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The infallible information source Wikipedia quotes Shinichiro Watanabe as being inspired by Masaaki Osumi’s Green Jacket when he was working on Cowboy Bebop. This is the episode that sells that idea for me, and not just because I can’t bear to imagine a director I respect so much drawing strength from the Formula One episode. The title of this week’s episode, “Killer Sings the Blues,” really clinches the comparison. You know, besides the Spike-Lupin, Jet-Jigen, Faye-Fujiko comparisons. Want to watch along? Episodes are here and previous recaps are here.
They brought back the beatnick-timed-explosion combo for this week’s opening, and wouldn’t you know it? I actually found myself feeling a little nostalgically fond. Which is odd, because I spent an age dragging my feet on this recap. ‘Ugh, didn’t we just escape this guy?’ my persistent procrastination practices seemed to grumble (perturbedly). We were indeed graced just last week by newly minted head Hayao Miyazaki, but don’t let me lazy inner monologue get to you. Other than the fact that it benches Fujiko to damsel duty for pretty much the entire episode (an admittedly sizeable but), this shows a real ‘what-could’ve-been’ shine for Osumi. You can almost hear him saying ‘fire ME, will you? I’LL SHOW YOU with quality output that was missing in consistency before when it would’ve been useful. SO THERE.’
We start in the procedural style, with our guest of the week and a total stranger discussing what’s about to go down with the plot. A hitman’s hit town and is looking for Fujiko, saying his life depends on seeing her again. His name is Poon, which is perhaps the most unfortunate thing this episode could’ve possibly done. This is the guy we’re hanging the episode’s emotional hat on. I imagine you, my dear readers, might have been mature enough to go right for the sexual reference that would’ve made Monkey Punch proud. But I’m stuck some distance back, on the fact that it’s a name that makes every single character forced to speak it sound not unlike a very shrill Pokemon. Especially Fujiko, since most of her dialogue this episode calls for a plaintive and keyed-up note. Poon is not a name you can insert into serious conversation, particularly if that conversation is in Japanese. Then again, as a child I was incredibly attached to a group of characters with names based on (at best) vegetable puns, so what do I know?
Back with our main cast, Lupin and Fujiko are having a date-drive, which will increasingly seem like the only place such things are allowed in the world of Green Jacket. They’re also going around hairpin turns way over the speed limit without seat belts, but it’s cool – as we know, Lupin’s bones are made of rubber. Not to mention most cars made in the 70s were screaming metal death traps. The real purpose of this scene is to showcase what will become a more-or-less standard state for their relationship. And considering how much shit I gave Osumi for certain Really Terrible attempts at writing ‘romance’ for Lupin (in general and with His Lover Fujiko), I concede that this is an excellently done scene. Lupin makes a pass at Fujiko only to rebuffed. Then he exposits the job for the week, a heist to steal plans for a rare computer chip, and suddenly he finds his efforts a touch more warmly received. Just describing it like that, it’s pretty obvious that a betrayal is going in the mix somewhere. But the dialogue and the performance of the actors come across as genuinely sincere and touching, talking about their relationship as a beautiful moment in the present that washes away any bad blood or past betrayals. While other Lupin projects (Secret of Mamo in particular, as well as Fujiko’s Unlucky Days/The Columbus File) have played up the Lupin/Fujiko romance, they tend to frame it much more in the sense of a traditional eternity-and-declarations love story. And that has its charms, don’t get me wrong, but it never feels as genuine to me as moments like this do. Part of the joy of Lupin and Fujiko as characters is the way that they flout conventions, living outside of society’s rules in ways we wish we could. And their relationship is part of the canon’s bedrock: fish swim, birds fly, Bioware games have good writing, and Arsene Lupin loves Fujiko Mine. But they’re not so much the white picket lovey-dovey types as two waves that keep crashing into each other (and have a great time doing so). And honestly? I find their affection more endearing knowing that they can freely spend time apart or close to other people and yet still feel so strongly when they come together again. That’s unusual, and it’s worth preserving. Oh, but speaking of eternal devotion –
Revenge of the metaphors!