I adore listening in on the evolution of western cartoons. Dismissed at best and actively reviled at worst, they’ve long been the cultural dumping ground of toy advertisements, Very Special Episodes, and the assumption of an extremely stupid viewership. And while it is quietly ignored, it begins to turn out beautiful pieces like the nourish art deco of Batman the Animated Series, brilliant snapshots of the dying variety format as preserved in Animaniacs, the passionate and rich storytelling of Avatar, and the tightly woven mythos behind Adventure Time’s engrossing surrealism. Meanwhile, in the midst of all that raring appreciation, Steven Universe managed to come along and completely blindside me.
Also a top contender for catchiest theme song
The intro is here.
This week’s episode is pretty true to form and self-contained, since its main contribution to the overall plot is introducing Jigen. But there’s a thing or two we can talk about anyway.
Episode Specifics: After pushing her luck a bit too far at a mob casino and wagering herself to the owner, Fujiko sets out to earn her freedom back. The casino’s owner, Cicciolina, gives two conditions: she must steal a .357 magnum from a man named Daisuke Jigen, and witness what will happen to the end. Of course, Jigen and Cicciolina have a history and of course her husband’s death wasn’t what it seems – we’ve got a stone cold pulp fiction here.
When it comes to film, there are few things that fill my heart with joy as quickly as a dance scene. And while this goes a long way to explaining my adoration of musicals, there’s a special place in my heart for non-musical films that proclaim ‘sit down and shut up. We’re going to have some dancing now.’
It’s a wonderfully versatile storytelling device, with an enormous array of styles and histories available to convey any number of feelings. That kind of raw, directly representational movement, when it’s done well, can stir up fierce emotion in a way dialogue couldn’t. Of course, when done badly it can bring the whole film down. So just for fun, let’s take a look at five examples of dance scenes in film (musicals being exempted, because that’s a whole different rule set to deal with), and what they impart.
The intro is here.
And here do we take our first revisiting steps into the world of Fujiko Mine. The first episode lays its cards quite plainly on the table, flashing enough skin and flair to keep you from noticing, just enough like what you might call a typical Lupin heist to seduce the unexpecting into something new. Let’s get to the categories.
Episode Specifics: Here we have the fated meeting of Lupin and Fujiko, and the beginning of their rivalry – both have infiltrated a cult based around Fraulein Eule, and are looking to steal the stuff. Their race is put off by the arrival of Zenigata and his lieutenant (not to mention the loot dissolving into the sea), but before they part Lupin declares his intent to steal the lady thief.
Okay kids, who can tell me about the purpose and usage of narrative parallels?
Get back here
As I was saying, narrative parallelism is when you use two similar moments, characters, etc. to induce a revelation in character or audience. This can range from a chick-flick type moment, where the lead sees a happy family just after running from The One and realizes he CAN’T live without her after all; to ‘facets of character’ comparisons like Batman and his rogue’s gallery, to thematic connections like the twin art-and-death undertones of The Wind Rises. But it’s rare that I see a show filled with as many deliberate parallels as Samurai Flamenco – from characters, to relationships, to the very tradition it honors.
Those who’ve found themselves hanging around this blog for a while (or for more than a few minutes, really) are generally made aware of two things: I’ve got that English major itch to analyze, whether it’s putting work in a new context or just bringing out a mad tweak of meaning in something; and I can talk a blue streak about the long-running and venerable franchise Lupin III. For a beautiful moment in 2012 these two things came together on a grand scale, resulting in the gorgeous to all, baffling to many, and beloved to me series titled The Woman Called Fujiko Mine.
Give me a minute
I’ll be back as soon as I finish swooning over the art design
Of the many things that are shaping up to be intriguing about nascent auteur Sayo Yamamoto’s work, foremost among them is her portrayal of women. That is to say, her works are populated with female characters from a Technicolor spectrum of personality and purpose, varied and deftly shaded and as real as any male character would be expected to be. Take Michiko & Hatchin, her first outing as a series director – it might start as one-woman-army Michiko’s journey to reunite with the man who left her, dragging that man’s child (Hana/Hatchin) along for the ride, but that’s nowhere near the point. In fact Hiroshi, the missing man in question, is so far removed from the story that he eventually starts to seem more myth than being. By the end, he’s less the happy ending that our main characters thought they wanted and more an unattainable dream that they’d convinced themselves would solve everything. Yup, Hiroshi is Sayo Yamamoto’s Prince Charming.
Michiko might be faking that disgusted look, but I’m not