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.
Yeah, I mostly just wanted to bring up OFF
…but what is wrong with his HEAD?
Speaking of Lupin, he’s already sent a notice to Catherine vis a vis her jewel, and she’s boasting to everyone she knows that she’s not concerned. The party is a giant red cape, then. I can’t help but wonder how Fujiko feels about this situation. She’s spent months, in all likelihood, worming her way into this position, and Lupin stirs up all the attention for himself in about two seconds. Ah, who am I kidding? She’s incorporated his interference into her plan since step one. It’s rarely more clear how opposite her and Lupin’s approaches to thievery are. To quote a certain inspector (badly), Fujiko is after the loot itself, while Lupin only values the thrill of theft. Be that as it may, watching this party scene I was suddenly a great deal more sympathetic to Fujiko constantly pulling the rug from under Lupin’s feet. He wants to be the fawned-upon center of attention? Fine. She’ll fawn and watch him walk himself right over a cliff. I respect that.
And now, Jigen and Goemon’s only appearance this episode.
Worth it for the hats
Lupin’s plan today is to sneak on board inside a giant cake. Why he didn’t use the opportunity to opt for stripper gear is beyond me – he’d be able to waltz right out from the shock it’d cause. No place to hide his Walther, I guess. But more importantly, inside that cake something historic is happening.
This is the first time that Lupin refers to Zenigata as Tottsan/Old Man/Pops, something that will be an enormously ingrained character quirk for the rest of ever: Lupin using ‘Pops’ has given him away in disguise, since it’s the easiest way to recognize him (you’ll catch the rest of the gang using it from time to time, but mostly it’s Lupin’s thing); and, more importantly, it marks a huge step forward in the dynamics of their relationship. This is when we take the first baby steps from Zenigata trying to shoot Lupin in the back to seeing the thief take pains to exact vengeance on those who bring serious harm to the inspector. Miyazaki even used it when he came back for the Red Jacket finale, with “Lupin’s” willingness to see Zenigata dead serving as a tip to the viewer that something is decidedly amiss. It also marks Pops becoming a less than credible threat, for soon we will reach “I’ll get you next week” territory, but it’s a fair trade off for the joy of the playful rivalry element. Plus, it leads to moments like this down the line:
Poor Pops. Lupin really puts you through hell
But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re still back in the days when Zenigata has a touch of the psycho in him, since he’s happy to stab a cake to death in case there might be a thief hiding inside. He’s not such a great cop that he notices the distinctly wooden stabbing sounds the knife is making, though, and Lupin gets inside without a hitch.
I mean, besides losing his lower jaw
The less you think about that cake the better, by the way. It makes wooden stabbing sounds, but doesn’t collapse. There’s room enough for Lupin to sit inside of it and to see out of the various jeweled decorations, but the bride and groom are also able to cut a slice of the cake without revealing the thief. It hinges open and closed to let Lupin move freely, and Zenigata is able to stand on it to issue orders without either noticing anything amiss or collapsing into a pile of sweets. Perhaps it is some kind of reality warping TARDIS cake. Either that, or Goemon seriously missed his calling as a baker.
And that’s how you can tell the lady’s prepared for Hollywood.
Only an amateur worries about the starter marriage
Then again, the great inspector also totally fails to ID Fujiko, even though she’s made no attempts to disguise her face this episode. Ah, the idiocy germs are sprouting into full bloom. And while I can’t capture its magnificence in a still image, please know that there’s absolutely a scene of confused-Pops’ pupils rolling around in his head like marbles.
The next few minutes are a game of one-upsmanship between Lupin and Fujiko, and it’s a subtle but pleasant change to see them genuinely competing as opposed to Fujiko merely swiping the goods at the last second. Ah, but things aren’t as simple as they seem: not only is the jewel Lupin swiped a fake, but the one Fujiko stole originally was a fake as well! At that point it’s decided that there’s been a change in the game, and both thieves team up to trick the bride out of the real Eye of the Nile.
You don’t understand, he needs the jewel to pay his orthodontist!
Seeing two great cat burglars work as an on-the-level-team is an unexpectedly glorious affair, turning up a spark of Osumi’s wonderful Lupin/Jigen dynamic: they’re both incredibly quick on the draw, like great improv actors in a high stakes game of ‘yes and’ (watching Lupin have to play a Very Serious Dignitary Fujiko identifies as ‘Count Nipul’ – pronounced just how you think it is – is like having a sudden Whose Line sketch dropped in your lap), and they don’t have to worry about protecting each other – beyond the knowledge of swift and terrible retribution if they can’t run away quick enough after a betrayal. There really is nothing so fantastic as Miyazaki’s Fujiko. I also suspect this might have been where Fujiko Mine took a bit of its Zenigata/Fujiko interactions from (along with a few episodes of Red Jacket where they team up), but I’m afraid it loses something when you don’t have the strain of adorably awkward in the good Inspector.
No one ever invited Pops to the ball
…we’ll ignore whatever’s going on with the proportions in that shot.
And Fujiko embedding her hand into Zenigata’s shoulder
The whole dancing scene is a delight to watch, if with a touch of cringe underneath (can you feel bad when he really isn’t too bad a dancer?). Because the animation doesn’t really have the tools for little subtle stuff it goes whole hog the other direction, animating Pops with these great bombastic movements and swirling skirts from his dance partner. It lends the scene its own kind of distinct personality.
After the lady of the party has a bit of fun at Lupin’s expense, clearly aware that Fujiko is fishing for information on the real jewel and feeding it to Lupin, the answer becomes clear. It would seem “the Eye of the Nile” is a bit more foreshadowy than fancy relic titles normally are, and the gem is actually safely kept in the eye of Catherine’s cat Belle. Let’s open up a big old can of horrifying on this one. On the one hand, Catherine does seem to love her cat – she carries it all over the place, always cooing at or cuddling it. With that kind of behavior, it wouldn’t make sense for her to hurt it purposefully. On the other hand she’s also pretty selfish, deliberately wasting the police’s time for the sake of entertainment and only showing real concern once Lupin’s nabbed the real jewel (and not over her recently eye-patched cat, either). So, was she actually cooing to the “Eye?” If that’s what was important to her, how did it get in the cat’s eye. Was this already a one eyed cat (not exactly a hot item accessory for a fashionable starlet)? Did she want a low-profile carrying case and not find one decided, like the Grinch, to make one instead? If this is recent, is there even deadening scar tissue around where that jewel is? Or was there a gem jabbing around a fresh wound, and were all those creepy meowings sounds we heard actually noises of terrible pain? Somebody on that boat needs to call the ASPCA, stat.
Well, it was before the thinking started
NEXT TIME: Poor Zenigata just wants a vacation, but Lupin’s busy trying to break into an ultra high security house. The gang’s all back together again, trying to cope with an opponent who keeps staying a step ahead. Because the Lupin universe never runs out of cone-headed ne’er-do-wells. Hope to see you there!