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..
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.