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.
They cased the joint on the right,
but all they found was livestock and some kid
Jigen is naturally wary of the deal, seeing as their intel came from Fujiko, but he’s proven wrong almost immediately. These aren’t just diamond smugglers. They’re Cossack clown car diamond smugglers. It’s hard to hold up skepticism in the face of that kind of display.
Nope, it’s not even a TARDIS. Fuck physics, there’s a Cold War afoot!
With $3 billion worth of diamonds in reach Jigen’s already to spring into action, but Lupin’s having none of it on account of there being 30 hidden guns trained on the scene. Post-retreat we’re treated to the first appearance of a fiat in Lupin proper. It’s not The Fiat, unless they later gave it a paintjob from blue to yellow, but I’ll take that adorable baby over the SSK any day.
Because it is magical, the fiat also gifts us with the episode’s main conflict: Fujiko wants those diamonds, and she’s not about to let Lupin give up. But because she’s the brains of the outfit, that’s not how she phrases it.
What happened to that noodle man of the future-past with enough money
to stage spectacular rollercoaster gun battles?
In the past, I’ve quite strongly intimated my desire for two things: a villainously-tinged Lupin and the interesting application of his weighty lineage. This episode gives us both, and it makes for a really fantastically fascinating turn of Lupin – not the kind of guy you want to see all the time, but this is one of the first time we’ve really seen him under pressure, and there’s all kinds of juicy layers under that suave Cheshire Cat exterior.
Fujiko unearths a sore spot we’ve not seen up until now – she’s able to goad him repeatedly into doing what she wants by suggesting that it’s ‘what Arsené Lupin would’ve done.’ And it doesn’t work just once, either! She gets him to a) pursue the diamonds back to the jewelry store in question, despite it being broad daylight and well staffed; b) steal not just the diamonds but the entire stock of the store, despite the plan only accommodating the stuff in the safes; and c) put him in such a stir that his Voice of Reason gets through not one whit.
See, this time it makes sense where it’s coming from –
less smug bastard and more petulant brat
What’s going on here is an A+ example of set-up and pay-off: the opening of the episode establishes two characters in conflict, with Jigen being ready to jump on a score without thinking (Miyazaki’s Jigen has an eye for treasure that rivals Fujiko’s – believable, of course, but rarely brought out so strongly) only for Lupin to warn him off because of the risks; by the time we come to this scene and it’s Jigen telling Lupin they’re being too reckless, we can easily tell that something is extremely off with our protagonist. It doesn’t take much more than a minute of setup, but it’s so frequently forgotten – without the beach scene, we might as well assume that Lupin is always a reckless glory hound on every job he pulls (Osumi, I’m looking at you pointedly). Instead, we have a man who’s not a golden god of thievery but merely quite well prepared, with pride as his fatal flaw.
There’s even a golden line of dialogue where Lupin only has one backup plan and absolutely nothing to go on after – he’s so convinced of his own awesomeness that he figured it would just work out (and here he always chastises Pops for underestimating him). Lupin and Jigen escape, just barely, only for their practice-Fiat to break down on the road.
Years later, Tarantino will watch this episode
and be inspired to make Pulp Fiction
Turns out it was all according to Fujiko’s plan, and she makes off with the car and the loot while disguised as a tow truck. And here we get into the meat of why this episode is fucking awesome. Lupin’s a real bastard in it. And I don’t mean he’s quite petty about human life, since that describes pretty much every adventure where he’s not wearing a red jacket or saving girls named Clarisse. I mean that our thief is legitimately a terrible person in this episode, to the two people he arguably cares about more than anyone else in the world – he belittles and bosses Jigen around, brushing off his concerns for the first half of the episode; and when he stops doing that he turns around and gives away Fujiko’s location to the jewelry smugglers, so she’ll be shot down out of her escape plane and potentially killed just so Lupin can get back at her. That is some cold blooded stuff (paging the people who thought the Fujiko Mine interpretations were too dark. Let’s talk).
His pride is such a powerful influence that it changes his character entirely…and yet it doesn’t. He’s performing the same actions (plan, steal, escape) that he would in any other episode, but motivated by a far more unbridled mentality. It makes him unpredictable, and it adds a heightened importance to his relationships with his gang when he is in control: what kind of people are they, to know and want to associate with this person? And what are they, that they’ve cemented themselves as worthwhile to someone who would quite happily watch the world burn if riled enough (Lupin is fascinating is what I’m saying, and I want to compose essays to his onion-like layers). Because no matter how it’s sliced or how many calling cards and suits pretty it up, Lupin is a criminal. It’s nice to see that admitted now and again, and for the writers to make Lupin someone we want to follow anyway – enjoying the thrill without scuffing over the bad bits.
And the key element is that we, the audience, somehow come out of the episode not wanting the thief’s violent death, accomplished by the episode’s character interactions walking a tightrope so thin it could be used to dissect diamonds.
Fujiko surviving qualifies as a nice perk. What was it?
‘If she dies that easily, she’s not the woman I thought she was?’
Behold the power dynamics at play here. First, Jigen is reckless and Lupin reins him in (though he does it in his Kind of a Dick way). Then Fujiko quite obviously manipulates him into stealing jewels for her at his peril. Thus our sympathies go to Lupin. Then, Lupin is a blowhard and Fujiko pushes him further at it. Fujiko escapes and Lupin is snappish at Jigen, who’s just trying to follow the damn plan. Our sympathy switches away to Jigen. Fujiko steals the jewels and Lupin retaliates by putting her in deadly danger – now we’re on her side. Once freed, she drags the boys’ escape parachute down to make sure they won’t escape without her…and then she escapes without them, leaving Lupin and Jigen trapped in The Mountainside Cabin with the jewels. Our sympathies come back to them (and here is Jigen an important tool, for without him it would just be square comeuppance).
But wait! Fujiko comes back to tell the boys that the cabin will be blown up from below. Sure, maybe it’s for the jewels, but she could’ve cut her losses and let them rough it no problem. So now we have fairly equal footed sympathy for our three terrible people protagonists just in time to go into the third act. That is impressive. The jewelry smugglers and Zenigata are little more than borders for the story to work within, and the conflict is generated almost entirely between our three thieving partners. That’s tight scripting, friends.
The international smuggling ring is WAY less important than the three-man empire up there!
Our Heroes are able to escape at the last minute by way of house-zipline (which is perhaps not what it sounds like but is probably more awesome), but of course lose the diamonds as their rickety transport struggles to support them. And we come to a close with the escape-ship for two modified to support three (there is an OT3 joke in there, but I’m gonna leave it…mostly).
Ah, but wait! It seems that one of the diamonds got caught in Fujiko’s hair! Somehow, despite not falling toward her in any capacity.
Holy moe eyes, Batman…That is the cutest Jigen model I’ve ever seen. Of all time.
And because we are in the Best Green Jacket episode the script wraps around in a cyclical and satisfying manner. The pride Fujiko so adeptly exploited also won’t let Lupin take one little diamond when they were after a whole hoard, so he throws it out into the forest. It puts the team squarely on ground zero, but not in a way that makes the adventure feel meaningless. Rather, it feels like they balance each other out as a trio, and each point will keep the other two from running too far afield. It makes Fujiko feel like an equal part of the team while also keeping true to her self-preserving instinct, lets Jigen be an actual influence on the course of events rather than the grouser who will eventually cave to Lupin’s Fujiko-addled plans, and lets Lupin be a changeable wild card who could spark the plot in any number of directions. This is, distilled, what I love about Lupin III in an episodic format. It is, case closed, the Best Episode.
NEXT TIME: Failing to study up on their James Bond, Our Heroes wander into a casino full of death traps, and encounter my favorite case of (possibly) unintentional continuity from series to series. Also there are exploding watches. Everything needs more exploding watches. Hope to see you there!