You thought we might’ve been onto something last week, but you thought incorrectly! Instead of anachronistic samurai we’re moving on to dead mob bosses, who are only slightly less used as plot devices than dead (or soon to be dead) Nazis. Today’s episode is “Rainy Afternoons are Dangerous,” and I am not filled with confidence about strong strides of improvement in the writing. Want to play along? Lupin III Part I is on Hulu, and past posts are under the Recaps tag. Or just jump in, and let’s get started.
Say, did you know that water is really difficult to animate? The process of making it react and lay convincingly against real world objects is a nightmare, so having lots and lots of rain is one way to show that you’ve got a really snazzy budget (yes, I am saying that’s the entire reason for the apparent monsoon running through Green vs Red). You know what’s not the greatest place to show that off? A television show that’s working on a limited budget and has bottom of the barrel ratings. Our intrepid team isn’t to be stopped, though, and while the actual raindrops look more or less like the scratching-the-film trick used in such stunning cinematic masterpieces as Xanadu, the water’s impact on the streets, nice details like rain running in rivulets off of a post, and residue dripping off of Lupin do look pretty good.
Less convincing is the setup: Lupin, the master thief and practically precognitive master of his surroundings, was out running in the rain and got a note reading ‘HELP ME’ taped to his back. This note is still legible despite the rain (unless it perhaps said KICK ME to start with), and the tape didn’t get soggy and unstick itself. If you want to play with rain physics, show, I’m going to start thinking about everything else too. By the way, Jigen can tell from a distance and without directly looking at it that it’s a woman’s handwriting. You might call it lazy animation, but I prefer to think of it as proof that the gunman’s developing powers of meta-awareness. And hey, let’s be fair. Awesome Lupin stories have had their share of stupid setups (I see you there, Tokyo Crisis. With your totally 90s use of psychic powers in large eyed adolescent girls).
A knock at the door reveals “Kids’ Meal,” the least indicatively named gangster of all time. He’s Fujiko’s lackey, as we’ll discover, so I choose to believe she forcibly renamed him as such for not showing her the proper amount of respect. Fujiko doesn’t fuck around, y’all. Anyway, Kids’ Meal is here to pick Lupin up and take him to the damsel in distress. Jigen isn’t up for this nonsense himself, but he says he’s totally cool with their open relationship Lupin gallivanting after a pretty girl yet again.
Is it not as much fun if he’s not mad at you?
Hey, does that seem weird to you, given that Jigen is forever grouching about women in general and Fujiko particularly? Don’t worry about it. This week’s episode is completely confident in its ability to write Jigen, and also seems to quite like him as a character. And Dead or Alive is one of the good Lupin films. Pay no mind to the cord-like protrusion from the back of my neck.
Off they go. If you’re surprised to find out that Fujiko sent the letter, then we need to have a serious talk about the horizon of expectations. Lupin’s so clairvoyantly prepared for this he intuitively senses that it’s a Browning Fujiko is aiming at his back. At this point, their relationship is less a pattern and more a Sisyphean hellscape of betrayal.
Fujiko needs help with the lost member of the conehead family, a mobster who’s a practically catatonic amnesiac nonetheless holding some rather relevant secrets. Lupin must, like the majestic Tyrannosaurus Rex, be unable to sense unmoving objects, because he totally misses the corpulent body until Fujiko points it out.
What comes next is a sight to behold, in that it gets unbelievably convoluted at breakneck speeds while still managing to be rollickingly dull. Follow me down here: Marlon Brando’s half-fish cousin here contracted a doctor to do some kind of mysterious surgery on him. Once it was a success, he killed the doctor and temporarily erased his memory, meaning for it to come back in six months. He made his mook, Dragon Mandala (because Madlib McGillicutty was out on patrol) promise to kill anyone who tried to bring the boss’ memory back sooner. But whoops, the guy’s memory didn’t come back and then he died. Turns out experimental brain surgery didn’t have such a hot track record in the 70s. There’s some girl shenanigans too, where Fujiko Syndrome is still in play because our tough double agent runs weeping from the room when Lupin presses her for information (right to a bedroom, so we can have uncomfortable not-cut-short-enough ‘seduction’).
Fujiko, precognitively performing the modern audience’s ‘Do Not Want’ face
Look at the above summary for a minute. No, really look, because I’m hoping you can explain it to me. So, the guy wipes his memory, right? Probably this is to keep the info from being tortured out of him. You know whose memory he doesn’t wipe? Mooky McGee, a random schmuck who’s likely to crack under pressure. Meaning once the stool pigeon sings Fishlips Gambino won’t be able to sell information in exchange for his life (if you find these nicknames derogatory, please know that his actual scary mob boss name is “The Phantom Weasel”). A potential rival would probably rather kill him and look for clues that way, and then guess what they’re gonna find? It’s no wonder Lupin runs into so many mobsters –they’re so braindead the ranks are constantly having to replace themselves.
For second, what the hell with this surgery? It apparently works right up until the end, when instead of giving him back his memory he went into a coma. For the most part, outside of fantastical gadgets now and again, Green Jacket deals with at least one toe in reality. Is there such a thing as temporary lapse amnesia? Sure, there’s trauma induced repression, but that’s not something you can time out to a reliable date. My guess is that The Blob’s enterprising twin kidnapped a mechanic , and said mechanic said whatever he needed to keep his head firmly attached to his shoulders. ‘Temporary amnesia machine? Sure, no big, when you need it back by? Lemme just get my tool belt. Regular rates.’ And then he DIES. What was the risk assessment? The treasure he was trying to hide isn’t even that big! There’s only one of it! We have no idea why he gives a particular shit about it, at least enough to take a crowbar to the skull. Maybe that’s a lot of effort for characterization of a guy whose only lines are post mortem, but COME ON. If you’re going to use wacky pseudo science, you better leave something else to cling to. Otherwise your viewer goes spinning off into the stratosphere, trying vainly to rationalize something besides ‘this episode is stupid, oh God is it stupid, is Jigen back yet, can we go back to the cabin in the woods at least, MIYAZAKI HELP ME’
Huh. Blacked out for a minute there. But I’m back! Let’s get on with the recap, shall we?
So, Fujiko doesn’t want the Ghostly Mongoose’s body to be cremated because duh, couldn’t have seen that coming with the word surgery involved. And Dragon Mandala is going to kill them all to protect his late boss’ secret, except later he works for Lupin and there’s no reason given as to why he’s switched sides after being so demonstrably loyal, and Zenigata is going to take the corpse in for autopsy because of course the police would be allowed near the body of a supposed underworld bigwig without other mobsters first securing any secrets. Ironclad, this plot.
I TAKE IT BACK. GET OUT WHILE YOU STILL CAN
Oh, and before the scene change but after the creeptastic lover-boy scene, Jigen makes his usual snarktastic commentary.
That’s just what he tells you to make the codependency work
Anyway, Lupin doesn’t have anything to say about his peanut gallery wakeup call beyond telling Jigen to get working on the next part of the plan. Keep that in mind.
IT’S GONNA BLOW! THE MUSIC TRIED TO WARN US!
In a hideout somewhere, because apparently wooded cabins were in surplus at the time, Lupin’s taken the rather unique route of hiring actual untested partners to get whatever was on the corpse before Zenigata gets it to police headquarters. I’m pretty sure Jigen has long since stopped being impressed by Lupin’s backdoor bragging skills, so the thief wanted someone new to test them out on. And since it’s easier to point things out along the way rather than in hindsight, lemme tell you about this scene. I suspect strongly that Jigen suffered Fujiko Syndrome – that, for this part of the story at least, his part originally belonged to some random dude and was retrofitted for the recognizable character. Either that, or Lupin’s having a serious mood swing.
Jigen’s late, and when he does show up he’s his usual sassy self. I say show up, but apparently he’s been lounging in the rafters the whole time. Which Lupin, in keeping with the sudden impairment to his supernatural awareness levels, didn’t seem to notice. Also, Jigen’s totally earned the right to say that Lupin can’t do a thing without him. But you know what? Lupin’s not kosher with this. He makes all kinds of sidemouth comments about Jigen getting cocky, despite having nothing to say about it in the last scene. Is this like a Liz Lemon and Jack thing? Are you afraid he’s making you look bad in front of your summer camp friends?
Of course it turns out that Jigen’s not actually Jigen. He’s Kids’ Meal in disguise, so Lupin’s bad vibes are supposed to show us that he knew somehow despite Kids’ Meal saying very Jigen-like things. And never mind the fact that we as the audience are given no obvious tell to see how Lupin knows this isn’t his faithful partner, but are supposed to take it on faith. Because who needs a relatable character when you can have Cool Lupin Doing Cool Things? And meanwhile Jigen was kidnapped on Fujiko’s orders and is being held somewhere with potential threat to his life, and….
HOLD THE PHONE.
You just did the best part of the episode completely off screen. To hell with the mobster stiff, I want to hear about this! While episodes before have had Jigen mention that he doesn’t think Fujiko is trustworthy, this is the first one where he actively states that he hates her. This episode could’ve been a fascinating look into the two closest people in Lupin’s life, and how they developed such an animosity. And IS it animosity? Most Fujikos seem pretty indifferent to Jigen, perhaps due to knowing he’s not yet been able to dissuade Lupin. Is the kidnapping part of why he distrusts her so loudly? Did she actually talk to him? Was there taunting? What did they talk about – in fact, what would that be like? Fujiko and Jigen interact fairly rarely without Lupin as a buffer, and the times they do (First Contact and The Woman Called Fujiko Mine) it’s before Jigen has become Lupin’s partner. I’m dying to see this dynamic now! And how much was his life really in danger? What if Lupin had been put on the spot of saving one or the other, Spiderman style (obviously this would work better with a more rounded Lupin, but hey)? WHY DIDN’T THEY MAKE THIS EPISODE?
I’m taken back In Time to when I was watching Cillian Murphy play a slum kid turned privileged time cop, possibly at the expense of a former close friend, thinking that his story would’ve been approximately ten times more interesting than sexy-getbacker Justin Timberlake and living anime character Amanda Seyfried acting a poor man’s Bonnie and Clyde. There’s nothing more frustrating in narrative than sighting an interesting story through a haze of mediocrity. Good shows captivate you, bad ones are enthralling to mock, but mixed ones…you’re forever reaching for the glimmer of a good idea, willing it to come closer until all you have is a migraine of thwarted expectations. And possibly methane poisoning.
I missed you, Terrifying Lupin Face. Exit, stage left
It’s hard to drum up enthusiasm for the conclusion we do get, given that it’s more or less a repeat of the racetrack gambit from episode one: there’s a fork in the road that meets back up at what is universally referred to by the characters as a “swastika shaped” crossroads. And you thought I pulled the Nazis out of nowhere. This is the franchise that had TWO Nazi episodes. Like arsenic Pringles, it’s hard to have just one. Because you usually choke and die before finishing it. What was I talking about?
The plan is to force the ambulance onto the side road while a dummy car drives ahead of the police escort. Lupin grabs the treasure, and then the original ambulance is led back onto the correct road to the station with no feds the wiser. It goes off pretty much without a hitch, barring one thing.
Follow me down once more on this one, folks, and put down any food before you do. The Surreptitious Shrew over here had this diamond surgically implanted into his body. That much is fact. We might then conjecture that he did so for safe keeping, which would then follow with the fact that it would be someplace that was not immediately visible. If his death is marked as something ‘suspicious,’ it is probably sudden and relating to a man with few other health problems. The most likely cause of this sudden death would be some kind of aneurism (possibly in the brain), or a blockage of blood flow resulting in cardiac arrest. Lupin brought no tools or weapons with him, as he wanted the body to appear the same when it arrived into police custody. Now knowing that it was surgically implanted and probably in a ways, how did he get the diamond out? I’ll leave you to your own images of hairy hands rooting around in cold, squishy mobster organs. Sleep well, kids!
Oh, and Dragon Mandibles was a plant (not a literal one, because this isn’t Pink Jacket, though it would’ve improved the episode immensely), so Fujiko makes off with the diamond. Because she needed a henchman for Jigen to uncharacteristically shoot in the back, after all. Thank God this episode’s over. I was getting a little worried about waking up with blood on my hands. That’s normal, right?
NEXT TIME: Return of the Samurai Friend! Fujiko’s never been so cutthroat, but if everyone drives off into the sunset then it’s okay to try to mow each other down along the way, right? It’s the almost-but-not-quite last episode of director numero uno, Masaaki Osumi. Hope to see you there!