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
“Let’s Catch Lupin and go to Europe” wins the prize for both most straightforward and unwieldy title thusfar, and will eventually net most irritating due to the number of times it’s directly quoted in dialogue. We begin with a conundrum: Zenigata has been offered a chance to attend a world police summit of sorts, but refuses to go until he’s caught Lupin. Why it has to be This Very Heist and not next week or the week after (with Pops being aware of that element of the fourth wall and all), is anyone’s guess. For the sake of simplicity, let’s go with “because the plot says so.”
Lupin’s clairvoyant powers foresee modern dubbing techniques
Anyway, rather than give up one or the other Pops declares he’ll just Catch Lupin early, and Go To Europe. Strong story concept or no, I already want to punch the dialogue in the face.
In the new but strong tradition of victims who probably deserve it, Zenigata’s been assigned to the Lupinverse equivalent of The Penguin. When a guy has a cone head and a golden penis lighter, you know he’s probably keeping some unsavory business contacts on the side.
I’m being informed that’s meant to be his head.
I did wonder why it was wearing a tiny tuxedo
The treasure in question is a bust of Oswald here, estimated to be worth $300 million. Outside, a plan is a-brewin’, by which I mean that Lupin has determined they’ll use plan ‘fuck it, this usually works’ and hope for the best: Jigen runs distraction, Goemon and Fujiko cut escape routes through the floor and ceiling, and Lupin blows up the wall for a grand entrance, thus ruining the stealthy efforts of his partners.
Jigen is defending his titles as world Hide and Seek champion
and best Warner Brothers impression
Alas, there’s been some fumbling in the world of Green Jacket. While up to now Jigen’s been providing intel on the various jobs, they picked now of all weeks to hand the job over to Lupin. Who didn’t really feel like doing it, it seems, because the plan failed to account for the electrified perimeter, bulletproof glass on the floor and ceiling, and bomb-proof walls. Y’know, little things.
Hey man, you’re throwing off his groove
The gang regroups to discuss new plans, and apropos of very little I am filled with glee: here we see the switch from Fujiko/Fujiko-kun to Fujiko-chan (and loose translations be damned, Geneon gets all of my love for transliterating that as Fujicakes), and the first use of Jigen-chan (which these subs render as ‘pal,’ and will see a future of subs ranging from dear to babe – God bless Pink Jacket). Like ‘Pops’ showing up last episode, it’s a little thing that you don’t miss until it isn’t there.
Fujiko suggests that the best way to carry out the plan is to use Lupin as bait – if the thief is arrested, Zenigata will jet off to his conference, and the others can swoop in and steal the treasure. Lupin dismisses this out of hand, and then proceeds to do it without telling and of his partners. And here we have a new facet of Lupin being Kind of a Dick: on the one hand he’s an opportunist, with an ability to recognize the best moment to moment plan that’s made him such a great thief; and on the other, he so badly needs to be the smartest guy in the room that he’ll enact that idea without clueing anyone else in, just so he can explain it to them afterward – preferably in the most patronizing terms possible. No big deal, though. It’s not like there’s been a precedent of things going wrong on this job.
Pops falls back on time tested schoolgirl technology
In secret Lupin disguises himself as a drunk and gets arrested, planting the tools that will help him escape later on. For this plan to work reliably there has to be only one available cell, thus causing me to question the budgeting practices of Zenigata’s department. All of the money’s gone to that trip to Europe (Paris, of course, because in Green Jacket that is the only city in Europe).
Successfully returned from his alcoholic sojourn, Lupin informs his fellows that it’s time to attempt another break-in, using an underground escape tunnel that goes from outside the grounds right to the mantelpiece. Of course Zenigata knows about the tunnel, and Lupin knows he knows, and so on.
Jigen dressing as Luigi is an integral part of the plan
So the break in is a bust yet again, and Lupin gets captured and put into the one prison cell in the city. He also has to endure whatever’s going on with Zenigata’s face.
A Terrifying Face in search of a wide angle lens
And then we come to the bit that we need to talk about. It goes without saying that Lupin gets out, and manages to steal the bust. But meanwhile, Zenigata is receiving accolades from the prime minister and all kinds of coverage from the press. He is also wearing this face:
Was there someone on the art department specifically hired to draw individual teeth?
I…I can’t laugh at that. The last few minutes of the episode involve Zenigata getting on the plane, being a total adorable dork about not having a pipe, and mistaking whether he should buckle his belt or his seat belt, and wearing this ridiculous but charming hat. And of course he sees the gang out the window, and then tries quite unsuccessfully to get off the plane with plenty of gravity related slapstick moments. Were this another Lupin series, he’d have stolen a parachute to feed his burning, passionate police determination. And the plane scene by itself is staged well enough, mixing the extreme pratfalls with the awkwardness of airplane flight that is as true today as it was in the 70s.
But dammit, LOOK AT THAT MAN’S FACE. He didn’t even get to enjoy the conference before having failure spring up in his face. And you can bet there’ll be all kinds of awkward to face the moment he gets back (if not from the gossipy conference folk). Now, I can admit that this is largely a personal issue – not only am I generally disinclined toward cringe comedy, I’m downright over-empathetic with the technical good character in situations like these. And something about this setup strikes me as needlessly cruel – it’s not the personal, momentary loss of Lupin getting away. This is a public thing, with repercussions (yes, I am probably overthinking it).
Personal beef aside, I’d also argue there’s something a bit larger going on. Let’s call it Team Rocket Syndrome (I’d call it Grell Sutcliffe Syndrome, but then we have to open up a whole subset of issues and I start seeing little black dots of rage): you have an antagonist who is introduced as a legitimate threat for the protagonist to overcome, with a legitimate chance that the protagonist could lose to this person – thus, whatever retribution is heaped on the antagonist is something the audience can feel is earned relative to the impending threat; the antagonist then reappears continually, and the audience becomes aware that the character will not overcome the protagonist due to the pattern of the status quo (this is usually accompanied by the antagonist gaining a comedic tone, to justify their newfound lack of threatening quality); however, the retribution meted out to the antagonist is the same as when they were a legitimate threat, making it seem hugely disproportionate to the antagonist’s current role. If this continues often enough, sympathy will shift from the protagonist to the antagonist.
Now, I want to be fair to Lupin III. By and large this series is way, way better at managing this tonal problem than Pokemon and its ilk. This tension more or less births the World’s Greatest Cop factor, wherein Zenigata is a superhuman capable of capturing every criminal in the world besides Lupin and his gang. It also has a number of genuinely sweet team-ups, and generally goes out of its way to let the audience know that there’s a sense of mutual respect and playfulness amidst the antagonism.
Hell, Miyazaki himself went on to produce one of the greatest examples of this in Cagliostro (and both his Red Jacket episodes do quite well at portraying Pops in a dignified light). So let’s call this episode a misstep rather than a grievous fault, a case where the writers were sorting out their new lighter tone and how the characters would play into it rather than any true sense of malice. And I’ll go about striking the newspaper scene from my memory.
NEXT TIME: My personal favorite Green Jacket episode. A jewelry heist goes from bad to worse by way of Lupin’s enormously inflated ego, and our heroes try to scramble their way out of a cliffside corner. Hope to see you there!