We’re so close. I can see the shore.
The rampant success of Lupin III Part IV (or “Blue Jacket,” colloquially) seems to have stirred new interest in the franchise. Which means a fair number of poor souls who try to take things chronologically – an admirable feat up until one inevitably runs up against Red Jacket, the character’s most famous outing. I’ve seen a lot of earnest souls crash and burn trying to binge those 155 episodes, unaware that three years of content that premiered weekly come hell or high water means a veritable rollercoaster of quality. When Red is good, it’s some of the best stuff the franchise has to offer. And when it is bad, it makes you regret setting out in the first place.
The nice part is that the series’ total lack of continuity makes it easy to cherry pick sample episodes, a flavor for people who want to get a sense of anime history and a solid foundation for anyone who wants to eventually make the deep dive. So let me give you my top ten – not anything like an objective list, because that is a fool’s errand with that kind of backlog, but a way to share the love and decrease the daunting factor at least a little bit (don’t worry, I’m here to help you out with Green Jacket too).
And for those who’re curious, yes you should absolutely try the dub when it’s available. The translation’s loose as can be, particularly in the early going, but often in a wonderfully self-deprecating way and backed up by a truly wonderful cast. Nothing’s going to replace the original (and you’ll end up watching both, since only half the show was dubbed), but it’s a treat.
Note: For ease of search, these are listed in airing order rather than ranked. I’ve also tried to include as many of the relevant eight million title translations as possible.
In the tunnels below and the singular monolithic tower looming above an icy, postapocalyptic wasteland, the policies of Hartlife huddle close together and listen to recorded histories of the company’s glorious history. Such is the stage for Our Fair City, a serialized podcast created by veterans of the Chicago theatre scene and spanning, thus far, six completed seasons.
In 1973, the Rocky Horror Show opened in London. In 1975 it was adapted into The Rocky Horror Picture Show with Tim Curry in arguably his most iconic performance, and the fandom that grew up around that theatrical flop came to define the cultural reference of what a cult film following looks like. You can go to just about any city in America and find a midnight showing of the film, and the show is all but guaranteed to show up at Halloween (in America and its home country of England). And FOX, after hemming and hawing about it for years, is finally looking to cash in on that sweet, sweet remake money (or “reimagining,” but hold that thought). This is the worst idea, and not in the usual “worst idea” way in that remakes tend to be poorly thought out and offer little new interpretive value beyond “we cast younger actors and got better cameras, money please.”
The deeper trouble is that Rocky Horror is in the unenviable position of having become a cultural mainstay for long enough that it is really starting to show its age. The disparity between what queer culture was when the stage show and film were produced and what it is now are whole universes apart. And that has resulted in a gap of sorts: you have the predominately straight or mainstream audience who views the film as a fun exercise in camp and potentially takes the parody on display at face value (thus perpetuating harmful stereotypes), and you have a young queer audience who’ve grown up in a world where a spectrum of positive, diverse representation from Steven Universe to Orange is the New Black exists, and they dismiss the film as harmful trash with no redeeming value whatsoever. The truth, by my estimation, is somewhere between these extremes: Rocky Horror has certainly aged poorly in some regards, and to say that those outdated portions are more harmful than helpful is a perfectly valid position; at the same time, not only has the film been a respite for thousands of outcasts since its release (and the play before it), but it continues to be subversive in some interesting ways that I rarely see addressed.