Movie Reviews

One Cowboy Bebop Quote is So Moving That I Can't Stop Thinking About it Years Later


  • Cowboy Bebop
    teaches letting go of the past and not worrying about the future.
  • Spike’s quote reflects his character and encourages embracing the present.
  • Spike’s attitude towards facing events head on can be influential in managing anxiety.

When it comes to formative anime for me, there’s nothing higher on the list than Cowboy Bebop. Discovering Cowboy Bebop late at night on Cartoon Network was a radical moment, as I was automatically enraptured by everything that was happening on screen. To me, all anime until that point was on the level of Pokémon or Digimon, relegated to the realm of morning cartoons which I had only recently grown out of. But Cowboy Bebop wasn’t anything like those more sanitized Saturday morning anime.

It’s been around 20 years since I first experienced Cowboy Bebop, and it remains one of my all-time favorites to this day, one that I’ve only come to appreciate more as I’ve gotten older. It prompted me to watch Adult Swim, which then introduced me to many of my other favorites, and the broader world of anime as a whole. There is one particular moment, however, which always sticks in my mind, where Spike speaks the words I’d heard before, but never really thought much about: “Whatever happens, happens.”

Cowboy Bebop Is About Letting Go of the Past and Not Worrying About the Future

Spike’s Quote Is a Reflection of His Character

While Spike says that on a few occasions, the particular moment I’m thinking of is at the end of “Wild Horses,”the episode of Cowboy Bebop focusing on the Space Shuttle Columbia. After being saved by Doohan (a delightful and surprising Star Trek reference) and Miles in the shuttle, Spike listens as the two piloting the ship begin to grow concerned about the heat shields, and whether Columbia will be able to re-enter the atmosphere safely. Having already been in a certain death situation, Spike simply sits back and lights up, saying those words: “Whatever happens, happens.”

Spike’s attitude towards the future was so unlike mine that I couldn’t help but be fascinated by it.

At the time I first saw it, I couldn’t imagine being so placid in the face of imminent destruction. Even at that young age, I was already struggling with tremendous amounts of anxiety, always about the future. Everything was “What if” this or “What if” that, and it was almost impossible to think of anything else. It kept me from doing things, be it socially or academically, or just about any other way you can imagine. To be honest, it’s still a pretty big problem to this day, but I’ve learned to manage it over the years, and Spike’s words had a surprising impact on that.

Spike’s attitude towards the future was so unlike mine that I couldn’t help but be fascinated by it. I realized that this wasn’t just a line that was said offhand, but was actually a pretty big part of his character. For Spike, because he had “died” once before, the future wasn’t a given. He approaches everything from combat to space piloting with that “whatever happens, happens” attitude. In the episode, Spike is left about to burn up in the atmosphere and quickly makes his peace with that fact. When Doohan comes to save him, Spike is shocked, and even protests a bit, but accepts this just as easily as he accepted death.


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Spike’s ability to face events head-on and handle them without fear or hesitation turned out to be extremely influential to me. His quote had a ring of truth to it, and although it’s not a particularly original thought, I really felt like I only heard what it meant the first time coming from Spike. There are things we can change, and things we cannot; both will happen regardless, so what point is there in worrying about those things that can’t be changed? The only thing to do is to accept that whatever may happen will come to pass, and deal with the new situation as it arises.

Spike Speaks to Anxiety by Shutting Down Its Worries

“Whatever Happens, Happens,” Means Embracing the Present

Cowboy Bebop: Opening Credits showing Spike Spiegel Smoking

Of course, even just hearing it, I knew it couldn’t be quite that simple. Still, I tried to apply this perspective to my life. To take action without worry, and accept the consequences of those actions as they came, be they for better or worse. It was important to realize, though, that this wasn’t permission to just behave in any way I may have felt; I still needed to conduct myself properly, to try to be safe and responsible. There was something rather freeing about this perspective on life, like it no longer felt as if the entire future was riding on my every move.

I still can’t help but worry about the big things. I’m just a big-picture kind of guy, in the end. But concern for the future itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s only bad if it negatively impacts your life and mood. “Whatever Happens, Happens,” isn’t a nihilistic idea of the future, but an embrace of the present. Fears and “What If’s” were stopping me from doing the things I wanted to do, effectively taking experiences away from me. By accepting that whatever happens will happen regardless, I was able to finally do some of those things I’d been so afraid of for so long.


Cowboy Bebop’s Post-Apocalyptic Earth is the Series’ Biggest Tragedy

While the state of the Earth factors in heavily to the background of Cowboy Bebop, the situation is actually full-on post-apocalyptic.

While there are a lot of other aspects of Spike’s character that one probably shouldn’t look up to, I feel as though his almost zen-like acceptance of things beyond his control is definitely one trait worth emulating. I do find these days that sometimes, something will happen, and I won’t be overly worried about the repercussions of it, and I recognize that as Spike’s advice finally sinking in. It’s no cure for anxiety, and depending on the severity, it could take quite a lot of mental effort to apply this advice, but it really can help.

While there are other Cowboy Bebop quotes that probably offer better general life advice, for me there’s no question as to what quote has had the biggest impact on my life. Though it may be easier said than believed, “Whatever Happens, Happens” is a simple and easy-to-understand line that attacks the very foundations of anxiety. I can repeat it to myself when my mind gets carried away with worries, and it helps to take my mind off of the fears. The fact that Cowboy Bebop can do that alone is enough to secure it a spot as my all-time favorite, and I hope maybe it can help those of you out there with anxieties, too.

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