Friday, April 27, 2012

Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna - 04

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The return of the man himself arrives at last, and it doesn’t disappoint.

There aren't too many characters like Mine Fujiko in mainstream anime – a woman who will unabashedly sell her body to get what she wants.  That’s why viewers calling what this series does “fanservice” are really missing the point – it’s not fanservice Lupin III is selling, it’s sex.  You saw the same in classic film noir from the 30’s right up through neo-noir like “L.A. Confidential”, but even in those big Hollywood films the quid wasn't always quite so pro quo.  That’s why it doesn’t surprise me to see Fujiko causing such consternation among some fans, because she’s a feminist’s nightmare, yet she’s also extraordinarily capable and self-reliant.  She’s one interesting dame.

Even with all that in mind it was still a little jarring to see the episode open with Fujiko and Inspector Zenigata having sex on (and under) his desk, as part of her bid to win her freedom after her latest arrest.  His deal – she has to help him apprehend Lupin as he tries to steal the invaluable mask of opera star Ayan (Fukami Rica) who wears it as a result of disfiguring burns she received due to an “overzealous fan”.  Of course as Zenigata says in an utterly noir moment, “A dame’s never existed who didn’t betray somebody”, Fujiko is going to try and steal the mask herself – but he knows this, and doesn’t care.

Zenigata is a pretty dark soul.  He doesn’t care about the mask, or about Ayan – he just wants Lupin.  And no to arrest him but to kill him if possible, because he believes it’s in his blood to kill those with Lupin’s blood.  His assistant Oscar (why Kaji Yuuki?  Why??) is clearly in love with Zenigata, and insanely jealous of Fujiko, who he  calls first “Pig Woman” and then “Spittoon”.  And Lupin never disappoints once he leaves his calling card, so you know he’ll show up.  And as interesting as Fujiko is, Lupin is more than her match as a character – one of anime’s great trolls, ever-smirking and always a step ahead of Zenigata, brought to glorious life by Kurita Kanichi. 

There is a plot here, surrounding the “Ghost of the Opera” and Lupin’s attempt to steal the mask during a production of “Tosca”.  This is utterly preposterous and quite silly.  It’s apparent immediately that the “ghost” is propmaster Darenzo (Nakano Yutaka), though his reasons only become clear with the reveal that “Ayan” is actually former stagehand Nora (Toujou Kanako).  The idea that Ayan intentionally disfigured herself so that she could escape the limelight and live with Darenzo in the catacombs beneath the stage merely because society would disapprove of their love is hardly believable.  But that’s not really the point.  The point is that the episode is once again incredibly stylish and funny, the opera is beautiful, and Lupin is hilarious as he runs rings around Zenigata, Darenzo and his fellow thief.  I especially loved the moment when he disrupted the show by appearing on stage in a horse costume, really giving Kurita-san a chance to show off his comedic chops.

As much skepticism as I had about Yamamoto and Okada taking the reins of this franchise – and that was a very healthy amount – up to this point it seems to be a surprisingly good fit.  I don’t remember Lupin being quite this sexed-up before and that’s hardly surprising, given that it’s those two in charge, but the combination of the sex, the snappy dialogue, the fantastic Watanabe Shinichiro-produced soundtrack and the unique animation style is working like a charm so far. 

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11 comments:

  1. Oh happy days, Lupin is back in the fray. But besides that, I appreciate an anime that can capture an adult tone with good story writing while using sex in a way that it does not feel obnoxious. i cant think of many anime that have done that off the top of my head; Rin: daughter of mnemosyne is one anime that i can think of where sex was involved, and even though it didnt step into hentai territory it could definetly be categorized as soft porn. I didnt mind it though as it wasnt distracting

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  2. See, my problem isn't so much with the sexual aspect of this show. I'm an adult and I could see that the way this show treats the subject in a far better manner than a lot more ''sexier'' shows (or movies in general) do. My problem with Fujiko also doesn't relate to her selling her body so much with her actual character so far, but that hadn't stopped me from enjoying the show and appreciating her.

    No, it's stuff like this:

    ''he just wants Lupin. And no to arrest him but to kill him if possible, because he believes it’s in his blood to kill those with Lupin’s blood.''

    that stop me from enjoying the show.

    I'm not a veteran Lupin fan, and I wont claim to have seen every appearance of the character (because I haven't) but I do like the cast and I loved how each different interpretation of them through out the ages had been faithful to a certain core in each member of the cast. Yes, even the manga which was dark as hell had these core values in them.

    However, what bothers me about this show is that it's trying very, very hard to distance itself from the Lupin we had all known from the more famous televised appearances, the more fun, light hearted Lupin. This is done to show just how darker and edgier this show is compared to everything before, how this is a show where no one fucks around ... well okay, everyone fucks around in this show, but I mean that it just takes itself seriously and doesn't allow for the same room of lighthearted hi-jinx as older shows.

    Now, this wouldn't be a problem if I hadn't felt while watching the show like it has a stick up it's arse and refuses to indulge a little in being fun for the sake of fun rather than appear as being ''mature'' and ''adult'' every minute ... like I said, I like the show but something about it is just rubbing me the wrong way.

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    1. I'm not knowledgeable enough about Lupin to be offended, I guess. And I never, ever think this show is taking itself too seriously for a second - it doesn't play that way to me. I'm never worried that Zenigata is actually going to succeed, for example - Lupin will always run rings around him.

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    2. I suppose it because he's more ... vengeful about it compared to the more humors takes the character had been through. I don't know, I really didn't like it when it more about him being out for blood to this point.

      Maybe I'm being silly ...

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    3. I agree, actually, but what I'm hoping is that the characters will develop into the ones we're used to. This is a prequel, after all.

      That may be a silly hope, though.

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    4. I believe this is more in tune with the original manga run, which was far less kid-friendly than Lupin III has become over the years.

      Also, Green Jacket Lupin. :)

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  3. @Enzo: what is your rating over 10 for this show? Be truthful here.

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    1. I don't do ratings out of 10, so it's hard to say. Maybe 7.5, 8?

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