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Hey, as long as we’re retreading themes from previous episodes, how about “Zenigata traps Lupin and gets (debatably) karmic comeuppance?” Except last time this happened the Inspector was having prolonged fantasies of Lupin receiving the death penalty, and this time he’s trying to do his job (if a little more boisterously than usual).
…Well, if nothing else it’ll be a neat little object lesson in how much things have changed. Actually, I give this episode all kinds of points for being a great heist – enough that I remember it fondly despite… we’ll get to the ending in a bit. You can watch the episode here (in the US) and here (for international readers).
Meanwhile, Goemon practices the slightly perplexed exasperation
that will be his default Red Jacket expression
It probably isn’t fair to say that people have reached a consensus about Dragon Age II, but it does seem like the most fiery battles have more or less run their course by now (there’s that silly optimism again).
For those of you don’t keep up with gaming news, DAII was the 2011 sequel to 2009’s much beloved Dragon Age Origins. As you have likely surmised from those two dates, an 18 month development cycle wasn’t enough to really capture the scope of the first game’s epic fantasy (by which I mean there are like six environments, and you will see them a lot), leading to much hair pulling etc. It’s not all doom and gloom, though – DAII also has its small but passionate share of defenders. And with Dragon Age Inquisition coming up this fall, it seemed like a good time to throw my two cents into the ring. Plus, I spent the time I should’ve used going over Kill la Kill this week working on a new unified Origins/Awakening/DAII save file, and the editorial had to come from somewhere.
As is often prudent with divisive subjects, let me clear out a baseline: while I’m more than happy to acknowledge the lion’s share of mistakes the game makes, particularly in terms of some niggling glitches and the time-constraint damage to the gameplay (the ‘six rooms’ problem, the fact that there’s not so much a difficulty curve as an increased spamming of trash mobs); it’s still a game I’m quite madly fond of, and I find that the strengths shine all the more brightly in the face of the poor mechanics.
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Every week I remind myself that we’re getting close to the end of the first opening theme, and then I’ll never have to hear the nails-on-chalkboard sound effect that passes for glass breaking ever again (or at least until I have another rewatch and forget to skip forward). For those of you who’ve been, hypothetically speaking because I know none of you are, the random color changes in Lupin’s jacket are because the current opening theme takes footage from the Lupin III pilot film. Yup, Red Jacket technically predates Green Jacket. How that translated, in live action world, to a white leisure suit, we may never know. You can watch the episode here (for Americans) or here (for international readers…that sounds terrible, doesn’t it? ‘American and also other people?’ Curse you, Hulu).
When you invent a formula that then becomes slavish, you’re going to get knocked for it. Especially if that formula fuels 40+ years of media. So it’s nice to see that, after setting out the whole-gang roll call, “The Emerald’s Secret” features Lupin and Fujiko flying solo. It also is the first to heavily front Zenigata in a comedic role, and has some great interaction between him and Fujiko.
We open on a grand boat which, given this series’ propensity toward hilarious historical revisionism, I have christened the Notanic. Its actual name is the Cupid, so you can see why I had to step in. The party guests helpfully exposit that the boat and party are meant to show off hostess Catherine and her prized emerald. Credit to the animation department: Catherine’s design is perilously close to Fujiko’s former look, a move that in my usual state of over-charity toward Green Jacket I’ll attribute as an attempt to highlight Fujiko’s cute redesign. The two draw comparison in the viewer’s mind in just about every scene they’re in together. Which is a lot, because Fujiko is in disguise as Catherine’s maid – I suspect that had Lupin not intruded, there might’ve been a Single White Female type plan in the works. This would have been unfortunate for her, since Catherine’s husband seems to be related to the Elsen from OFF.
Back in the early 2000s, with the anime boom in full swing and the market of availability much smaller, there were two easy go-to moments for ‘Anime is Weird.’ The first was End of Evangelion, Hideaki Anno’s psychological acid trip through alienation and the ruminations of mortality. The second was ‘The One Where That Girl Turns into a Car,’ aka the climactic third act of The Adolescence of Utena. It was one of those scenes that exist to be taken out of context – not that familiarity with the material helped a whole lot anyway. Or does it?
For those of you not familiar, Revolutionary Girl Utena is the story of Utena Tenjou, a transfer student who transfers to Ohtori Academy in search of a prince. When she was a child her parents both died, and that prince appeared to her and gave her a ring, saying that if she retained her nobility as she grew then they would meet again. Inspired, Utena decided to become a prince herself. She finds, however, that her ring is also the symbol of a dueling game at Ohtori, with several students vying to become the owner of the “rose bride,” who can grant her fiancé the power to revolutionize the world. Winning the bride, Anthy, almost by accident, Utena is sucked into the duels and the layers of conspiracy behind them, and finds herself growing closer to Anthy without really knowing her at all.
Let me put forth a crazy idea, gentle readers: the Utena movie is completely straightforward. When viewed through the lens of visual metaphor that defines the series before it, there might be no other solution but for our pink haired protagonist to turn into a supped up racer. Follow me down, I can explain this one.
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This episode is brain-bogglingly bizarre. Of all the other things I could say about it – that it smacks you out of nowhere with surprise heartwarming-ness, that its ending is rather un-Miyazaki-like, or that it debatably sets up Lupin’s future big screen debut, the fact of its sheer oddity is the most important to know going in. Because while Lupin III is not adverse to taking on outlandish concepts (mind controlling cults being a popular choice), it usually comes from the viewpoint of letting Lupin unmask the magician as a sham. It’s pretty rare for them to play the speculative angle straight, though when they do it does tend to be memorable – here I am thinking primarily of that Red Jacket where Lupin met Jesus’ twin sister, the first vampire. I’ll wait while you check that out (I KNOW RIGHT? ). Want to watch along today? Episodes are here for American-types and here for international readers.
So the first surprise of “Beware the Time Machine” is that it involves an actual, apparently functional time machine. A time machine that doesn’t seem to have any form of butterfly effect whatsoever, but I really only bring that up as a nominal nod to how nearly impossible it is to write sound time travel scenarios. Mostly I don’t give a damn whether the time loops are logical, as long as the writers are using them to explore interesting concepts with the characters.
Return of the Terrifying Face, here doubled by a Scoobie Doo villain
Anyway, Old Man Jenkins up there introduces himself as Kyousuke Mamoh (apparently he comes from that mirror universe where you have to add every possible phonetic letter to the subtitles, killing Kyosuke Mamo along the way), and tells Lupin that in four days he’ll disappear. He’s from the fuuuuuuuture, y’see, where his family was eventually wiped out by Lupin XIII. But just killing Lupin isn’t enough. He has to fuck with him for those couple days first, giving the notoriously clever and observant thief time to figure out his weakness.
I’m getting ahead of myself on that last part. The majority of the episode is a game of psychological warfare, one that Lupin is losing despite his more and more aggressive attempts to prove how not-worried he is over the whole thing.
We’ve collecitvely that Pupa is thus far a hideous disappointment, right? I know I was a bit crushed to find that the alleged “dark and disturbing gorefest” translates out to “four minutes of poorly exposited insanity, an exploding dog, and a giant censorship bar.” But then, I knew going in that the project was helmed by Studio DEEN, so shame on me for hoping.
But watching my dreams for an enticing and atmospheric horror-tinged anime go up in smoke did put me in mind of a long held dream of mine. You see, there’s a wonderful candidate out there for a modern supernatural-horror anime, if only the modern studios would think to tap it. That story, friends, is Petshop of Horrors.
“What? That terminally 90s looking OVA with the man eating rabbits?” said absolutely no one, because I’m fairly certain that bit of trivia’s been lost to the annals of time.
Allow me to bring it back for you
A consummate portrait of the era, isn’t it? The broad shoulders, the somewhat grainy visuals and shading-light palette, the candy colored blood. But wait, hear me out. This strange little footnote of animation is based on a manga absolutely crying for an update.
And a miracle is what it will take
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There’s a great deal to love about this episode, and not just because it marks the halfway(ish) point of our adventure through this early branch of the Lupin canon. It’s also not because the sound mix is better, because the dialogue still doesn’t quite match up with the animation, and at one point an axe being removed from a post is accompanied by a creaking-door sound effect. Or because the animators have become masters of continuity – the episode starts with Fujiko stealing one of two boxes from a table. The box is gone, then reappears as the box’s guards shoot at the thief (I swear to you, they take the animation of Fujiko’s arm reaching in and just play it in reverse), then gone again once the shots stop. That one extra still was going to cost someone a sick grandchild, I guess. And that’s not even getting into the obviously recycled animation that somewhat undercuts the excitement of the thrilling snowmobile getaway.
We’re both trying very hard not to admit how impressed we are
No, the wonderful thing about this episode is that it finally, in its own roundabout manner, did what Masaaki Osumi originally set out to do: it is cool. The character interactions are fun, the action is madcap, it’s a bit dark around the edges, and I’m pretty sure Jigen wasn’t actually invited on this heist because he spends most of the episode popping out of snowdrifts or stalking people from trees. It’s fantastic. Want to watch along? You can find episodes on Hulu (for US readers) and Dailymotion (yes, it did take me this long to realize my lovely international readers would need a different link. No one ever said I was smart).