They Fought Aliens and Fell in Love: Why Samurai Flamenco is Important

Of all the things people were expecting from the Samurai Flamenco finale, a naked marriage proposal probably wasn’t at the top of the list. But I can’t think of a better way to cap off a show that thrived on plot twists both totally out of left field and bizarrely true to the characters and world of the story. It’s not the events of the ending I want to talk about so much (though I pushed back another post on Samurai Flamenco as a whole to stage a discussion on recent events). The show isn’t rare for having romantic tension between its two male leads – KyoAni will tell you that that’s a pretty sweet way to fund your retirement. What’s damned unusual is that they followed through on it, a move so unprecedented that not to talk about it would be to miss a golden opportunity.

love-is

I see that you and the audience are having the same realization, Masayoshi

Continue reading

Green Jacket 22 – Lupin vs HAL

Want to start at the beginning?

Imagine that you’re reading a novel where the latest fad is modern medical technology, and at the end the characters agree that ‘well, this is cool and all, but it’ll never be quite the same as leeches.’ That’s the closest equivalent I can give to the weirdness of “The First-Move-Wins Computer Operation.” If you didn’t know anything about advances in animation or the history of Lupin III or a single other scrap of information, you could still look at this episode and say ‘why yes, that was definitely the 70s.’ Incidentally, you can watch along here.

skepticism

If we let this go, one day they’ll be travelling around in our pockets,

Controlling our brains!

This week the meddlesome FBI is getting in the way of Zenigata’s eternal-destined-rivalry with Lupin by bringing a state of the art computer to Japan (this is before Pops is stated to have joined Interpol, making the expenditure of funds even more baffling). This enormous, wall-sized computer is so advanced that it can predict a person’s actions down to the last detail. Naturally, they’re using it to catch a cat burglar. Don’t get me wrong, if we were talking about manga-Lupin, or even the Lupin from when we started this little adventure, this would make a lot of sense. That guy had a body count to fill a church, ties to the mob and his own little criminal underground, and was a happy participant in sexual assault. That guy they should definitely catch, because who knows what the collateral damage of his amusement might be on any given week.

But that guy’s not really around anymore. Instead, they’re spending millions (possibly billions) of dollars to catch this guy:

Continue reading

The Lovecraftian Lupin: How to Make an Accidental Horror Movie

“Of course he bleeds green and flies off in a giant robot! What else were you expecting?”

 

I spent ages trying to think of how to sum up Green vs. Red, the 2008 OVA meant to celebrate 20 years of Lupin III TV specials. I tried out quite a few false starts: it is a Lupin movie that does not strictly feature the thief as the audience knows him, and features a truly bafflingly placed diatribe against nuclear power; it wants to be a meta-narrative about Lupin’s enduring popularity, a loving homage to over 30 years of content, and a cool heist movie, but does all of those things very badly; and it is as pretty and brimming with poor decisions as a college freshman during Rush week.

All of those are true, but they failed to really sum up the experience. The quote up there came in around the time I enlisted Film Friend’s help, and succeeded only in making a fairly casual Lupin fan really angry. It seemed to have beaten me. And then, suddenly, like a human mind attempting to absorb the Necronomicon, it began to make sense to me. Green vs Red isn’t a heist movie at all. It’s a horror movie. In that light, it’s a strangely warped and fascinating journey through the looking glass of a collective cultural love for that being known as Lupin III.

 

Continue reading

Green Jacket 21 – Should I Get Back in the Kitchen?

Want to start at the beginning?

This has to be one of the weirdest Green Jacket episodes since we started this little adventure. Not in terms of content so much – you’ve got a girl, a chase, lots of guns and a few daring escapes, all pretty par for the course – but because of the weird behind the scenes tension that I may or may not be imagining. Because I just can’t see Hayao Miyazaki, the man who would go on to create so many dynamic and wonderful female characters, leading the charge on an episode whose first act can be summed up as “what is wrong with this girl, fighting back against the men who kidnapped her.”

By the way, the official title for this episode (as in the one that’s on Hulu and most episode summaries you’ll run across) is “Rescue the Tomboy!.” That’s….not so much what the subtitling team decided on, though.

a+ subtitles

Laugh to keep from crying, folks

Continue reading

Art, History, a Swan Song for a Genius: Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises

wreckage

More than once during The Wind Rises, Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, I found myself getting choked up for reasons I couldn’t quite explain. Or rather, they weren’t necessarily connected to what was happening on the screen. For every melancholy or touching moment woven into the film proper, another memory would keep pace with it: “the first time I saw a Miyazaki film (Spirited Away) it was in a theater like this, and now I’m able to watch his last work in the same way”; or, “the last time Studio Ghibli touched on World War II (Grave of the Fireflies) was the first time I’d ever seen my mother so profoundly affected by a film, let alone taking anime seriously as art.” It was nigh impossible to see the film as an object unto itself, and perhaps it’s detrimental to try to. It’s more than that. The Wind Rises is a master thesis and a swan song, a tribute and a lament. It is a memory of one of the 20th century’s greatest directors, whom I can never forget.

Continue reading

Green Jacket 20 – The Danger of Hillbilly Thieves

Want to start at the beginning?

Burning a late candle for this week’s recap, which is one of the last times we’ll be introduced to an Important Future Tradition – one the traditions nearest and dearest to my heart, in fact. But we can’t begin that way – there’s intrigue and such, and a good old return to ‘Lupin is the hero because the villains are even bigger assholes.’ This is “Catch the Phony Lupin!” and you can watch it here.

We open on a string of heinous thefts committed by a man in a gas mask.

bane

No, not that one

note

There ya go

You can tell nothing’s amiss because he made sure to sign it as The Real Lupin. Maybe looking back on it from the present I’m attributing a newfound and unaccounted for sense of cynicism, but…really?

Obviously the common employee won’t be intimately familiar with how Lupin works, and since it’s the 70s the spread of information wasn’t exactly up to snuff with what it would be nowadays. Things like the gas mask could be totally normal, as far as they know. But signing your threats ‘the real Lupin?’ Nobody reports that to Zenigata? He doesn’t look at one of the crime scenes from this montage and say ‘huh, that’s slightly suspicious, I wonder if we should consider copycats?’ Pops has even gone so far as to open fire, and – ah, it’s going to be one of those episodes.

Continue reading

Vrai Writes (Parts of) Books: Rock & Roll Saved My Soul

It’s been a while since I did a professional post, hasn’t it? to my new followers I would like to extend my warmest and most thankful of greetings, and I hope you’ve found something thought provoking and enjoyable here. So, a brief update before we go back to the normal swing of things.

IMG_3729

I’m working on the next essay, I promise!

A few months ago, I submitted an essay to the charity anthology Rock & Roll Saved My Soul, which is now making its first tottering steps into the world. My contribution, “Lullaby of Stars,” is what you might call a…liberal interpretation of the phrase rock and roll.
Or, to summarize more neatly: In which the size of the universe frightens a small and nervous (but not yet nerdy) child, and the very fictional Inspector Javert proves helpful during a very real mental breakdown.

You can check out the official description below, as well as a link to Amazon if you’re so inclined. Much love to one and all of you.

cover

Rock & Roll Saved My Soul

Changing the World, One Story at a Time
Has music had a positive impact on you? Changed your life? Or even saved you? For us, it has.

In this book, you will find a collection of stories, letters, and poetry about how music has personally changed our lives. Each story is unique, each story is true. Filled with emotion, passion, and love for the bands and songs that have touched our lives.

All proceeds from this book will be donated to Rock the Cause. Rock the Cause is a Minnesota based charity that use the power of music, community, and social media to create a new generation of stewardship for other non-profit causes.