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|“||When Angels are thrown out from Heaven they become Devils, you agree don't you Spike?||„|
|~ Vicious to Spike in 'Balled of Fallen Angels'|
|“||There is nothing to believe in. There is no need to believe.||„|
|~ Vicious displaying his nihilistic personality towards his own former admirer, Gren.|
Vicious is the main antagonist of the anime series Cowboy Bebop. He is the leader of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate in Tharsis, and is often referred to or depicted as a venomous snake. He has a long, very complicated history with Spike Spiegel, with the two once being friends but, after an incident involving a woman named Julia, became bitter enemies.
He is voiced by Norio Wakamoto in the Japanese version, best known on voicing characters like Cell from Dragonball Z, Xemnas from the Kingdom Hearts series, Charles zi Britannia from the Code Geass series, Dracula from Castlevania, Nobunaga Oda from Sengoku Basara and Black Shadow from F-Zero: Legend of Falcon. In the English version, he is voiced by Skip Stellrecht, best known as voicing Mighty Guy from Naruto and Ryu from the Street Fighter animated films.
Not much is known about Vicious' past as he is a man shrouded in mystery. However, from what the audience known about Vicious, he was a partner of the protagonist, Spike Spiegel, during his tenure as a mercenary of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate. Initially things went fine and dandy for Vicious as he was shown smiling in the flashbacks. However, things changed after both Spike and Vicious fell in love with a same beautiful woman known as Julia.
Catching Spike and Julia having an affair with each other, Vicious then forced to Julia make a sadistic choice; either she had to kill Spike or he would personally kill both of them. This resulted in Spike faking his own death and abandoning the syndicate in order to save himself while having his own dark past haunting him until this day.
After Spike left the Syndicate, Vicious then enlisted himself as a soldier to participate a war around 2068 known as the Titan War. There, he met a soldier named Gren and made friends with him after Gren complimented the musical box Vicious had possessed that made him reminisce about Julia, as if the cold, distant planet and its war-zone were simply the most appropriate climate for grief. Notably, that scene portrays the only suggestion of sentimentality toward Julia that Vicious displays during the series.
However, after the Titan War, Vicious framed Gren for spying with his own testimony, which raises the possibility that he himself might have been involved in military espionage on behalf of the Syndicate and chose to pin it on his admirer. Because of Vicious betraying Gren during the war by incriminating him, he was given a drug that destroyed his hormones to the point he became androgynous person and developed a vendetta against Vicious until the present day.
Vicious makes his first appearance in the present day during Episode 5 where he was appalled after seeing one of the members of Red Dragon Crime Syndicate who is revealed to be a mentor of both Spike and Vicious, Mao Yenrai, forming a truce with a rival gang, White Tiger. Because of this, Vicious then sabotaged the White Tiger ship which kills the representative of said gang and his own men while also killing Mao and his own men after the incident, suggesting that Mao has lost his own claws and is not worthy of running the syndicate.
After killing Mao Yenrai, he pinned an uncertain crime on him while putting his dead body in an Opera Theater in order to lure Spike out from his hiding. After finding out that it wasn't Spike who came to the Opera Theater, but one of his companions, Faye Valentine, instead, Vicious then kidnaps her and took her into an abandoned cathedral to lure Spike. Finding out about Faye getting kidnapped by Vicious, he went into the abandoned cathedral to save Faye and settle the score with Vicious in which he was ambushed by Vicious's own men. After the intense duel between the two, Vicious then threw Spike out from cathedral while Spike retaliates by throwing a grenade at him. However, both of them survived the ordeal as Spike was fatally wounded because of the incident.
Reappearing again on Episode 12, he was tasked by the trio elders of The Red Dragon Syndicate known as "The Van" to send a drug known as Red Eye to planet Callisto because there is a person who requested it, revealed to be none other than his former lover, Julia. During the mission, he was accompanied by one of the Red Dragon Syndicate members, Lin and before they departed, Vicious told Lin that if he needed to survive, Lin had to betray Vicious. However, when Lin refused due to him upholding the honor that he possessed, Vicious was appalled by it.
However, it is soon revealed that despite Julia staying at Planet Callisto for a while, Julia had since moved on from said planet, and it was really a trap set by his former admirer, Gren. Encountering his former friend again in the present day, Gren asked Vicious why he betrayed him during the Titan War in the first place despite looking up to and believing in him, Vicious responds by saying that there is nothing to believe in and when Lin sacrifices his life to protect Vicious from Spike, he dismissed his death without a second thought and responded by saying the same quote about there's nothing to believe in.
When Spike called him out on this, Vicious only responded by saying that Lin was merely protecting the order. After Gren participates in the fight alongside Spike in order to stop Vicious, Vicious then shot his aircraft, which resulted in Gren getting fatally injured and succumbing to his wounds before asking Spike to bury his body on Titan.
Vicious re-appears again in the last two episodes of the series where he attempted to stage a failed coup against The Van and will be executed soon by his own superiors. This resulted in the leaders of The Red Dragon Syndicate trying to target anyone who is connected towards Vicious, including Spike and Julia. However, due to his guile and charisma, Vicious managed to persuade several of the Red Dragon Syndicate members to mercilessly slaughter The Van and their men who protected them and then assume his position in the top of the food chain as the leader of the Red Dragon Syndicate. As he overtook the seat, he still ordered his men to murder both Spike and Julia in order to satiate his vengeance for what happened in the past much to the disgust of the brother of Lin, Shin, who overhears the order from Vicious.
In the meantime, when Spike reunites with Julia in a graveyard in which the latter attempts to kill him because of the unsettled score in the past, both of them notice that Vicious is after them by sending his own men. After they attempted to take a refugee to the bar that was run by the former member of the Red Dragon Syndicate, Anastasia, they found out that the bar was ransacked and Anastasia was mortally wounded by Vicious's men, saying that they became ruthless after Vicious was in charge. After Anastasia succumbed to her wounds, Vicious's men attempt to ambush them as Spike and Julia attempt to run away.
Unfortunately, as they attempted to escape, Julia was shot by one of Vicious's men which resulted in her meeting her demise. Because of this, Spike seemed to lose everything, even the meaning of life, as Julia is revealed to be the lost fragment of his own life. Before going to The Red Dragon headquarters to settle the score with Vicious once and for all, Spike then ate his last meal alongside his own companions while telling an interesting story towards one of his companions, Jet Black, about a relationship between a Tiger Striped cat and the white cat which is an allegory of him losing Julia. After parting ways with his companions and going into the Red Dragon headquarters by himself, he was ambushed by Vicious's men before getting some help from Shin in which he sacrificed himself for Spike and then began to fight face to face with Vicious. Fortunately, Vicious was killed, but by the end of the episode, as Spike went downstairs, he suddenly faints as the sunrise rises.
Vicious is a tall and thin man, with untamed, shoulder length gray hair. He always wears black and carries a katana as his weapon of choice. He uses two katanas throughout the series. In his first confrontation with Spike, he uses a katana with a traditionally wrapped handle. It is replaced with a sword with a bound handle and a shell-shaped pommel. Early on, Vicious is seen with a black bird on his shoulder. Though he is even shown feeding it in one scene, he eventually hides explosives in its stomach and detonates it as a distraction during an escape.
Vicious' real age is 27, making him the same age as Spike, although he appears to be much older. He seems older due to the heavy, ever-present bags under his eyes and his grey hair. His elderly appearance at his young age could possibly be attributed to heavy drug use, the events on Titan, or some event linked to it. Also, A few flashbacks in the seris show him smiling, which is a major contrast to the usual scowl that is most commonly shown plastered on his face.
Being a ruthless and cold-hearted mercenary, Vicious lives up to his own name. He is described as a ruthless, cunning and bloodthirsty mercenary consumed by his own vengeance who serves as a dark foil to Spike and is also a rather ambitious person, willing to commit considerable atrocities in order to get what he wants such as forcing Julia to kill Spike or initiating a coup d'etat against The Van. Another major personality trait that Vicious shows is his willingness to backstab people if it benefits him such as when he betrays his admirer, Gren, by incriminating him after the Titan War. This was best described by The Van as they perceived Vicious as nothing but a treacherous and poisonous snake.
In addition to all of this, Vicious himself is a straw nihilist who also embodies Spike's cynicism towards the world, but was cranked up to eleven, believing that there is nothing in the world to believe in and views the world as a dog-eat-dog scenario where everyone needed to betray someone for their own gain. This was shown where he gave one of his companions, Lin, some advice by saying that if he wanted to survive, he need to betray Vicious himself and was appalled when seeing Lin refuse to follow Vicious's advice. Vicious is also shown to be a huge hypocrite as he claims that his mentor, Mao Yenrai, and his superiors had lost their claws, yet he prefers to let his men do his own dirty job for him.
Despite his seemingly horrible personality, Vicious also shown himself to be a sophisticated and calculating man who uses his own brain and charisma when he tries to get what he wants. This was shown as he tries to form a plan of using his dead mentor body to lure Spike out of hiding, and when that failed, he kidnaps Spike's own companion in order to lure him into a cathedral as a Plan B or where he attempts to perform a coup d'etat against The Van where he manages to sway the men in the syndicate to his own side.
In addition to all of this, Vicious shows the capacity of possesing humanizing traits in several episodes, such as feeding his pet bird and feeling the slightest bit of sorrow after seeing Julia choose Spike instead of him. However, everytime the work attempted to humanize him, it was dissipated at the end of the day as Vicious let his seething rage and vengeance consume him. This was shown as he forces Julia to kill Spike and was hellbent to kill the two of them while also letting his pet bird die as a part of his plan to defeat The Van because of the spy transmitter he put on his pet bird. Overall, Vicious, at the end of the day, is a man with no glimmer of happiness inside of him and letting his seething hatred and ambitions consume him in the present day.
- The story that Spike tells towards Jet Black after he saw Julia died in front of him is loosely based on Ernest Hemingway's short story on 1936, The Snows of Kilimanjaro. In this story, Spike based himself on a tiger striped cat who died a million deaths and met a white female cat who becomes a fragment of its life before died of old age as the cat died after he cried millions of times too.
- Despite the huge debate that sparked whether Spike died or not after the final fight with Vicious, the director, Shinichiro Watanabe intentionally leaves the anime open-ended and it is stated by him that Spike was just sleeping.