Even before I finished watching the series, I saw people saying that Spike dies in the end.
That's what I get for googling Cowboy Bebop.
On a number of the question/answer sites out there, people asked the question, "Did Spike Die?". Numerous answers said "yes, he's dead" and you'd see an occasional "it's ambiguous." I saw the question being asked in a number of places, getting the same answers.
This got me scratching my head. If he so obviously died, why do people have to ASK if he died?
Puzzled, I continued watching the series. I had to see this for myself, if this was ambiguous or not (and how could it be ambiguous?).
I knew a few things about the end - "Bang." Drop. Men with guns at the bottom of the stairs. Star fades. I didn't know exactly what happened though, so I had to check it out.
Real Folk Blues started, and yeah, it's really intense. Really dark.
Spike goes after Vicious, like we all knew he had to. That final battle was the most terrifying thing I'd ever seen. Spike shoots Vicious. Vicious falls dead. Spike is standing there, victorious. I was flooded with relief. HE'S OK!!
Now he's coming down the stairs. Yeah, he's injured, but the front of his suit has no blood on it, like it would be if he was slashed with a sword. Men with guns at the bottom. I was waiting for the hail of gunfire to finish him off, 'cause he obviously wasn't slashed.
Wait. Nobody's aiming a gun at him. One guy lowers his gun. What the heck...? "Bang." Drop.
Camera pans back, birds fly.
"Wait. What? HE AIN'T DEAD! What the heck was supposed to have killed him? Why do people think he died?"
He didn't have ANY blood on the front of his suit (mrsspooky.net/bebop/images/SpikeStairsKnifeShoulder.jpg
for a larger sized picture - notice the knife still sticking out of his shoulder). He fell and no blood pooled under his body. He collapsed - people collapse for numerous reasons that don't involve death.
The birds flying and star fading looked more to me like they were signaling the end of Cowboy Bebop than signaling Spike's death, especially when you factor in the promos for the last 4 or 5 sessions, moaning about how Cowboy Bebop was ending soon.
They said to pay close attention to how it ends. I did. I paid closer attention than I think they intended. I wanted to see if the people who told me I was engaging in wishful thinking were right.
It's not wishful thinking.
Add to that the fact that nothing says he died. Nothing. Not even the official Cowboy Bebop guides that were published for the show. They all say he 'collapsed.' Collapsing is not the same as dying.
Sorry. I did not see that character die.
I've had people try to tell me he HAD to die to make it a good ending. The ONLY explanation for this anyone's been able to offer is "storytelling, beauty, poetry."
Sorry if this sounds harsh, but I think that's a crock. I'm sure that all means something to people who say that, but it means nothing to others and it certainly means nothing to me.
If you ask me, Spike OBVIOUSLY survived, and nothing official coming out of anyone at Sunrise contradicts that. The fact that so many think he died leads me to believe that maybe the ending WAS ambiguous (I guess), or the viewers just weren't paying close enough attention.
This is my opinion based on what I saw. Your mileage may vary. :)