Tag Archives: monkey punch

The Fujiko Telegrams: Final Transmission

Originally discovered mid-summer 2012.

The only thing worse than offering a break from the expected, is to turn one’s back on it at the last moment. Which is exactly what it feels like watching the latter half of Lupin III’s return to TV. About a good half of the show seems hellbent on showing us some new dimensions to what are ostensibly a cadre of unbreakable, traditional characters. So imagine my response when upon the show’s final episode opts for a neat-fitting return to status-quo. It’s not wholly unexpected, but seriously- this is what it means to cower in the face of making your own name. It is the powers that be getting cold feet, and backing off when the world has indeed been ready for something new.

To support this stance; a little look back at previous episodes not covered in The Fujiko Telegrams-

(But first, a look back at an earlier installment.)

Episode Six: Prison Of Love

“Women never show themselves in natural form.”

What may look to many as a means of catering to an unexpected audience, a lot of this school-centric episode is playing directly with gender expectation, as well as with yuri-bait imagery and themes. It is here that we get a bigger hint of the kind of dangerous character Zenigata’s charge in Oscar truly is. Clearly the product of some truly confused bouts of sexual repression, his only true aim, is in punishing the feminine in his own warped manner. He lives as a shining example of an old world’s values at odds with the manner of independent creature Fujiko is. She, herself a reaction to the popular social tenets of the day, is unconcerned with what is supposed to be her “place”.

Which leads to some truly telling revelations regarding the potential of the series.

Flash Forward to

Episode Eight: Dying Day

Renowned fortune teller, Shitoto’s source of foresight is stolen by Fujiko, leading to some disturbing information regarding her past. And even though the episode features a decent amount of Lupin, attempting to clear his name of several deaths, this one attempts to reveal more than has ever been attempted with these characters. Mamo lookalike aside, the show offers up flashbacks of a nighmarish childhood, visions of terrible abuse, and a decidedly dark ending. But the theme of repressed/abused femininity is made explicitly clear, charting new territory which had never really been explored before in any incarnation of the franchise.

Episode Nine: Love Wreathed In Steam

What again on the surface starts like a more routine Lupin & Goemon on a merry chase episode, becomes a more troubling look at femininity as commodity, and of the greater questions of pathology the series seems to be ready to ask. In nearly one fell swoop, this one over nearly the entire series, is the one with a great deal more on its mind than the expected sexy caper action many come to expect. With Lupin & Goemon attempting to protect a legendary illustrated woman from a gun-toting, clearly deranged Fujiko, we have an example of a socially accepted chain in dire need of breaking. Bringing Lupin up to speed on what makes Fujiko so attractive, yet so terrifying, while not completely convincing, is fascinating. The show at this point is at the door, banging loudly at a world that women like Fujiko were born in, and forced to exist with.

Episode Ten: Ghost Town
(Story by Monkey Punch)

As we follow the dark path laid forth by the previous episodes, we now find ourselves in the belly of the beast as Lupin is tapped by the enigmatic organization surrounding the narrative, and seeks out to find the truth, and discovers a long thought abandoned wreck of a town. A place of terrible memories, and an even worse aftermath. It is here that we tie together numerous dangling plot threads, and also meet a figure from Fujiko’s past that may make some eyebrows levitate. But at the core here, is that Lupin is caught in the middle of something here that offers up an unusually dire set of circumstances. The show seems primed and ready to take itself into some bold, new areas.

Episode Eleven: Feast Of Fools

As a ramp-up of sorts to the two-part finale, we get our ultimate Oscar episode which again taps into pathology, this time within the obsessive mind of our “lawful” foil. And what ensues is something of a jumble as Oscar attempts to put a final kabosh on Fujiko, but is well worth the watch due to containing one of the series’ most visually impressive scenes as he explains “the perfect plan”. And naturally the episode is a bit packed on the event side as things careen toward a finale of sorts, but not before an explosive finish. At this point, worry began to settle in as it feels very much like the new wrinkles in the “mythos” might easily go in problematic directions.

Episodes twelve & thirteen: A Woman Called Fujiko Mine

The big finish is a wild, noisy two-parter in which Zenigata joins Fujiko in finally facing up to the spectre of her past, Count Luis Yu Almeida. Possibly the man most responsible for the Fujiko we know so well. They, later joined by the Lupin and the rest of the gang finally converge on a terrifying amusement park (House Of Fujiko), and the disturbing secrets within. The final connections between the second and first halves come together, but in such a wayward fashion, it makes the brain throb just to think about it. Were these the answers all were seeking? That we were? Where am I? What is happening? I thought we were doing something ne- Forget it…

And so the real problems pile up when considering all that came before. That this was to be a Lupin series with the focus shifted toward a popular supporting character that was never truly given her due, and could do with a more contemporary slant. Even from a retro-standpoint, this was something that had never really been given much thought in any rendition of the Lupin franchise prior. Definitely a product of a bygone era, Fujiko is something of a masculine vision of a “liberated” woman, and something of a negative one at that to be frank. What we ended up receiving here was closer to being caught between two potential justifications for this famous character’s demeanor and perplexing nature. And while the show is in fact set in very much the same world that the characters originated, shows are far more capable now of adding dimension to these initially very simple archetypes. So when Fujiko Mine begins to wander into potentially groundbreaking new areas with a revealing backstory of our title character, it seems that the very notion that a rare quantity such as a female anime director would be capable of saying something forward & bold with the palette she has. But as it stands, the finale grinds to a halt when it openly admits that nothing could possibly change, and that this is all the justification she needs. Something which can in some respects make some of the more patient old guard fans happy, and the rest potentially frustrated.

This halfhearted attempt at selling off Fujiko as a victim, only to revert to old notions of empowerment is the kind of misstep that undermines the entire series, and makes it hard to recommend for anyone other than animation fans, or those looking for something out of the realm of contemporary anime norms. Both options end up being unsatisfactory, to be fair. But what we have, is perhaps those in charge buckling at the last moment, unwilling to break with tradition, and caving in to old hat misogyny, and objectification. Not that it was not there throughout the series, but it at least seemed ready to question all of it. The world has moved by great bounds since the inception of Fujiko Mine. To see that denied proper reflection with such an aesthetically unique, and potentially forward-thinking series is a bit of a tragedy.

Status Quo: Maintained

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.

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…