The Fujiko Telegrams: Lupin III Fujiko Mine 7

Continuing ElectricV01 & Wintermuted’s discussions regarding the new Lupin III television series event (Lupin III: Fujiko Mine), The Fujiko Telegrams is an in-the-moment blog/chatfest that’ll hopefully grant new and fun perspectives on the splashy return of one of anime/manga’s most enduring creations.

Wintermuted: No sooner do we follow one of the more symbolically ambitious episodes of this series, with one of the more narratively ambitious ones. Taking a wild page from the history books, Fujiko and Goemon are contacted to zero in on, and eventually assassinate, a celebrated Castro-esque leader after his island country’s liberation which has ruffled the feathers of many surrounding nations. We are flung back and forth between time periods before and after the dicey mission, offering us some interesting historical context for the series. And to top it off, the show’s thesis regarding Fujiko, and her motivations continues into some unexpected territory. Just curious as to your impressions this time..

ElectricV01: I enjoyed this episode a bit more than the previous one. I liked the alternate history take on the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it’s always a welcome addition when Goemon is around. Are Fujiko and Goemon out to start World War III or prevent it? Common sense tells you of course they are gonna save the day and probably miss out on their payday, but it was still a fun romp. Though honestly, what was with the weird names for the countries involved? Why couldn’t it just be America and the Soviet Union? Much oddness.

I immediately found the nation name-warping to be quite charming. Much like the way anime began avoiding product placement as money dwindled in the 1990s, it made more sense to turn this into something of a parody planet. And that’s just a smidge of what I dug about this episode, even if the more silly action we come to expect didn’t come into play until late in the game. In fact, a part of me really liked the constant darting back and forth between times before and closer to action day. It offered up a refreshingly believable story pace and sense of place.

Also worth making noise about was the score, specifically the Latin sounds of the mid-1960s, as well as the cultured mind of the would-be revolutionary Philadel, who is also quite charming and is actually capable of perhaps even inspiring Fujiko to act a little out of her usual bounds.

Faux News would say that obviously the director, writers, and animators are all communists for portraying an obvious Castro analog in such a positive light. Lucky for us, I’m fairly certain they aren’t even aware anime exists.

The name thing was weird to me, but I can see your point. I also liked the pacing in this episode. Great tension with the back and forth between the two countries’ war rooms, the fighter jets itching to shoot down the plane with Fujiko and Philadel inside, and the doomsday clock that almost felt like a character in its own right. And you are right, again we see a different side of Fujiko. It just serves as a reminder of how many different roles she really plays throughout the history of the Lupin franchise: lover, thief, antagonist, betrayer, babysitter… I’m not sure you can really pin one moniker on her. Maybe Femme Fatale, and she was the original in the world of anime and manga.

It was just exciting to see her almost flirt with something resembling noble this time. And like you say, it’s fascinating to see Yamamoto and company examine her many faces. I liked the brave approach toward Philadel as this almost suave, rockstar entity with a soul. It offered such a respite from the, dare I say it, selfish, obvious lot she tends to hang around. The little moments before and during the whole affair with the ousted government cronies offered an amount of gravitas that has been lacking throughout much of the series thus far.

But what of Goemon’s role here? Still not completely sure how he fit here.

The problem with Goemon traditionally is he is always used as a deus ex machina, which to be fair, comes with the territory of having a highly trained samurai with a sword that can cut through anything on your team. He’s there for when you get into a tough spot.

But the problem is that this gets boring. He usually doesn’t have anything to do until something needs to be cut. And while this episode sort of falls into that trap, the previous episode (#3) with Goemon wasn’t like that at all…which I think is one of the reasons I liked it so much. I like that Goemon in this series doesn’t know where he belongs yet. He knows he has this awesome sword and he has trained to use it to the pinnacle of his ability, but he is conflicted. He doesn’t know where he fits into the scheme of the world, or what to do with the power he has been given. In episode 3, he tries to be an assassin. That didn’t work and we know he knows that didn’t work from this episode as he doesn’t think killing is his forté. Hopefully when he finally finds his place in this reimagined Lupin world, it won’t be as Mr. Deus Ex Machina.

It’s just funny, imagining him as Fujiko’s “boyfriend”. They never figure out a way to make him work here, which I guess is counterbalanced by everything else. Now if only the episode had enough time to breathe, and drink in the tension as to whether Fujiko and Goemon could actually go through with the plan. As it works out, it feels slight, where one could easily see this being a much larger quandary.

But for what it presented in terms of time period, politics, and ultimately place, this had enough promise to get a pass from me. Now here’s hoping they take a cue from this, and add on more of this mature spin on the JFK era into the proceedings. I’d be excited for an irreverent Mad Men-esque bent to the world. The possibilities!

The style certainly fits. I just want an episode with the entire gang together working as a team. I don’t think I’m going to get that until (best guess) episode 13 though…

 

The Fujiko Telegrams: Lupin III Fujiko Mine 6

Continuing ElectricV01 & Wintermuted’s discussions regarding the new Lupin III television series event (Lupin III: Fujiko Mine), The Fujiko Telegrams is an in-the-moment blog/chatfest that’ll hopefully grant new and fun perspectives on the splashy return of one of anime/manga’s most enduring creations.

Wintermuted: After a relatively bumpy first half, the series up and pulls what seems to be the show’s true manifesto in this, unexpected and ultimately fascinating midpoint. Fujiko is suddenly a teacher at an idyllic all-girls private school which serves up a series of payoffs that may just make a few die hard fans either swoon, scream, or at the very least, raise some eyebrows. Practically taking charge and twisting up a “yuri” ideal ala Maria-sama Ga Miteru, and then doing a number on the male cast, this is modestly ballsy stuff. Thoughts, Dan?

ElectricV01: I’m surprised you felt that way, because honestly to me the first half of the episode felt like pandering.  By George, we must include some YURI in the show!  Having Fujiko make out with herself in the opening credits is not enough!  True, it turns out some of the yuri wasn’t yuri, and I liked how Lupin and Fujiko team up to outsmart (spoilers) Oscar, but overall this episode did not impress me at all.  It seemed very middle of the road.  Average.

Wintermuted: I had to watch it more than once to come to terms with what had transpired, and can humbly say that what’s going on here is pretty far from average when one considers everything that has come before. At least for me, the backdrop choice, the imagery of the school, and all the cliches that are borne from it (e.g., Fujiko working at the school under her well-worn name, and all the broken hearts in her wake) inevitably carry a unique purpose. To be fair, one could see eyes rolling to the back of my head come the first five minutes. But soon after, and once Zenigata’s bizarrely proficient and potentially imbalanced right hand-dude Oscar comes into the picture, we are suddenly in another thematic universe. In many ways, this is what I was hoping would happen sooner. A full blown solo caper that exists solely to offer counterbalance.

But considering the finale here, as well as some unique use of symbology, this is one ballsy episode that required a certain amount of setup—especially to those familiar with the Lupin world. And lastly, one cannot see the instantly uncharacteristic “yuri” elements to be pandering to any specific niche audience, when such a fandom could not be further from the often too grizzled and manly dimension of Lupin. It’s far too hard left to make work, unless it is meant to make a point—which I opine that it does, perhaps a little too finely though (talk about a flaming pen!).

ElectricV01: Meh. I just don’t see it. As soon as Fujiko was making out with students, it lost me. Maybe like you said there are hidden meanings about all the symbolism, and maybe it was poking fun at all the yuri type shows that the anime factories are pumping out, but if so it didn’t register with me. You and I are coming at this from completely different directions. You know a lot about these creators, their methods, what they have done before, and why they make certain choices. I am just looking at how the overall storytelling and characters are registering with me as a fan of everything Lupin.

And that said, I’m really, really sad how hit or miss this show has been for me. I love Lupin more than any other anime and I really want to love this show, but for me there are parts of it that just aren’t working. For example, last episode Lupin nearly had a conniption fit when it was insinuated (falsely) that Fujiko slept with Jigen, while in this episode he finds out she in fact slept with Zenigata and barely bats an eye at it. What the hell is that? It’s inconsistent.

Wintermuted: It’s possible that the series has in fact been toying with all of us from the getgo. There seems to be little consistency in regards to time with this series in general. There has been enough going on to suggest that none of this is happening in any linear fashion. And the one consistent theme has been of desire, and what many are willing to do for it. As the opening credits continuously suggests, it is asking itself, and its title character about her wishes, compulsions, and demons. And in choosing to use the world of feminine love as an opposing backdrop, the rest of the episode functions to isolate Fujiko as a being that cannot be satiated by mere notions of love and even material.

In this episode, the most popular student harbors a hopeless crush on Mine-sensei, which of course becomes the center of a caper involving the girl’s famous brother and a valuable thesis he has written. All the while Fujiko quotes Goethe regarding male vanity, and the depths of desire women covet. So when the tables are turned, and Oscar comes into the picture, the potential sexism of the whole series is turned upon its head. This is Fujiko’s world. And it’s one where the men are merely pawns to be played at will. It even goes so far as to boldly turn Lupin into a fallen example of a previously male-dominant world.

It’s so much less about story, and more about visualized nuance, which is extremely non-commercial. So yeah, new fans? Not likely to happen.

ElectricV01: I want story though DAMMIT! Story is important. Give me good story, or give me death! And, unfortunately, new fans is something a franchise like Lupin desperately needs. He is one of the most recognizable characters in Japan, yet I think the median age of his fans are like 40 to 50. I remember when I watched the first episode of this new series I thought this show was exactly what Lupin needed to bring new fans to the series. Give the visual style a much needed shot in the arm, while keeping the fun stories, and throw in a little bit more sexy time. You keep the old fans happy and bring in the new fans with the stunning visuals and fun adventure. Episode 1 is a perfect example of this.

Wintermuted: I can see that for sure. But in retrospect, that was mere prelude to what the show is actually interested in doing. And while the first episode featuring Jigen made me ready for a more visually unique spin on matters, a lot of repeat uses of motifs, lines, and images began to suggest something else in the cards. And even as I cringed at the jarring fourth episode, the suggestion there was enough to make me wonder what Yamamoto and crew were really looking to do. And this episode pretty much confirms my suspicions. The yuri elements are a forced means of conveying that this is not so much about Fujiko’s need to use men, or even be evil, but rather that she has no compunctions about doing this to ANYONE.

And what transpires from this revelation on, is consistent with the way the opening credits work, which is more akin to the characters of Lupin trapped in this dreamspace that questions their motivations. Motivations that lead to one simple conclusion—their reasoning pales to that of the desires of Fujiko. Why? Because Fujiko IS desire. And it’s something that knows no foreseen limits. The rest of the series is likely to continue working at this thesis not unlike an essay. The story work here is wonky, that’s for sure, but it’s very much an impressionistic take on character psychology that isn’t afraid to take chances.

Catch the Cagliostro take-down near the finale? If that isn’t manifesto, I don’t know what is!

ElectricV01: I’m not sure what you mean, I didn’t catch any obvious references to Cagliostro.  I’ll tell you one thing I did like about the episode was the scene where Lupin was running from the machine gun totting school girls while carrying “Isolde”. It pushed all the right nostalgic buttons. Also I still love the musical choices in this show. But yeah… other than that, this episode gets a distinct “meh” from me.

Wintermuted: On a story level, I guess I can see where you’re coming from. But once I caught myself saying “Is Fujiko pulling off what I think she is?” during the radio call, it hit me that I was on track with what is being done here. It’s a funny payoff to what I initially cringed at. Again, a long way to go for a punch to the ribs like that.The Cagliostro gag comes upon his rescue of “Isolde”, and his quiet moment with “her”. He begins his “I want no rewards” spiel, which eventually ends with a chase leading to him being gassed unconscious.(in a silhouette image that is very bold, not to mention distressing) Now a part of me feels like this audacious moment has two distinct reasons for being here:

a) To praise Monkey Punch, and give a kick to the pants of a certain Ghibli icon..

or

b) To render the general idea of the unstoppable male ideal of Lupin, impotent.

That’s right. If this entire series is happening within Fujiko’s mind, this imagery makes some truly confrontational sense. Yamamoto and company seem ready to turn the whole world of Lupin upside down in the name of both paying tribute to cinema, and even criticizing mores & gender notions of the past. While it may not be weaving a tight narrative, I do have to comment that this is something of a rarity to anime. (with possibly Casshern Sins as a unique exception)

ElectricV01: Umm… ok. I’m sorry man, I just don’t see it. That scene reminded me nothing of Cagliostro.  And I really don’t see anything different here in this series than in any previous ones where Fujiko or some other femme would outsmart Lupin from time to time. Lupin doesn’t always win. In fact in his old series, he barely ever escaped with the treasure and women always seemed to get the better of him.Because of this, I’ve never seen him as an unstoppable male ideal.

Doesn’t mean it’s not there, I just don’t see it.  Maybe the next episode will be different.

Ano Natsu de Matteru: A Joint Review

On a whim, Linda and gendomike decided to review one of the Winter 2012’s best anime, Ano Natsu de Matteru (Waiting in the Summer) together. Here’s the result.

Please note that this review contains major spoilers for Ano Natsu and some for Onegai Teacher. You have been warned.

On Relationships, Idealized and Unfulfilled

Linda: Ano Natsu de Matteru didn’t end the way Onegai Teacher did, and Onegai Teacher had been one of my top titles when I was in college a couple of years ago. But Ano Natsu had a bittersweet ending that made me rethink the romance novels I read with their happy endings. Finding an ideal companion is not easy, but I mentally saluted Kaitou-kun’s bravery for facing up with his feelings. Carpe Diem or Seize the Day!

Shouldn’t it be as easy and straightforward to find an ideal companion as Kaitou did with Ichika? But that is a dream for many seems impossible. Kanna, as much as I try to ignore her character, did fill a role that many people might feel. In trying to find the ideal companion, she found it in Kaitou, but since Kaitou was in love with Ichika, she had to back away. Then the situation with Tetsuro came out very unexpectedly with Mio also liking him. So in the end, Kanna was left alone and how she accepted it, is quite realistic and mature. It is sad for those “happily ever after” fans, but realistically speaking this seems to be a role that I noticed a lot in my own life and of others I observed.

gendomike: While the relationship between Kai and Ichika really is idealized, I think what moved me more was what happened to everyone else. A lot of the emotional heft was really carried by their friends who are left out by the main couple—Kanna especially, to whom I dedicated my Valentine’s Day article. This show does the angst and confusion of first love really well on the whole.

Still, real relationships are definitely more complicated than this show makes it out to be! There’s just enough realism, though, to make the show just a little more bitter as well, as sweet. The pain on their faces and in their suppressed emotions—which eventually do come out—is real. The show respects those feelings as much as it brings the destined pair together in a well-directed way. In that it is following in the footsteps of its great predecessors, Honey and Clover and Toradora! The jilted get their say too.

Finding that ideal companion is not going to be easy, when the world is filled with superficial events. But as for scenes of love fulfilled I feel that this scene on the train is a great one. Trains fill my everyday living, since I live in New York City. When two people sit side by side and you know them, it makes for a good conversation, or just a trip waiting for the final destination. Being stuck in an iron car is just that. The final destination that Kai and Ichika made was to the place in Ichika’s memory of earth. I kept on thinking about was Lake Kizaki in Nagano Prefecture, the place that was the inspiration for Onegai Teacher and Onegai Twins. The part where the tree disintegrated made me think “Oh no!” But still the part also makes me wonder is the animators trying to connect and finally conclude the ending of Onegai Teacher? I think I teared up at that part.

It is Lake Kizaki! That was on purpose, to connect it directly with the earlier series. This is Yousuke Kuroda writing it, after all.

This train scene was the best part of the final episode, which I otherwise found rather odd and somewhat unsatisfying. The sharp genre shift of the last two episodes was, admittedly, not entirely unhinted at, but the show was at its best as an emotionally nuanced teenage love drama, not a sci-fi chase series complete with actual Men In Black. Of course, Ichika’s alien-ness was going to have to come back at some point, given the show’s premise and its connection to the original Onegai Teacher series. I’m not sure they could have done any better in fact without cutting ties to that completely.

But it was nice to see two people who actually love each other and can say so out loud in anime. That happens far too rarely.


On Remon

The character of Remon stood out for me. I think lots of other people like her. The truth of her being MiB seemed kinda fishy for me, but the shot of her in this last episode scene I really liked. She is what I believe to be the conscious adult in a group of teenagers. In spite of her pretending to be the same age as Ichika, I imagine she is the adult that adults aspire to be in real life. Someone of use and has life experiences that can be a role model to others.

Remon was both a very amusing presence and also a problem for the story. She had some of the sharpest one-liners, but she wasn’t really that much of a character than a plot device to help the other characters along. By the end it’s clear she is meant to be the same person as Ichigo from the previous Onegai series: a loli who is much older than she looks, who is sarcastic and clever, and likes to mastermind events behind the scenes. She’s even played by the same voice actress as Ichigo, Yukari Tamura, and does the otaku in-joke of being “forever 17.” (She and Kikuko Inoue—who played the Teacher in Onegai Teacher—have been saying that line for years.) In other words, Remon is basically a gimmick—albeit a very entertaining one. Getting everyone drunk and giving Kai and Ichika a condom were some of the show’s highlights!


On the Ending and the ED

I wasn’t sure when I was watching the ending: did Ichika come back, or did they photoshop her wearing the outfit that Kai’s sister got for her? (Ano Natsu showed off a lot of the older sister characters, for both Kai and Tetsuro, and Mike and I talked in chat about how the older sister is used as a parental substitute in anime a lot lately.) So Ano Natsu might appeal to young adults watching this series the same way that I thought with Onegai Teacher. Certainly in young adult literature, the parent figure is always absent. In real life that is not the case, so one aspect that stood for me in this series as with other anime series is how much friends can be acquired like family members. I see that in real life with my younger friends. I find that as I grow older with personal friends moving into new relationships that it changes dynamics, but Ano Natsu shows a possibility of one summer.

Ichika definitely came back. When Remon is back at MIB HQ, you see her pull up a diagram of Ichika’s ship and start playing with it. She basically hacks the spaceship so it would crash land and come back for Kai—and we know the film shot was after all that happened, because she’s wearing the poncho.

Personally, I felt Ichika’s return was a cop-out. The series had built up a lot of emotional capital by playing upon the idea that this teenage summer romance was a fleeting, though beautiful, experience, filled with bittersweet memories and realizations. The monologues really traded on it. It did a really good job in evoking what the memory of summer flings of that sort are like. I had similar experiences at that age, and I wrote about them earlier. Even the final episode kept you hanging on the idea that it was over. It would have been braver had they left it at that rather than bring her back like that at the very last second.

I really like that insight there—that friends can become like family, especially in their absence. The way the main friends interacted was very family-like, and there were all kinds of allusions to that. Kanna sees Tetsuro as a little brother; Kai calls himself a little brother in relation to his sempai, Ichika, and seems to see Kanna as a sister too. (Unfortunately for her.) But more importantly the show really captured just how the way a group of teenage friends interact will start to change once romance starts getting into the picture—and it can be a wrenching change. All of the main leads have to come to painful emotional resolutions and be honest with themselves and others to move on. That was the most powerful part of the show and the thing I will remember most.

That, and the ED, “Vidro Moyou.” The ED and the leadups to it were a big highlight of the show. Tatsuyuki Nagai, the director, has always had a knack for picking songs that fit the shows he works on thematically, from Honey and Clover II, Toradora! and Ano Hana. And he always chose the right moment to end each episode, so that watching it every week was always an emotionally satisfying experience. At least until the end.

What I liked about the ending was how well the images fit with the song, with Kai and his friends in a circle always seeking together, and with Ichika holding her spaceship out like a toy. With the color outlines, it makes for an interesting visual experience.


Concluding Thoughts

Seeing Mike and MLM enjoy this series as much as they blogged about it on AD encouraged me to watch it, even though I was afraid it was going to fail or not live up to its legacy as an Onegai Teacher follow up. For the most part, I was entertained by this anime series, and definitely liked the ED well enough to put it on repeat at moments. But in comparison to Onegai Teacher, I still feel the earlier title is much more emotionally meaningful to me. Probably in some ways I aspire to have a relationship like Kei and Mizuho or Kai and Ichika. Hence this companionship seeking is something I am realizing I need as I grow older.

The tie-in to Men in Black, with the Men in Black 3 movie coming out soon, makes me wonder just how much of a paradox or cross-industry relevance is there. Cheesy as it might sound, when I hear of “No Borders” by Japanese musicians, perhaps this is a sign for me to watch MiB 3. As of now, I am personally unsure of what anime series to try and watch, but I am seeing the excitement of Mike for Kids on the Slope. Perhaps that is the next series for me to watch.

Onegai Teacher was one of my favorite romance series from the beginning of my fandom. It had an emotional honesty to it that was rare in most anime romance at that time, and I remember saying hyperbolically that “this is the reason I watch anime” when I finished it…so when I heard that Ano Natsu was going to feature the same screenwriter, but with the team of Honey and Clover and Toradora! behind it, I was excited.

And for the most part, I was not disappointed. 80% of this show is very good to excellent, from the smooth directing, the emotionally resonant writing, and what I would say is actually improved character dynamics compared to the old series. The ending was a bit of a letdown and a departure, I felt, from the show’s strengths, but it was hardly enough to ruin everything. From the transition of the last scene to the credits, to the excellent voice acting (especially for newcomer seiyuu Kaori Ishihara as Kanna), to the sense of genuine youth experience animating the story, this was one of the winners of the winter 2012 season.

(BTW: yes, Kids on the Slope is excellent. Give a shot if you like good music and interesting romance. It’s almost effortlessly good.)

The Fujiko Telegrams: Lupin III Fujiko Mine 5

Continuing ElectricV01 & Wintermuted’s discussions regarding the new Lupin III television series event (Lupin III: Fujiko Mine), The Fujiko Telegrams is an in-the-moment blog/chatfest that’ll hopefully grant new and fun perspectives on the splashy return of one of anime/manga’s most enduring creations.

Now this is a little more like it. After what was almost a reason for me to consider dropping the series, up comes this nifty little story which at last pitts Magnum versus Walther while in search of a treasure within a newly found Egyptian pyramid. We also get a little more insight into Lupin’s personality regarding Fujiko, and to what absurd heights he will go for his “quarry”. More in tune with classic adventure/cliffhanger tales, this one’s light on story, but is at least told well enough to not be terribly offensive.

Agreed. Truth be told after last weeks… affair, it took me a while to want to jump back into the show. (My apologies to our readers for the late update on this. Completely my fault). While this episode was much better, having much more Lupin than any previous episode plus the return of Jigen, I still felt the taint of episode 4 and I had a hard time enjoying this adventure. For a first meeting between cast members, it does a decent job, but really not anything we haven’t seen before in previous stories. Of course Lupin and Jigen are gonna fight the first time they meet, and of course Fujiko is pulling the strings.

So one of the initial things I heard regarding the episode prior to my watching it was the absurd amount of frontal nudity. Twitter was flickering like a suburb during the Christmas season about this, which admittedly caused some concern on my part. If viewers had been paying attention to the series prior, this is not necessarily something to be surprised about. Was this to be more contemporary levels of service than has ever been for this franchise? So I jumped into matters with no shortage of trepidation.

Thankfully, my concerns were dashed after the initial scene, because for all the noise, it really all just takes place during one scene, but it is in “service” of the overall tone of the discussion between Lupin & Fujiko. It essentially emphasizes the master thief’s desire (ahem—commitment) toward attaining his objective, and it renders him something of an antiquated little pervert of a guy. Long & short, no matter the stakes, he will capture her. It’s a hopelessly retro moment, and she plays along knowingly, as if making sure he remains involved. Is it gratuitous & sexist? Yes. Is it cause for concern in regards to the Lupin franchise? Not at all.

This episode in particular? Have they not been watching this show? I didn’t feel this episode had any more or less nudity than any other so far in the series, with the possible exception of episode 3, which had next to none. And it did set the tone for the intro of a very typical/traditional Lupin story. Lupin steals something to try and get Fujiko’s affections, but she wants something bigger and steers him toward a mythical lost treasure—which, through odd circumstances and coincidences, Jigen is also after. I thought for sure Fujiko was going to be the one who hired Jigen to find the treasure as well, just so she could play the master thief against the master gunman and make off with the goods herself. But if that was the case it was never flat out said.

Overall, this was something of a standard episode punctuated by some very cool visuals. Leading on both men, Fujiko seems to have taken in what she has learned about both Lupin & Jigen, and woven an at-times silly scheme involving their best internal strategies. Lupin is good at getting in, while Jigen counterbalances to help them all escape. It’s amusing to see Jigen attempt to merely live the rest of his life far away from his past, only to get sucked back in and shacked up with a guy he could only imagine disliking. I did enjoy their interplay, and how Fujiko eventually plays them directly against one another just enough to help her attain a jewel peacock. And yet, they can’t keep themselves from drawing guns on each other!

This is also the first episode we see Fujiko fall into one of her more traditional roles from the old anime series: namely, the antagonist. She is the villain of this story. Part of her plot to get the peacock is supposed to involve the death of either Lupin or Jigen, as blood is needed to open the seal to the treasure. This is also probably the first episode where Fujiko’s greed makes her thoroughly unlikable, which again, is typical in any episode/story where she is cast as the bad guy…er girl. In episodes where she is bad, they don’t ever show her softer side unless it is her putting up a facade. So again, this is the creators playing with traditional Lupin tropes.

Yeah, there was a clear aim being taken with Fujiko’s role as manipulator and outright villain. It’s actually pretty amusing to see the boys essentially react to her greedy actions. One wonders if their enmity towards each other is really just leftover resentment toward her. In some respects, it explains quite a bit about what eventually happens with these guys.

Visually, it’s fascinating to see play out here as the crew is having to deal with a desert environment. And seeing this done as a hybrid old school work, we get some fascinating fire and sand work. It’s a wild jumble between eras that made me long for some old episodes again. Had a hard time deciding on screenshots this time.

And again, Egypt is another traditional Lupin locale. Also it was interesting to see Lupin get jealous at the thought of Fujiko possibly sleeping with Jigen. Which never happened, so I’m not sure where the whole “itsy bitsy” thing came from. I don’t remember her calling him that from episode 2. Still, if Lupin was that jealous of Jigen, he will probably flip out if he learns she “boinked” Zenigata…I think that is a discussion maybe for episode 6 though.

::laughs:: Oh man, IF ONLY. But yeah, that “itsy bitsy” thing came out of the blue. It felt not unlike calling Marty McFly “yellow”. When it comes down to it, it seems to have had a desired effect on both “professionals”.

Overall, this was a fun return to form, albeit still pretty lightweight as the series seems to be playing more on the many faces of Fujiko. While I wish the show offered more complexity, and less old-school gender politics, there was much to be enjoyed, scales and all. Now if only the sins of this show can help open up some truly unexpected treasure down the line.

My dearest Ri-chan

My dearest Ri-chan,

Screaming in the dark
I howl when we’re apart
Drag my teeth across your chest
to taste your beating heart

Park that car
Drop that phone
Sleep on the floor
Dream about me

Je jure de n’être plus sage
Je promets d’être sot
Tout mais pas l’indifférence

Yours Forever,

The Paper

The Magic Numbers – This Is A Song

The Submarines – Tigers

Snow Patrol – Set the Fire To the Third Bar

Barcelona – It’s About Time

Athlete – Half Light

Young Heretics – The Lost Loves

Agnes Kain – Keep Walking Or I’ll Kill You

The Do – On My Shoulders

Polly Scattergood – Please Don’t Touch

CALLmeKAT – My Sea

Macdonald Duck Eclair – Tip Tap Mac

Shrag – Rabbit Kids

Taken By Cars – Unidentified

Thrushes – Used To You

EMA – Marked

Avenue D – My Dirty South

Hello Saferide – 25 Days

Lucrecia – Counting Backwards

Spit Take: Why Mysterious Girlfriend X’s shock value works

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Everything seems fetishized in anime these days. We are living in a season where even guns are turned into moe loli girls. So why does Nazo no Kanojo (Mysterious Girlfriend) X stand out from the pack?

Let’s be honest: Urabe’s drool is fetishized in the anime, and more than in the manga. It pools, glistens, and drips. The camera lingers on it with close ups. As the series’ most obviously original conceit, the audience is shown the spit again and again as if the director—a veteran of Doraemon, for crying out loud—wanted to rub every otaku’s face in it: “see boys? How’s this different from your shimapan/zettai ryoukai/DFC/siscon? Huh? HUH?”

It reminds me of the story about a medieval saint where, being convicted of having lust in his heart for a woman, decided to take a piece of cloth that reminded him of her and take it with him everywhere until it became soiled and filthy. Rub your face in anything for too long and it becomes gross.

And let’s just say it: the drool is nasty. Purposely so, but still gross. Now from the perspective of a “normal,” a lot of the other otaku fetishes are gross too. But for people immersed in this subculture, where all the above listed database items are so commonplace that even I hardly bat an eye at their presence, it takes something a bit more outlandish to awaken the emotional reaction the creators intended. It has to jolt even otaku. What Flannery O’Connor once said when asked why her stories were so “grotesque” might be what this outsider director, and perhaps the mangaka, were thinking:

When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock—to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.

It was hard to get through the first episode. Especially when Urabe let an entire vomit tank full of spit. But along the way, and into the next few episodes, we are treated to something relatively rare in anime: teens figuring out how a relationship works beyond the stereotypical (hug, kiss, going to a movie…). How to appreciate the genuinely odd, beyond the standard list of moe “quirks”—magical, empathetic spit is definitely not moe and takes the story past the Manic Pixie Dream Girl cliche. It acknowledges that at least at this early stage, he doesn’t really know Urabe that well. No childhood friends here, or stalkers: she is, as the title says, still a mystery, as every human being is in both the unfamiliar and the mystical sense of souls having more depths than anyone but God can fathom.

What’s really interesting is that the mangaka, Riichi Ueshiba, actually made his intentions fairly clear about all this. He writes in an author’s note at the end of volume 2 about how decided to make his characters 16 because they are less likely to automatically have sex (as he imagines college-aged protagonists would) or simply be speechless around each other (as he suspects 13 year olds might be). He felt that 16 was just the right age to portray kids on the cusp of, but not quite into, full sexuality, and wanted to portray that delicious, dramatically pregnant tension:

If, by chance, this kind of delicate relationship was to emerge in our present day society, wouldn’t it most likely occur with 16 year old young adults?….This is because it’s around 16 when children are the most fragile, and tend to be uncertain about their life; and thus, I start all my stories at this time period, where the characters seem to start as children and make their way into adulthood. (Source)

His ideas of what ages kids start having sex aside, it’s clear that he desires to portray a certain time of life with a sense of emotional truth, and that comes through in the anime very well. Rather than pander to the cookie-cutter cliches of so much romance and harem anime, he wants to recover the genuine sense of strangeness that teenage boys feel around girls. In order to do that it had to look very different from most manga and anime: the 1990s styling. The not quite but yet sort of panty shot plus scissors—which thus gives the fan service a hint of menace each time. The very non-moe seiyuu playing Urabe, Ayako Yoshitani, for whom this is her first anime role.

Urabe herself is in control of her sexuality in ways that few anime/manga females are, too: eschewing the preset ways of being a couple, she has her own, um, unique ways of showing intimacy, often involving spit. Which makes Akira’s affection for her all the more engaging: while there’s something still forbidding about her he also appreciates and is learning to love her for who she is. This is much closer to the sort of love that lasting relationships are built on than what usually shows up in anime.

Mysterious Girlfriend X is a work conceived and executed by outsiders to the current anime scene, and it shows. And works. This is the biggest surprise of Spring 2012 for me, a season full of excellent shows already, and is hopefully a sign of more innovation to come. Here’s to hoping for another 2006.

The Fujiko Telegrams: Lupin III Fujiko Mine 4

Continuing ElectricV01 & Wintermuted’s discussions regarding the new Lupin III television series event (Lupin III: Fujiko Mine), The Fujiko Telegrams is an in-the-moment blog/chatfest that’ll hopefully grant new and fun perspectives on the splashy return of one of anime/manga’s most enduring creations.

Wintermuted: Now before we get into this, it might be good for me to make clear that I often encourage, and enjoy reinterpreting popular characters for future generations. One era’s character traits speak for their time, while others are more than ripe for reinvention.

So when we jump in here and share thoughts on an episode featuring the dogged Inspector Zenigata, as he plots to manipulate Fujiko, capture Lupin, all while attempting to snatch a priceless mask from the face of a famously scarred opera singer, what passes for a bold character alteration is perhaps the least of our worries.

So…you saw this first. Thoughts?

DCBebop: Hmmmmmmmm…

Well…

I didn’t completely hate the episode, but I really disliked it. So far we have had faithful yet modern reinterpretations of the main cast, but this was such a drastic change for Inspector Zenigata. He was misogynistic, crass, ruthless, and thoroughly unlikeable. It seemed his intent is killing Lupin, not capturing him. And the opening scene with him and Fujiko in this episode is something I never ever thought I would ever see, nor did I want too.

In one of our previous articles I mentioned that I was hoping the creators would make ole Pops more of a threat to Lupin and his gang, and to be fair he was a bit more ruthless in the original manga, but I really think they went too far.  They might as well have created a brand new detective character to chase Lupin, because this is not Zenigata…at all.

Yes. Seriously, this is a classic case of overzealous role reversal. It feels as if the writers were looking for a way to make Zenigata into something less boy scout-like, and much more like a man with a grudge. The problem here for me, is that it’s as if they underestimated another character’s potential in the process. While we have what is looking to be something of a more convoluted plot regarding Zenigata’s plan set amidst this opera drama. But the issue out of the gate is that the writers couldn’t decide what made for a compelling change. And considering his young charge, Oscar, this seems like a crucial creative mistake. Especially since it affects virtually everything else that’s to come in the show. It’s a bit of a hard left to deliver here when the show up to this point, has been vacillating between reinterpretation, and loving tribute. What this does feel like, is something of a troll to old fans—or perhaps even a dare..

Possibly. But you are right that this affects everything from here on out.  Part of the dynamic of the cast, particularly between the gang and Zenigata, has always been a game of “gotcha” without malicious intent.  Zenigata wants to capture Lupin because it’s his sworn duty and the honor of his family name is on the line, plus there is the fun of the chase, but he doesn’t want to kill him. This is always something the gang recognizes.  Now the gloves are off, and what would prevent Jigen or Goemon from killing Zenigata now that the detective is not bound by his duty and honor, but more seemingly some form of revenge?  It just doesn’t work for me at all.  Zenigata here is not honorable, he is the kind of man who tries to burn women with cigarettes.

And you mention Oscar, who is obviously in love with Zenigata in some form… which seems unnecessary… at least at this point.

Calling it: Oscar is the “worse” element that renders Zenigata into a less aggressive role. But the problem here, is that everything that happens in this episode seems forced, and unclear- which does nothing for the police end of the game that’s being set up. I guess where I’m coming from, is that without some manner of counterbalance, all we’re left with are the criminals. And while that’s fine and good, what made classic Lupin so much fun was the interplay between character morality, and the often gray humor to come from it. It also didn’t help that so many elements of the caper were laid out before the heist in a very haphazard fashion. It’s the kind of plot that required a bit more finesse in the setup and execution, and neither seem well thought out. Beginning to wonder if what I noticed last time has impacted the rest of the show.  I have another beef, which I’ll get into in a few.

Is it that this felt like an unfinished plot or story? Because that was my biggest beef with this episode other than the butchering of Zenigata’s character.  The episode just sort of ended abruptly.  There was no closure, no character wrap up, nothing.  I was like “That’s it?  What the hell?” Didn’t help I was already grumpy seeing Pops not be Pops. Also Lupin in this episode felt like a plot device and not a character. That bugged me. And I also can’t remember anything significant Fujiko did in the episode aside from “boinking” faux-Zenigata.  *shudders*

::laughs:: Exactly. It was as if the planning had fallen behind, that they hoped that it would get by on the “shock”, and the means by which the truth behind the mask would be revealed. And every other resolution to the episode relied so heavily on serendipity that it felt wasteful to even show us the varied wings of the opera house. The callback to the bees was also very clumsy. And all of this, as you say, more or less trivializes Lupin’s role in the episode.

But as I mentioned before, I can see Oscar becoming a betrayer-type as the series goes on. But it hardly matters as the balance has been shifted so dramatically in the name of mere shock. There needs to be a clearly thought-out reason this has happened, and as of now I can’t fathom why aside from two reasons: a) to “surprise” the viewers, and the big one in b) to link all of our characters by way of Fujiko as a crack in the moral armor of men in general. It also implies a “destiny” angle, which is questionable at best.

I hate “shock-value” plotting.  Comics do that too.  Bugs the hell out of me.  Boring, boring, boring, BIG SHOCKING THING YOU WEREN’T EXPECTING, boring, boring boring. It’s not good storytelling.  The only thing I can hope comes of this is Zenigata grows and learns to become the more honorable detective we have come to know.  Which I suppose is possible since this is a prequel, reimagining whatever you want to call it.

But yeah, overall, huge disappointment.  But I suppose every series has at least one stinker episode…right?

Yeah. At this point, I’m beginning to wonder just how much input Yamamoto has in this series, as I’m really worried that it’s almost completely mercenary. Granted the series is decidedly retro, even in its sexual politics, but by taking this option, the series has continued to view Fujiko as less a real character, and more a vessel for the weaker elements of men. While we get some amazing visuals from time to time, it’s hard to even say what audience this is being geared toward. This episode felt rushed and possibly even angrily put together, and that’s a spirit that really has little place being “jokey.” Tone is important, and the plot mechanics don’t seem there enough to warrant a functional episode. I really wanted to like Zenigata here, but this seems to be the last thing on anyone’s mind. Again, I don’t mind being shocking, but thematic reasoning needs to be put in place, and it needs to be told with enough efficiency. We don’t get much of that here. And that’s a damn shame as the setting seemed rife with possibility. (Oh, and it didn’t help that the denouement was essentially a “women are only happy when shacking up” screed.) Argh. What happened?

I don’t know but it’s irritating me just to think about it, so that is my cue to not think about it anymore.  Let’s just hope the next episode is better.

Kinda sad I went from being “I can’t wait for the next episode!” last time too “let’s hope the next one is better…” What a difference one lousy episode (and character interpretation) can make.

It is a hard thing to take back, too.  As a departure, it throws fans into some seriously strange territory. And as a character interpretation, it just seems lazily considered. But I was still able to attempt to parse out the issues that continued to dog it all. Change can be good, and heck, in more careful hands, this could have flirted with a darker rendition of the unflappable cop. But as it stands, it feels cheap—something the world of Lupin has no real room for. Let’s continue on, and just hope for the best. And at the very least, I’ll stick around for the package.