The Fujiko Telegrams: Lupin III Fujiko Mine 8

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. Reaching the second half, it looks like things are ready to be brought to a full boil. How did it fare this time?

Wintermuted: Hoo boy. Where to start with this one? What begins as a suspiciously Fujiko-free episode becomes a crucial one, when Lupin enlists the help of Jigen to track down a fortune teller who has a knack of accurately calling the death days of many of the master thief’s previous hits. And now with the source of his power in Fujiko’s hands, and the cops closer to the trio than ever, things gel into an intriguing mix of character shadowplay, unexpected alliances, and one really cool finale. I truly love when mythologies like this straddle the absurdity of the source material, and add a big dose of plot suspension to make it work. As much as I would rather have far more Fujiko in this series, this is a fairly well constructed alternative at the midpoint.

ElectricV01: And it seems we are getting to the main, overarching plot of this series. Obviously, we have the introduction of the “big bad” as he has made his first (blatant) move on Fujiko and Lupin. I liked how we also started getting more inklings of how this group is finally gonna come together later in the series, most likely united against this common foe.

That said though, I’m still not enjoying this series as much as I should be. The inconsistency is bugging me. Also, I’m still not sold that a Lupin series needs to have this much darkness and death. Lots of dead cops in this episode, all done by some of our favorite characters.

In a plot not too far off from the crazier Lupin works (ala Mamo—think about it. A lot of that film is certifiably insane, not to mention morbid), this one is still very much in line with the era in which it was made, which leaves me feeling like this is precisely where the crew wants to be. With “fortune teller” Shitoto, we have a lucky loser who has rubbed elbows with some truly dangerous people. And now with his one claim to fame in the hands of our title character, the myth of knowing when one is to die comes into question. (Again, a conceit that is deeply entrenched in manga of the seventies—death is never far in this era, as Go Nagai continued to break taboos, and Takao Saito made death practically a character in his works.) One of the most inviting elements in this episode for me, was the sheer intimacy of location, and the same said about how closely this binds our leads. Leave it up so something this sinister to keep them from busting out of Dodge, and making a break for it.

Well, it sure looked like Shitoto stole Mamo’s wig and glued it to his own head. It’s interesting that the character designers for this show seem to be lifting quite a few older designs or pieces of designs for new characters. I’ve noticed this a few times throughout the series so far, not just with Shitoto/Mamo. Another example was the set designer/phantom character for episode four, who look exactly like the villain in episode 5 (Gold Smuggling 101 if you have the English DVDs) of the red jacket series. Yes, I’m that much of a Lupin otaku that I noticed that…

I’ll have to take your word for it on the whole death thing though. You are much more knowledgeable in such things than I am. I’m not not sure I felt this episode was as claustrophobic as you imply though. It seemed all over the place to me. Sometimes we are with Jigen, then Lupin, then Oscar, then Lupin and Jigen, then Fujiko…and so on.

I guess what I mean by intimacy is that for the first time in the series, all the events affect the main characters in a far more direct fashion. Keeping it all within city limits was also interesting. By keeping all the action within cars & buildings, there was a bit of a fresh action film feeling that had been largely absent throughout the whole series. It was really nice to see how the story made sure there was little way out for anyone, especially with Oscar and cops so blazing hot on their trail.

And yes, those visual callbacks were a lot of fun. And yeah, the tone here has largely been that of more recent dramatic television. It has largely been about taking a period piece and giving it the teeth that earlier works simply were not capable of. And in the case of “Dying Day,” it’s largely about living up to the danger of such possessions. So when we have the old switcheroo at the finale, what follows is a very eye-opening reveal of what has been haunting the edges of the series thus far. Showing one’s teeth for sure!

I was wondering if this series was going to have an over-arching plot, as that is atypical of previous Lupin series. Also the visuals of the villain and how it ties to the opening credits is an interesting touch.

I think I have figured out (finally) why I am having a hard time with this show. I don’t like Fujiko in this. They seem to be all over the place with her and I can’t grasp onto to something to like about her. I’ve not had that problem before, I’ve always dug her, even when I didn’t agree with what the writers did with her. And especially because she is the “main” character this time around, there should be something likeable about her… right?

Oh, and we finally get Lupin’s reaction to Fujiko and Zenigata having sex, even though he found that out two episodes ago… Inconsistency strikes again.

I guess I can see some of these issues, but a part of me is enjoying what this seems most aimed at being – which is a nasty melange/tribute to anime of its era, and elder fans. The intent to psycholanalyze Fujiko may seem out of character to what has come before, but that’s exactly why it is interesting to me. It’s much less meant to be a solid narrative, and much more a treasure trove of nods and ideas. More a knowing pastiche, and not any attempt at being an olive branch of a series. It expects us to be familiar, and to be open to dramatic shifts. Very much a closed-circle series with a little there for those looking for a little edge with their throwback.

Meh, they can try and tribute and analyze and wink and nod all they want, but without a good grasp of story and character it falls flat. Also to me “different” does not equal “interesting.” Change is fine, but change should feel organic, it should have a reason. Change for the sake of change or shaking things up is one of my biggest pet peeves. Jarring me with, for example, a drastic unexplained change to Zenigata, doesn’t make me want to watch more because it is different. Rather, it has the opposite effect. If you had told me a year ago that there would be a new Lupin anime that looked this good but I would be so indifferent to it that it would take a me week to make time to watch a new episode rather than being glued to my computer the moment it was released, I would have called you a damn liar.

I guess for me, I find that such a storied and celebrated franchise deserves a bold new angle. It’s definitely not interested in being safe. And while not a narrative juggernaut, it is very much in line with anime of decades past which were often packed with inconsistencies and a hellbent spirit. In the 1970s, anime was so much more about the emotional essence than anything remotely sensible, which is a large part of its attraction to me. It was often like an anarchic punk show, where it was anyone’s guess as to where we could wind up next. We were at the mercy of artists, which was exciting. So crossing this with a hint of contemporary self-dissection is inviting for me.

As an episode, I found myself more involved than I had been previously, so perhaps that speaks to the jaded part of me that enjoys a cracked, wired kaleidoscope vision of a classic. Seriously, I’d love some art from this wild child on my wall. Definitely curious as to how it plays to other old school fans.

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