loss of her past and identity, Edward by the fact that she's a complete spaz, a feral child who has never become normally socialised. Jet, by contrast, runs his whole life in terms of social connections; as has been pointed out in All I Ever Needed to Know in Life I Learned by Watching Cowboy Bebop, no matter where you go, you'll meet someone who owes Jet a favour. Even while he keeps people at an emotional distance, he constructs a network of friendships and acquaintances to whom he always meets his obligations. It's his way of dealing with life. Spike's got jeet-kun-do, Faye's got gambling, Ed's got hacking, Jet's got people skills. Oh, and jazz music.

I'll freely admit that another reason for my fascination is that I find him physically attractive. The thighs... (shakes self and comes back to reality) This is the problem with growing up in New Zealand, you see a man built like that and think 'Phwoar, bet he could run straight up a hill with a sheep under each arm' and you think this is A GOOD THING. (You can substitute large wooden fenceposts for the sheep if you're squeamish.)

I love him because he's Spike's true friend, I love him because he's patient with Ed (could you be patient with Ed?), I love him because the first thing he does when Spike brings Ein home is put a little collar on him and get him a bowl with his name on it. I love him because he's grumpy but deep down he's a nice bloke. We need more like him.