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.
Waiiiiiiiiit a minute
I’m calling intent on this one, and not just out of my feverish desire to spin continuity from air. The Fujiko Mine anime loves making cozy little references to older Lupin works, and worked pretty hard to make itself a conceivable prequel to Green Jacket’s series of events (I tried to type continuity, but my fingers rebelled). Meanwhile, these two are the only characters in either series with a hair color not found in nature (unless you’re counting the freakishly neon blondes of Green Jacket), and Oscar’s past is a tabula rasa before Zenigata fishes him out of the river. The age of any given character is one big question mark, so it’s not out of the question to think Ginko might’ve had a kid young, and taken quite a bit of care to preserve her appearance with time.
Also? The plot of this episode revolves around Ginko strapping bombs to our thieving heroes and extorting them into doing time-trial crime for her. She’s not the kind of person who would be real concerned to find that her young, unwanted son was kidnapped by owl men. More likely she’s chalk it up as a win-win scenario.
Back to those watches.
Either the animators are trying to make up for how infrequently they draw Jigen’s eyes by growing them three sizes, or he’s developed eyeball elephantitis
They’re the cutest little wrist bombs, which contain enough explosives to turn a human adult into an enemy in Mortal Kombat, can’t be tampered with lest they explode, and are due to detonate anyway in 24 hours. Thus are Lupin and co. tasked with stealing their own ransom, to the tune of three billion yen.
The anime has a fairly limited amount of tools at its disposal given the time of production, especially for things like composition (see those neon-blondes I mentioned up above). A lot of episodes end up looking fairly stark in their color scheme, which is perhaps what gives the episodes an unconscious feeling of ‘cartoonishness’ to viewers. But this scene actually makes use of shadows, not as if the light naturally exists in the room, but to convey a feeling about the characters – low lighting on our heroes to pain shadows under their eyes, as if to emphasize their panic; a ‘hooded’ shadow on Ginko against a dark background to give her a feeling of being duplicitous, and so on. Nowadays that would be expected, but like that fight scene back in episode 8 it shows formative innovation on the creative team’s part. Actually, the whole episode has some really nice visual aesthetics, from the drunken, gauzy edges of the opening part montage to the early morning fog outside the lounge all going towards building an actual atmosphere rather than just displaying perfunctory action.
Suddenly, when you least expect it – HISTORY
This episode also marks an early example of what will become a proud Red Jacket tradition, wherein Goemon sits on the sidelines of the plot and provides stoic, outlandish color commentary. This proves far preferable to his eventual status as living plot device. “Look guys, the plot will be over if you just let me cut your arms off.” Theft: certainly a profession wherein having two dexterous hands is optional.
Goemon’s a helper. And a little bit psycho
Luckily, Lupin has a half-finished plan in his back pocket – a robbery of a printing warehouse, where they could just print their 3 billion yen ransom themselves.
…Jigen, are you sure you’ve met this man.
70% of the plan is always ‘roll with it’
“Not thinking things all the way through,” by the way, means “we bought a rope ladder to climb the wall, but didn’t realize there was a live wire at the top.” But they do manage to get inside using a nearby ad-balloon, a plot device so strange that they’d have to be trying to infiltrate the Macy’s Parade to make it work in any modern equivalent. Within the factory are a bunch of printing presses churning out bills, which means (altogether now) EASILY RECYCLED ANIMATION FRAMES!
(why didn’t you say it with me)
It also leads to a Benny Hill-style montage with music to match, performed by our heroes in anteater gas masks. The ticking clock is used well in this episode, if in a very literal sense, and no more so than when Lupin and Jigen are trying to get the printed bills together. This involves fending off Hitler.
Nice Guy Hitler just won’t take no for an answer
The money’s ready in the nick of time, but as it turns out three billion in bills is rather heavy, so the balloon isn’t as great an escape vehicle as it was a Trojan horse. Trying to escape the cops before they fall several stories to their deaths (ah, who am I kidding, Zenigata has a backup plan for everything), Lupin cuts the balloon loose and sends them floating through town. It’s like watching a heist-flavored Up, coming to a peak with Lupin falling into a condo and having to race back up to catch the balloon.
Reminder that Kiyoshi Kobayashi has all the best Green Jacket deliveries
And that these two are capable of giving each other a magnificent
(and weirdly heartwarming) amount of shit
With the balloon going down the only option is to cut ties and run, hiding the money in a nearby warehouse. That doesn’t really fix the watch situation though, and the three have to go crawling back to Oscar’s mom emptyhanded. She keeps their heads from exploding in exchange for holding Fujiko hostage, and time skips ahead three days. This is all in the last two minutes of the episode, mind, making for extremely baffling pacing – feels like we should be heading into a second half instead of an epilogue.
Anyhow, the reason Pops couldn’t find any money in the warehouse is that Lupin hid it in the walls. Apparently he bent the laws of time and space to make this happen – how did they have time for this? How was there enough room in the lining of the walls for that much money, and how did they pry into the siding without the building collapsing, or without leaving any insulation lying around, and where did the bags go, and how did they stack it up to the roof when Zenigata wasn’t more than twenty minutes behind them? And –
Yup. This is where The Green Jacket GIF comes from
What was I saying?
Oh, turns out Ginko and Fujiko were in cahoots the whole time, by the way. This doesn’t surprise me at all (though it’s a bit of a bummer for Fujicakes, seeing as Lupin rigged the money to explode), since ‘Ginko’ was Fujiko’s alias while infiltrating Goemon’s training camp. It does make me wonder if certain awkward conversations came up regarding a certain curly-haired and completely crazy policeman, but that’s a subject for another fanfic day.
NEXT TIME: A day of cosplay! Somehow a beauty contest is an excuse for our heroes to dress up as everything from a camera crew to a gaggle of Disneyland pirates. Also there’s some art smuggling that only looks like human trafficking. Hope to see you there!