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.

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