I come into this week’s Green Jacket episode knowing the best joke on the subject has pretty much already been made (and we shall come to it in due time). Still, we must persevere. This is the first episode of a trend that winds its way here and there through the late episodes of Green Jacket, where we switch from ‘Lupin wants the thing and engineers a crazy plan to get it’ to ‘fuck this other criminal guy, let’s show him up because he makes my profession look bad.’ Welcome to “Keep Your Eye on the Beauty Pageant,” which you can watch here.
Also, Jigen’s been taking his Watson pills again, so being an adorably dressed parrot is pretty much the extent of his involvement in this episode.
Jigen, master of disguise: wearing a different colored beard on top of his beard
The episode starts with a bit of exposition, facilitated by the temporarily lobotomized Jigen (hey, remember when he was the guy who did all of the research and whom Lupin went to when he needed information for a job? Shut up, no you don’t): So there’s this dude (who has a name, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking you’ll need to remember it) who was once a very famous art thief, and it turns out he has the Mona Lisa and a bunch of other famous paintings and this never made the news somehow; said art thief is getting old, and he’s using the upcoming ‘Miss Global’ pageant to sell off the paintings he’s acquired over the years.
The justification for all this is that he can’t take the paintings with him when he dies, leaving me to conclude that he’s pioneered some kind of science-y soul coat that is powered by money, thereby making it more useful to a dead person. So, theoretically this is about the paintings, but that’s more of an afterthought than anything. Really, Lupin just doesn’t like this Art Thief and his vampire-fang mustache.
In the 1980s Studio Ghibli was still getting its feet, and figured that the best way to do so would be by crushing its audience’s collective heart with one of the best anti-war films ever made. Thus was Grave of the Fireflies born, a film based on the semi-autobiographical writings of Akiyuki Nosaka. In brief the film follows two siblings, 14 year old Seita and 4 year old Setsuko, as they slip through the cracks of wartime society and slowly starve to death in the months before Japan’s surrender. I cannot possibly undersell the power and value of it as a film (hence why I’ve included the link), but the animated version is only really tangential to what we’re here to talk about today. What’s far more surprising is that there was a really, really excellent live action adaptation of the story made back in 2005.
Since we live in an age where the remake is one of those inevitable monstrosities of the creative process, it’s probably best to think not in terms of should there be a remake but how should that remake best be accomplished. I don’t mean that entirely as the pessimism it sounds like, either. Remakes are not unlike Darth Vader in the original trilogy – he was a force of hope and change that slid, through years and years (George Lucas) of small concessions into the evil and destructive force the galaxy knew him as. And even he was not beyond redemption. Putting aside my geeky metaphors, the reason the live action Grave (let’s call it Fireflies ‘05)works is because it examines a relatively undeveloped part of the narrative, and uses that expansion of narrative to develop themes that compliment, while also being unique from, the ideas of the original work. And while I wouldn’t dream of being presumptuous enough to analyze this film in terms of its importance to Japan’s cultural psyche, it speaks resoundingly enough on a basic human level to apply around the world. Continue reading →
Today’s plot is pretty well out of a spy movie (I’d say James Bond, but then we’d have to start drawing comparisons and I’d have to barricade my windows after claiming Lupin the better character). Anyway, the real mystery is how they predicted the meteoric rise of explosive smart-watches back in 1972. You can watch the episode here in the US and Canada. Regrettably, my usual source for the international video seems to have up and vanished, though the DVDs are available from Discotek at a pretty reasonable price (remember to support the industry where you can, kids).
“Lupin, Caught in a Trap” opens on one of those big-city-vice montages that I’m fairly sure were no longer used unironically even when this episode aired, where there’s one static image of a Vegas-strip and then semi-transparent blinking signs zoom toward the camera as some kind of debauchery metaphor. Also, it’s less to animate than if you actually had to show a character walking and interacting with objects. But there’s no time for cynicism, especially when by this point the series lived under more or less constant fear of the ratings axe.
Fujiko has invited Lupin and Jigen (and Goemon, who is having none of this nonsense and splits pretty much immediately) to a fancy casino-lounge by the name of “Atrantis.” Let us all assume they were cleverly avoiding lawyers, or at least remember that this aired before Google. Research was hard back then, y’all. Helping Fujiko to welcome the boys is the Atrantis’ hostess, Ginko. We know she is evil because Jigen finds her attractive, and he’s equipped with some kind of latent heat seeking device that will lead him only to prospects that will serve as confirmation-bias to his ‘women are trouble’ theory. Meanwhile, I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve seen this woman before.
A few weeks ago I wrote an essay about the new Disney movie Frozen. A few people read it, and then a few more, and then it exploded and became the most read post on this blog by a factor of ten (a fact found using English Major Math™, so take it as A Number I Made Up, Signifying Lots). Loads of people left comments – for some people it resonated with their own thoughts, or showed them possibilities they hadn’t considered; and others had their own ideas about the film’s significance, or felt it spoke to them in a different way. 98% of the comments were well spoken and polite, and I wanted to take this into-time to thank people for that. The internet might be a seething sea of cruelty bolstered by the false comfort of anonymity, but that doesn’t mean that every little scrap of civil discourse doesn’t help.
As I read I began to notice a certain trend: the search for the ‘Real Interpretation.’ Whether it was proposing another reading of the text or asking after the official intent of the creators, there seems to be a fervent desire to have a sanctioned view of a work of art. It comes from high school, I think, where teachers often find it easier to help students get through the unit by highlighting one interpretation as What it Means. That’s not a bad way to start, but it’s also only a start….which becomes a problem, given that for many people close media inspection starts and ends with those classes.
The more I thought about this, the more I realized that I could give people a crash course in English Majoring, with Frozen (and a few other things) as our guide. It’ll be just like college, with less Herman Melville and debt.
In the halls of anime history, there’s a duo well and truly ingrained as legendary partners: the Kirk and Spock of con artists, the Holmes and Watson of hallowed heist planners, two men so inextricably associated with one another that to mention one without the other is all but unthinkable. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Arsené Lupin III and Daisuke Jigen. No fan would question the unbreakable bond between the two. Any argument after that is only a matter of degree, time and place.
Now, when a series has been running as long as Lupin III, passing through the hands of so many formats and directorial visions, you can pretty much find fodder to feed whatever ship you like. Pick through long enough, and there’s a clip to suit your needs. This isn’t a matter of 26 episodes, or a few movies, or even a collection of manga volumes. No, we’re talking hundreds of hours of content perpetuating from the late 60s right on into the present day. And in light of that fact, we need to do a bit of structural housekeeping. Rather than attempting to analyze every piece of Lupin media, this essay will go more broad strokes with specific titles mentioned where applicable. It’s divided, for simplicity, into the following sections:
I. Three Jackets, One Gun: The Characters II. A Wink and an Offer – Episode 0: First Contact III. The Woman Called Fujiko Mine and Parallel Narrative IV. Flirtation, Fidelity, and Fujiko
I don’t know the manga thoroughly enough to feel comfortable analyzing it in depth here…but I do love when it suits my purposes
Very few things are so difficult as a satisfying conclusion – share too little and your audience feels as though their investment hasn’t paid off, but give them too much and you run the risk of strangling the agency of the imagination (the infamous “19 years later” epilogue). If you want to get really fancy, the ending should have a profound effect on your audience, causing them to mull on some larger idea or feeling that you want them to take away from the work. You should probably not just throw rocks and kill everyone, unless you’ve set up the cause and effect before hand.
That last sentence is a real problem for horror stories. Whatever else they want you to think about – mortality, the inexplicable, cultural fears of the time period – their main goal is to be frightening. Fear might be a tricky and subjective creature, but it is based on the audience being surprised and unsettled. It’s tough to make a happy ending jive with that intent, which is why you get so many horror stories where the hero dies or goes mad in the last gasps of the story. And sometimes that’s just what the story needs. Then again, sometimes it really isn’t. Today’s object lesson is the 2013 indie game Outlast.
A little overview before we start to break things down: Outlast is a first person survival horror game of the escape-the-place, no combat format (often compared to A Machine for Pigs, but we’ll leave that alone for today); the protagonist is Miles Upshur, a freelance journalist who’s gotten a hot tip about some crazy experiments being performed at the Mount Massive Asylum. He gets there and finds the inmates have taken over, and spends the rest of the game trying to get back out while running from various body horror monstrosities. There’s a plot involving Nazi scientists and nanomachines that mimic supernatural beings, but it’s all rather flimsy, leading me to believe it’s meant to be one of those experience-over-story type games. The problem with that is that it’s a concept that wears out its welcome a good hour or two before the game actually ends, peaking in terms of visceral gore and effectively tense use of the hiding mechanic with the ‘Doctor Trager’ segment that marks the halfway point (and for that segment I must give the developers no small bit of praise, as it is as disturbing as it is sickly entrancing).
Not to oversell things, but this episode is pretty much perfect, striking as it does the ideal balance on the series’ sliding spectrum of tone. And I am inclined to think Miyazaki agrees with me, since this was also the episode that got a direct flashback in Cagliostro. You can watch the episode here in the US and here internationally. Really, if you’re only going to watch one episode of Green Jacket, pick this one.
I see Jigen and Fujiko got Goemon’d out of this particular piece of history
You know the best way to celebrate this momentous occasion? BRASS BANDS AND MARRACAS! So this is the new opening, and it is AWESOME. I will admit to being a flagrant hypocrite, because this song is guilty of something I always dinged the old one for – it doesn’t have much in the way of lyrics besides Lupin’s name either (with decidedly less on-point pronunciation to boot), and it has the additional sin of having recycled show footage rather than unique opening animation (in fact, seeing it out of context you might mistake it for a rather well timed AMV). But it’s so exuberant that it’s hard to care, with occasional vocal fries in the background so oddly and out-of-placely Mariachi inspired that I expect them to start singing about Heisenberg next. It puts me in mind of Pink Jacket’s “Sexy Adventure” – way outside the iconic jazz riffs that the series is associated with, but also representing that undercurrent of mad energy that makes Lupin so great. This episode actually has a modified version that was almost immediately dropped, wherein Zenigata gives a character description/report over the music, but I’ll post the uncut glory that will pop up next time.
I only put it on repeat a couple times before posting
This is “Operation Jewel Snatch.” If you’d like to put yourself in the mindset of what it would be like to watch the episode alongside your humble writer-guide, simply interject the phrase ‘DID YOU SEE THAT, ISN’T THIS EPISODE FUCKING AWESOME?’ after every few sentences. With that in mind, let’s jump right in – Lupin and Jigen are on stakeout, watching an illegal shipment of diamonds come in from the coast.