Nothing else matters even remotely, because this is the episode with the roller coaster fight and it is the COOLEST THING EVER. Also this is a two part finale, so there’s a bit more setup than payoff going on today.
Episode Specifics: Our five main players have all been drawn to the ominous Glaucus Park, and the stage has been set for the final confrontation. While Fujiko and Zenigata navigate a horrifying maze of Fujiko doubles, and Goemon is doing…something, Lupin (and Jigen) are once more approached by that ubiquitous owl messenger and offered a new (non-refusable) mission – kill Fujiko Mine.
This scene is well on its way to ruining boobs forever
If the team behind this show didn’t intend the reject-Fujiko segment as a giant reference to A Clockwork Orange I will eat a hat. Possibly the bowler hat that one of the extras is wearing, the one that’s the same as Alex’s. It’s a logical choice for homage on quite a few levels: this is the series that certainly gets its share of knocks for an excess of nudity and disturbing content, which was quite famously levelled at Clockwork when it came out (NC-17 didn’t yet exist, so it did in fact receive the legendary X rating); beneath the recognizable hat/white pants/suspenders outfits many of the women also resemble the mannequins from the film’s bar, just to drive home the subtext a little more (…besides the stiff, almost Thriller-esque moves and the mechanical sound effects); and most important of all, the fact that Clockwork is a story about the tantamount importance of free will – that the ability to choose one’s own actions (even if those actions harm others) is the core of being a human being (yeah, I don’t think much of that last chapter).
Nope, no joke. That would be pretty much an instant damnation ticket
I also suspect that we may have been party to the weirdest Les Miserables reference ever. There is Miyazaki’s Laputa, Castle in the Sky, which might be the more intuitive reference to peg (the creators being from the same country and all), but I’m going to stick with the British musical based on the French one about France’s favorite novel. Mostly because the song “Castle on a Cloud” was a child’s approximation of a magic solution for her current miserable life – while Almeda’s castle is a theoretical improvement (leave the irradiated lab! Have nice things in a beautiful home!) in reality it couldn’t get much worse. Meanwhile, “Almeda’s” commentary distorts their relationship as ‘love’ – the supposed kind, quiet and gentle parent Cosette imagines.
Lupin Lore: As I’m fairly sure is required of all up and coming anime directors, this episode makes its homage to the tower jump from Castle of Cagliostro. The amusement park setting also sets up a good opportunity for some more callbacks to “Where Did the Cinderella Stamp Go?” (including one silhouetted shot in the tunnel that strikes me as fairly exact).
(A HUGE thanks to K in the comments for reminding me that I forgot the biggest reference of all in this episode! There was in fact a (less gorgeously animated but still fantastic) rollercoaster fight in the 90s special Tokyo Crisis. I can’t believe I forgot that.)
And since we’re not going to talk about Goemon much until next week –
Shit guys, we forgot to write Goemon into the finale. What do we do
This one’s a bit more of a stretch, but I’ll give it the credit just on the grounds of being a favorite Red Jacket episode of mine. Goemon captured and at the mercy of evil forces seeking to use them for their own ends was rather infamously the subject of “Goemon’s Close Call,” which started with Goemon singing YMCA in a hot spring and then delved real dark with the torture (weirdly enough, the reference point for me is seeing Goemon’s fundoshi go flying off once the ‘surgery’ starts – in Red Jacket that was Lupin’s big indicator that something was amiss). Yeah, I know. Lemme have this one.
No it’s fine, the Floo powder will just send it somewhere for safekeeping.
He’s a jokester of a scumbag, that owl man
Suddenly Owls: This episode almost doesn’t need me anymore. Lupin lays out Aisha-Almeda’s plan for the first time viewing audience, and makes the discovery that the owl messenger is not who she sounds to be. We know from the horse’s mouth that Fujiko’s life was ‘stolen’ and that the events of the series were all manipulated to produce the results as they appear (the Almeda we see is, I suspect, part Fujiko’s hallucination and part sleight of hand to keep from giving Aisha away before the next episode).
Honestly, I just want to know how the giant bull fits into the plan
Oscar Watch: Oscar’s not so much himself this week – stuck amidst the imperfect doubles he’s the only one who looks almost identical to Fujiko in face. The cinematography sets him up as her opposite number (in one of my favorite shots), just in case we didn’t get it before. And this scene is also dead important for first time viewers – this is the point where the question ‘hey, why is Oscar one of the Fujiko doubles’ comes into play. Sure, he was impersonating her, but dig a little under the surface and you come across all the things we’ve been talking about over the past few weeks.
A special spotlight on Zenigata this week, as his entire purpose for coming along on this venture is to uncover the truth about Oscar’s supposed death. His behavior toward Fujiko and Oscar in this episode make for excellent foils of each other – he wants to avenge Oscar, having expected him to take care of himself until the point when it was too late to offer any help; Fujiko, on the other hand, he seems to want to save at the first sign of her breakdown, actually asking what’s wrong rather than sitting to the side until the last minute and then giving a vaguely directed rebuke-pep talk.
There’s a wealth of detail in this series as to the harmful suppositions and prejudices against women in media and society – Oscar’s story is both queer perspective and the damage that society wreaks on young men. Women can ask for help, can be perceived as ‘weak;’ men are expected to stifle their emotion and get over things, to be self-reliant even when, as with any normal human being, they’re in desperate need of help (remember kids, the patriarchy hurts everybody!).
Are we in hell or an anime figure shop?
Themes: While our protagonists mosey through the predator catching edition of “It’s a Small World,” (because there are no words and no jokes to accurately describe what a disgusting, monstrous human being Almeda was) let us ask ourselves what’s meaningful about this thing we’ll never unsee. The mannequins representing Fujiko are a way to soften the blow of the incredibly dark material (as opposed to those happy funtime narratives about child abuse), but they’re also a sharp little dig at anime itself. Fujiko is an adult, and so are all of the broken prototypes that she encounters later on. But the ride, the happy, sunny face singing about how all this was done for the sake of how wonderful Fujiko is and how much they all love her, is populated only by dolls of girls.
Because sex sells, but youth is the pinnacle of achievement and the only voice worth listening to in a great deal of media, anime included – how many anime are there about students and teenagers, both where it is fitting and where the protagonists should be much older in order to have learned the skills they possess? How many moe anime are there where the 14 year old heroine looks exactly the same age as her mother? And how many of these shows, with their incredibly childlike designs, are filled to the brim with varying degrees of sexualization and fanservice (the name for the Loli archetype comes originally from Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, which was in no way setting out to endorse the horrible HH’s kidnapping of an adolescent girl).
Hey, do you get it. Because the archetype Fujiko was forced into doesn’t exist in reality.
They are not ‘real’ girls, of course, in the same way that anime characters are not real individuals to be exploited. But they reflect something real – the dolls reflect the memories of the real abuse Aisha suffered under the guise of a cheerful commercial endeavor; and anime, as all art does, reflects and influences cultural expectations. We create things that are fake, and those things unconsciously influence those who watch them – create an environment where an anime starring an adult woman who looks the part (indeed, a fully adult cast) is an increasingly rare sight, and real women are then living with jokes that become real consequences (‘she’s over 25 and unmarried, ha ha how pathetically hilarious and desperate,’ or the terrifying ‘she’s saying no but really she’s interested’).
The ride is a fiction, a supposed funhouse, and yet is has a palpably real effect on Fujiko. And lo and behold, in the next room we are treated to the real women who were failed attempts to model that created environment – Fujiko is the success only in that she was able to escape that environment and the weight of those expectations, and is quickly going mad when pinned back under them.