Token attempts will be made to discuss the other scraps of plot development going on this episode, but let us not pretend your humble analyst hasn’t been counting down the weeks until this episode. This week’s all about one character – the interpretive cornucopia that is Oscar.
Not sure if idealized memory or really bizarre champagne commercial
Episode Specifics: Increasingly unhinged and desperate for Zenigata’s attention, Oscar has begun committing thefts under the guise of Fujiko Mine. Zenigata, wise to his lieutenant’s actions but unaware of his motives, removes himself from the case entirely. Sensing an opening, the owl men step in to twist Oscar’s weakness to their advantage.
The Revolutionary Girl Utena homages return in force this week, in keeping with the last Oscar-centric episode. This time around the ‘shadow players’ are borrowed, a conceit from Utena that was used to comment, morality play style, on each episode’s theme. Here the shadow play is in fact a shadow film (look at the tears in the screen, the deliberately fuzzed picture quality, and the projector noise) – marking out the owls’ plans for Oscar. And unlike the shadow girls, who were mysterious beings moving under their own power, the shadow film’s Oscar moves on strings, with no dialogue of his own.
Also returning (more on precedence than anything) is the concept of boxes and coffins, one of Utena’s most important themes – the entirety of the Owls’ plan hinges on getting Oscar to believe he must fill the role of the Bride (by way of a dress that eclipses its wearer – a designation that erases the individual person for the sake of the premade mold). The concept of “bride” itself is also of major import in Utena: the Rose Bride is not an individual person but an object that bestows power on her fiancé/owner, who has no power or will of her own – something she initially did for the sake of a loved one, only to find herself trapped and hated.
Gaslighting your way to restrictive gender and sexual roles for fun and profit
Oscar, likewise, has given up his subsumed his sense of self in the hopes of attaining what he thinks he wants, because to step outside of those roles leaves no place for him – something he does not yet know he would regret.
Fujicakes, you seem to be wearing a bustier-dentata
On the other side of things, a brief shout out to the black lingerie Fujiko is wearing during her stay at Goemon’s cabin in the woods. Like the stereotypical and impractical unzipped catsuit we discussed during the beginning of her breakdown, black lingerie is traditionally used as coding for femme fatales or other morally ‘fallen’ women (Hitchcock even used it for Marian Crane in Psycho, just in case you needed an excuse to watch that masterpiece). Using that wardrobe choice while Goemon attempts to play the ‘One Good Man’ (he’s shifted generic expectations now, so he’s going to ‘save’ her from herself) harps on the long tradition of characterization (which would be paradoxically current – Psycho was released a year before this theoretically takes place).
Lupin Lore: One thing I neglected to mention in the last go round is that Lupin’s had a run in with Oscar before – a curly haired law-keeper (in a manner of speaking) who took on the guise of another gender in order to achieve a goal. Of course that was the Oscar of Rose of Versailles (a hugely influential piece of early shoujo, and spiritual predecessor to Utena – you can even see their pointed homage to Oscar in Juri’s hairstyle), a biological female passing as male, but still. Lupin and Oscar met in Red Jacket’s “Versailles Burned with Love,” one of four fan-submitted episode ideas. And of course, that ubiquitous cabin in the woods, which made many an appearance in Green Jacket (there was only one, and the weekly villains all had a convenient timeshare) – including one instance of an extremely damseled Fujiko forcibly holed up there with a former lover and a deadly wound (physical, not emotional, but hey).
How long have you been doing that, again?
FUCKING OWLS: So, if Aisha’s entire plan revolved around manipulating, and later destroying, Fujiko, then why bring Oscar into it at all? On the one hand, it gives Zenigata a reason to come along to the Amusement Park from Hell, but wouldn’t Fujiko have come on her own? Nah, it can’t be that simple. We’re looking at the B-side of the experiment here.
So the dub line for this is explicitly ‘haven’t you manipulated me enough,’ which makes more sense (to me) given how much he would theoretically know about Almeda
Incidentally, worth watching this one dubbed solely for Josh Grelle
Oscar’s breakdown in the last few episodes has mirrored Fujiko’s own, without the added bonus of getting to see inside his head – we do get to see inside Fujiko’s head, though, so we have a rough estimation of what Oscar might be seeing, if indeed he did receive the implants. It could even be that he was one of the original cast-offs who was experimented on by Almeda, given the prominent and unexplained tattoo on his chest that matches Aisha’s foot brand (Fujiko, by contrast, has memories of receiving the brand but no actual marks). And assuming it’s been roughly 13 years since the events at the chemical plant, Oscar could well have been one of the last of the original batch of test subjects released into the world (if we consider him early 20s, the timeline about matches up). He’s the other great (and likely unintentional) “what if” scenario – what if Aisha had been male. Why, then, did Aisha’s focus shift to Fujiko?
Hey, remember how aggression was one of the effects of Fraulein Eule poisoning?
In the next major exposition dump, we’ll find out that all of the other ‘what-ifs’ killed themselves shortly after release (there’s even a grainy shot of a small, curly haired child jumping from a tall ledge). Oscar should have died jumping from that bridge, were it not for Zenigata’s intervention. It’s not too hard to imagine, given the tech of the time, that the owls lost track of him and presumed him dead until his paths crossed with Fujiko.
Given the complete reversal of Oscar’s demeanor pre- and post- bridge jump, I’d also postulate that he suffered some kind of head trauma when he hit the water, causing a bout of amnesia (much the same as Fujiko locked away her implanted memories accidentally, explaining why they begin to show similar trajectories once they’re re-exposed to triggers). By the time all this comes to light, however, Aisha is no longer interested in playing her game. She’s looking to destroy Fujiko now, not to watch her – so Oscar is not so much another toy to be watched as he is a pawn with pre-programmed buttons to push.
Zenigata knows many things. How to properly apply bandages is not one of them
Hint: they work better when they’re on the actual wounds
Oscar Watch: Oh, there is absolutely still stuff to talk about in this section. We’ve known about Oscar’s feelings for a while, but there’s a whole new (disturbing) layer to build in now. Take Oscar waking up in the tent – if we accept the amnesia precept, he’s tabula rasa in that moment. And the first thing he sees, and immediately attaches to, is his future father figure (it’s interesting to note that he doesn’t see Zenigata’s face until after he gets the coin back, and Almeda’s face is always obscured by the owl-hallucination). Quick, what happened with father figures in Almeda’s castle?
I’ll wait while you take that shower.
The most important relationship in Oscar’s life becomes warped over time (we don’t know how long he’s had these feelings, but it would seem that he’s isolated from any other significant relationships by his own choice). He was likely a shy and skittish kid, given our first introduction is him being chased and bullied, and no doubt made some enemies climbing up the chain of police command so quickly.
At some point, it becomes easier to idolize one person as all things rather than face the walls and fears one has built around themselves (in this way, he somewhat resembles Utena’s Nanami). His hero worship becomes affected by burgeoning sexuality (which, having no other outlet, also transfers onto Zenigata), and he begins to loathe himself.
Did not one person, at any point, stop and say,
‘I wonder why this small child has an enormous brand on his chest?’
The historically favored (and unspeakably problematic) interpretation would be that the history of abuse lead to a queer identity – that because of Almeda’s influence, even subconsciously, Oscar was somehow ‘turned’ gay. Which is of course a skin-crawling means of trying to somehow rationalize queerness used in many a 20th century story…but I don’t think it’s what Yamamoto was going for here. This is one of the best reasons I can think of as to why Oscar’s backstory has so many clues that aren’t commented on – and why the amnesia aspect is so important. Oscar clearly has a bit of a crush on Zenigata from the very first episode, but it neither makes him less effective nor seems to cause him much distress.
It’s only when he meets Fujiko, when his own memories start interfering and he comes face to face with the false societal roles he believes he must take, that his behavior becomes violent and self-loathing. It’s not that Oscar’s sexuality is unnatural, but rather that the cultural assumptions about and demonization of that sexuality are maddeningly toxic.
Little known fact: Oscar was the first owner of Marsellus Wallace’s legendary glowing suitcase
Themes: Let’s start with the episode’s title, because there’s a LOT to unpack there. The feast of fools is, most basically speaking, a celebratory day where the high and low members of a given society switch position (younger readers may recall it as that emotionally scarring scene in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame). In its most recent incarnation (by which I mean medieval society and beyond) it’s a Catholic holiday held on the first of the year, meant to emphasize that beatitude about “the first shall be last/the meek shall inherit the earth.” However, like a lot of Catholic holidays, the holiday has its roots in Pagan traditions, co-opted for the sake of mass conversion but presented as originally belonging to the co-opter.
Why bring all that up? The first of the year is meant to be a time of newness and change, despite taking place in the dead of winter (Oscar’s desire for transformation and change). As we discussed, the insidious owl plan involved co-opting Oscar’s identity (as a gay man – given his strong attachment to the concept of strength and masculinity pre-breakdown, I don’t think we can accurately identify him as a trans individual) and telling him that he must instead fit into their fabricated social identities in order to achieve his goals (a very common depiction of gay men in the mid 20th century – take something like Kiss of the Spider Woman or The Boys in the Band and really soak in the musk of self-loathing). And on the most basic level of all, there is of course Oscar being played for a fool in all these machinations.
And finally, there is the very structure of the episode. Just about every viewer, I would wager, expected Oscar to be dead at the end of this episode. Not just because of the fake-out ending, but because that’s how these stories are expected to go. Anime in particular is guilty, when it includes queer characters at all (outside of the ghetto of BL and GL works, which have their own host of issues) of making them sexless comic relief characters or unrequitedly in love with one of the (obviously straight) main characters.
Never once is the audience expected to believe that the character’s affections will be returned. If it’s a comedy, it’ll be milked for “hilarious” awkward comedy (often centered around the main character being grossed out at the very idea of being hit on by the same sex); if it’s a tragedy, that character is getting the axe (either by suicide or noble sacrifice, if the show is feeling charitable). In the grossest scenario, the queer character realizes their feelings were a farce all along, and they go about falling for someone ‘acceptable’ (read: of the opposite sex – this one pops up in shoujo a lot). It’s not limited to anime, of course – the excellent documentary The Celluloid Closet explores the history of this phenomenon in western film – but anime gets special notice for it being relentlessly true about 95% of the time.
There is simply no narrative in place, no history to call on, where the pining queer character goes through heartbreak, recovers, and then…say…finds another queer person who might return their affections. By the laws of traditional narrative, the only one he’s allowed under the puppet strings of Aisha-Almeda (which are also trying so hard to ensnare Fujiko into the ‘damaged sexual woman’ trap) Oscar should be dead. But that’s not the case. So, whatever are we to do with a problem like that?
my partner and I just finished watching this series today, upon your recommendation (we tried watching it independently and were initially put off by what we perceived as simple male gaze and queerbaiting) — your reviews have been incredibly enlightening and I’m really glad you were able to get all your thoughts out and share them with the nebulous consciousness-hive known as the internet.
when we watched this episode, our main take-away was that oscar was acting out a subconscious association between himself and fujiko so as to attract the attention of the object of his desires; because oscar exists and operates in a framework in which it is Impossible To Be Anything But Straight (if one is to be fulfilled in any way, at least). as you’ve talked about, there has historically been a lot of postulating that ‘he must become a woman if he wants a man’. back to the episode: once the owl showed up and suggested that an even better candidate for zenigata’s desire was lupin, oscar appeared to become so infuriated that he almost destroyed the equipment. we couldn’t believe it, I think we had to watch it twice. the owl was directly stating that in order for oscar to fulfill his wants and desires, which have been all but explicitly outlined in detail, oscar should go even beyond becoming someone who zenigata canonically fucked: oscar should become lupin. so then, what IS beyond that? (and here’s where I write an entire essay within an essay about all the different grecian concepts of love and relationships…anyway…) predictably, we mostly payed extra special attention to this part because we have kind of a lupin and zenigata thing. mostly we have a queer representation thing, but we also love that zenigata is often a bafflingly sympathetic and cute character, and that he seems to be willing to go to the ends of the earth to capture a man he can’t live without, and that lupin seems to equally enjoy messing around with these feelings and reciprocate them to a degree.
also, my partner was one of those devastated by the naruto ending, as one who had been a victim of all the narusasu queerbaiting, and has told me that lupin iii has been a sort of healing process for them, what with its occasional subtle queerness (and occasional not subtle at all queerness…wow pink jacket…wow…) and its intentional shying away from permanently (or even semi-permanently) pairing characters off simply for the sake of enforcing heterosexuality. however, because they brought up naruto, I realized something: if a work of fiction, especially a series, never brings up ANY overt or explicitly stated queer characters, us queerinos must assume one of two things: that either queers do not exist in the fictional universe, or they do exist, we are just coincidentally not actively observing them being overtly queer. just like the fermi paradox, it is more ridiculous to assume that queers do not exist at all than to postulate that they do exist, and we merely cannot actively observe them through immediate and obvious means. therefore, a work of fiction that intentionally shies away from ANY overt queer characters actually makes itself exponentially queerer as we can now define nearly anything as being possibly indicative of queerness.
what I’m getting at, here, is that oscar as a character actually makes every other character “straighter” by acknowledging queer characters (and assuring us that if and when queerness exists, it will be overtly referred to; so this actually dulls the action of lupin wooing jigen by cooking him a meal, in my eyes, but only by so much) while simultaneously making him a vehicle of sorts through which queer voices are represented. therefore, when lupin is brought up squarely in the middle of his assertion that in order to get closer to zenigata, he must bring himself into the framework of straightness, he becomes LIVID that the solution could be so — easy? close to what he actually wants? or, even more painfully, that the problem isn’t his sexuality and the problems that come with being queer in his time and place, but with him, fundamentally, and that there is no escaping being him.
we’re a bit embarrassed that all those thoughts were our first thoughts and not all that much about the actual owl plot serving as the skeleton for the series, but oh well.
Holy cow, I had to take a minute. This might be one of the most touching things a reader’s ever sent me. I’m so glad your partner was able to find Lupin as a safe place, AND that my little essays were able to help you two parse this series in an okay (as in, a way where you could get enjoyment rather than pain out of it) way (truth: I very nearly stopped watching my first time through this anime on this particular episode, because I fully expected the Tragic Dead Gay trope. It’s really a demanding show, just on the grounds of the very difficult tropes it’s parsing).
As for shows where introducing one queer character seems to draw all focus away and hetero out the rest of the cast, I definitely recognize what you’re talking about. I don’t think that was Yamamoto’s intent here (Lupin’s behavior toward Jigen still reads pretty flirtatiously nonetheless, and there’s the here and there about women being attracted to Fujiko), but I think it’s a fair argument. In truth, I’m dead interested to see what Yamamoto’s next anime looks like. As far as I know she’s working from a straight feminist perspective, but there’s almost always at least some undercurrent of queerness in her work, and it’s gotten better and defter by touch every time she attempts it. If Oscar was a grand experiment, then I want to see what she learned from him.
Best to you two (and may I suggest hitting up Rainbow Jacket if you ever want to expound queer Lupin thoughts? It’s been quiet for lack of content submission lately, but its great mods are always around).
I am glad to hear you enjoyed my long ass comment haha (here comes another one — sorry!); you deserve it, truly! (I ought to mention: I also read through your brilliant review of green vs red, and if I had the attention span and energy, I’d write a whole other mini-essay-comment about that. I really enjoy your reviews of the green jacket episodes, as well, which were actually the episodes I started with. let me get back to that in a bit, this aside is too long.) oh! I apologize for insinuating that oscar as a singular queer character took ALL the power out of any queer gesture, goodness gracious! that would be lame. especially since my partner enjoyed the catholic schoolgirl lesbians so much, having been raised catholic themself, heh! what I meant to say was that when fermi paradox queerness is in effect, the entire surface area of the work of fiction becomes coated in queer gunpowder, so that even the smallest, most minute potential queerness becomes incredibly potent and dangerous! on the milder end, it means one can headcanon any character whose sexuality is never even remotely mentioned as anything one wants. on the less mild end, it can lead to “standing in the same room together?! ROMANTICALLY INVOLVED!” — which is only as ridiculous as the fermi paradox queerness atmosphere that created it, really.
anyway, the scene in which lupin makes a meal for jigen is incredibly intimate and, with the added context of it mirroring the green jacket scene, so spectacularly romantic that it’s harshing my “aromantic jigen” jam. in all seriousness, though, I am sorry for seeming that I was insinuating that important elements of FM like these are invalid because one character is a queer black hole that sucks up all other queer voices and elements of the series. I did mean to say, however, that oscar can serve as a nifty lens through which we can look at the queerness of the other characters; when there is queerness about, oscar’s involvement can serve to better buoy the discussion/probability/what have you. that is what I was seeing with the zenigata n lupin thing. not that there’s any shortage of discussion/probability/what have you on that front, but oscar brought a whole new car of “woah” to the thought train.
and I, too, am frustrated by oscar’s hanging plot thread. I believe it to be the single weakest element of FM, seeing that everything else was not only neatly tied-up but also set to easily touch down in and serve as a transition into GreenJacketLand. actually, that may be why oscar was mysteriously left in the spooky owl castle, along with all those other women. how are they getting fed? where do they sleep? can they even sleep, with all those dolls singing about fujiko all the time? who knows. the metaphor runs dry, here. that could be all oscar was meant to serve as: a metaphor.
anyway, thank you kindly, I should actually mention that we found rainbow jacket through our bewildered amusement at the overly affectionate characters and heartwarming interactions. I’m always the one to play the devil’s straight advocate on these matters, but woah, even I was scratching my head at lupin iii. it was cool to see that we were not wearing gay goggles, but rather, gay prescription glasses with which to wonder how one couldn’t pick up on it all. unfortunately, we are lazy, hermit-y type people most of the time and don’t usually think to take a screenshot — but I will try to get us off our asses because rainbow jacket is a wonderful thing and I want it to exist more.
as a final and slightly unrelated note, please, for the love of short and brilliant anime, watch space dandy; there’s so much science, and female gaze, and it’s brilliant, please, please watch space dandy if you can get around to it (though I’m sure many other readers are begging you just as fervently to watch other things). I actually started watching green jacket because I wanted something else to put in my brain in-between rewatching space dandy a billion times (lupin iii specifically, though, because I had been aware of its classic status and wanted to put more culture in my brain) — yes, I started with the racing episode and everything, haha. oh, I almost didn’t make it. but here I am. little by little, the series showed itself to be funny and cute and sexy, how I love it so. anyway, space dandy, my friend, if you have not already seen it…space dandy. my favorite season 1 episodes are 7, 9, and 10, and if you (understandably) run out of patience for booby monsters and breastaurants while trying to watch sequentially, be sure to give those a look. I am a person who nearly defines myself by my hatred of racing episodes/movies/anything and that’s what #7’s all about! anyway. here is another ultra long comment. my bad!
I actually watched Space Dandy from the premiere! I enjoyed it a lot, though I wish they’d given two episodes over to that finale. It ended up feeling a tad on the rushed side. But I enjoyed the ride