Have you found yourself wondering if there are any mostly-to-completely useless episodes of Fujiko Mine? Wonder no farther: it’s this one. But we’re going to wring some relevance from it regardless.
Episode Specifics: Fujiko finds herself caught up in the political tensions of Carib, posing as a journalist and having become the lover of Totally Not Fidel Castro in the hopes of learning the location of the country’s secret oil fields. Meanwhile the country teeters on the brink of revolution, and an assassination attempt threatens to cut short Totally Not Fidel’s declaration of national independence to the UN. Also Goemon is there, bearing up his proud franchise position as living plot device.
It probably would’ve been faster if I’d just posted a summary of the Bay of Pigs, a failed assassination attempt on Fidel Castro in 1961, and drawn anime eyes and crosshatching over it (there are elements of 1962’s Cuban Missile Crisis as well, what with the heavy emphasis on the doomsday clock).
I feel like I’m on the Magic School Bus: Cold War Edition
This whole episode serves to situate the events of the series at a tangible and specific point in history, a fairly sharp contrast from the rest of the franchise save for Green Jacket (incidentally, the Bay of Pigs took place in 1961, and Goemon cites “Beware the Time Machine” as occurring in 1972). For those who were uncertain about the show’s time period and offers more specific context when it comes to extrapolating other themes and character situations (did you know one of Kennedy’s major projects was an attempt to nationalize mental health care? And that it didn’t particularly end well?), but seems somewhat unnecessary to devote a whole episode to. Like “The Lady and the Samurai” this is another Dai Sato episode, and is far and away the least interested in playing on any of the show’s many grapplings with various aspects of feminism (aside of some further ponderings by Goemon near the end, touching a bit further on the virgin/whore dichotomy).
It does carry much of the rich visual flair of Sayo Yamamoto’s debut series, Michiko & Hatchin (which took place in a fictionalized Brazil), but is so out there in tone and subject matter (it’s closest to the paranoia thriller, which didn’t really come to prominence as an American genre until the 70s) as to completely broadside the viewer.
Michael Bay would be so proud of you
Lupin Lore: The ‘impending nuclear Armageddon’ plot was a prominent feature of Lupin’s first theatrical film, Secret of Mamo (which is absolutely littered with Cold War mentality and is probably the most period-affixed of the Lupin films from a tonal perspective). The war room scenes in this episode in particular recall the film, and the nation of ‘Yamerica’ is a carryover as well. Fujiko being undressed or tortured by villainous characters, often in a far more sexualized light than this episode depicts, has also cropped up fairly frequently in the franchise history (the very first Green Jacket episode uses it, Episode 0 has it, and there is a more exact nudity-via-whip-damage instance from one of the 90s specials that is not presently leaping to mind – help from any eagle eyed Lupin fan would be most appreciated).
Suddenly Owls: None! Mr. Sato will remember this plot element existing in his third script.
Oscar Watch: Also none, as Totally Not Cuba’s governmental upheaval falls outside of ICPO’s current list of priorities.
You have no idea how much I don’t want to talk about this
Themes: It’s difficult to find a place to approach this episode from on a multitude of reasons, the first being of course that this episode is not actually about Fujiko. And the guy it IS about is one of history’s more divisive political figures – as a thorough Yamerican, I grew up hearing less about the creation of a functional independent state and updating/socialization of the government and more about the whole multiple human rights abuses thing. So having Totally Not Castro the well-meaning groovy guy is rather a strange experience, and not well enough developed within the text proper to be truly compelling (and this is long before the crowbarred excuse to have Goemon in the episode by way of the bakumatsu connection.
Nor does TNC bear much in the way of effective thematic parallels to Fujiko – while both are lovers of beauty and freedom his context and the echoing effects of responsibilities are so vastly different as to be incomparable to Fujiko’s struggle for personal emancipation. If anything, going too far with it leads down a few less than pleasant avenues: does Fujiko represent all women through her personal desires and struggles, as TNC becomes the face and future determiner of the country he leads? To say ‘yes’ to that question is an absurdity, as one woman cannot possibly be asked to act as figurehead for the entirety of her gender…and yet that is so often what happens in the longheld media tradition of the ‘token girl’ (we’ve progressed in modern media to TWO token girls, the innocent one and the wild/villainous/sexy one). And while that is certainly an interesting concept, the script is so locked into TNC and then Goemon’s perspective’s to do anything particularly interesting or subversive with the thought.
The real mystery is how she achieved such a flawless tan in a couple of hours
The biggest problem is what a left field contribution this is in light of the episodes before and after it: “Prison of Love” frames the seductive mystique of feminine/Other identity as a trap and a torment, and “Dying Day” relates, in part, Fujiko’s attempts to claim ownership over her own life and destiny despite being told her destined death. Both are wrapped inextricably around our central character (and Oscar in the former, but he gets a pass by way of being a deliberate foil to Fujiko), and have to do with her agency both as individual and woman. “Music and Revolution” falls back on viewing the feminine Other through Goemon’s eyes, and makes Fujiko the passive feminine observer to the political revolution (her own barely-mentioned goals notwithstanding). It alienates our protagonist from her own story, and that’s a shame. So let’s put this one on the back burners of our minds, and settle in for the real roller coaster next week.