Yuri!!! On ICE might’ve been one of the best things about 2016. I know that’s is a low bar, but roll with me. It engaged viewers inside and outside anime fandom alike, it offered one of the most positive portrayals of a queer relationship I’ve ever seen in anime, and – most importantly – it’s offered me a chance to talk about Sayo Yamamoto, a director whose works have until now struggled to gain attention despite their high quality.
Remember when the news broke out that we very nearly had an anime prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road? And then remember that other time we all deeply regretted clamoring for supplemental material about Furiosa and the wives, because there was that eye-gougingly horrendous comic that came out? And we were all left feeling simultaneously angry and sad, but then we watched one of the best action films of the past several decades and felt better again? It’s amazing how such a spectacular film can have such difficulty when it comes to other people trying to throw in their interpretation.
Now, one can argue that Fury Road’s success is largely down to the decades George Miller had to think about it, meaning he only returned to his series when he felt he truly had something to say and thus poured all of his energy into presenting a deeply realized world with minimal exposition and a mountain of unremarked upon worldbuilding. And the fact that it’s so deeply felt and personal a project might mean that we’re forever doomed to have lousy Mad Max material (by which I sort of mean Furiosa, much as I loved Tom Hardy’s performance) if it comes from anyone other than Miller’s hand. But just for the sake of argument, consider with me: a Mad Max miniseries as made by Sayo Yamamoto.
The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is both the most nudity-heavy and one of the most thoughtfully feminist anime I have ever seen. It is a damn well made piece of art from one of the most promising up and coming directors in anime, and I’ve documented my love for it fairlyextensively in the past (it plays, indeed, no small part in this blog’s creation). But all that perhaps intimidating gushing aside, it occurs to me that I’ve never really written about the show with a prospective rather than an informed viewer in mind. And while a truly in-depth discussion of the show basically requires discussion of the ending and spoilers generally, I think I can still paint a picture for curious-but-nervous viewers as to why this show is well worth your investment.
A quick summary: Fujiko is a thief, a seductress, and a woman of many mysteries. On one job she crosses paths with famed gentleman thief Arsene Lupin III, setting off a chain of events involving an underground drug cult; strange, spying figures with owl heads, long buried memories, and the men who will one day become her partners in crime. But who is Fujiko Mine…and just who is telling this story, anyhow?
Here we are – the end of the countdown. The anime that are nearest and dearest to me. The ones that I’m quite happy to proselytize with all the spare air in my lungs and talk about until the sun comes up. (I feel almost as though I should give brief mention to the anime that almost-but-not-quite made the list. Eh, perhaps another day).
If you’re of legal age and in the mood for a quick bout of stomach pumping, feel free to take a shot with every glowing superlative I bust out this week. Your liquor cabinets will be as empty as my heart is full.
In honor of the one year anniversary, this month’ll be blocked out for a conversation on Awesome Stuff. This time around, I’ve divided out my top 20 favorite anime. By its nature the list is always in flux, particularly those at the high end of the countdown (I haven’t managed yet to touch Spice & Wolf or Mawaru Penguindrum, for example). But! Whether or not they move off of the formal list in the future, these are all series that captured my imagination, that showed me something new, creative, or different in idea or execution, and that I fully stand behind recommending.
[Editorial Note: The topic of this essay is nigh impossible to discuss without spoilers, given how the show’s narrative is constructed. While I’m usually all for theoretical reading, I’d highly, HIGHLY recommend watching the series before reading on. As you might have noticed, I think it’s kind of great.]
Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine has made its rounds by this point, gaining a respectable and deserved amount of buzz as one of the best anime to come out of 2012 (and if no one else is saying it I am, loudly and determinedly). There’s plenty of praise to go around for the jazzy score (produced by Cowboy Bebop’s Shinichiro Watanabe), the dark and intriguing plot, and the breathtaking action. Granted, it’s a little more on the divisive side among longstanding Lupin fans, but that more often comes down to a debate on whether the tonal departures from the franchise norm are intriguing or irritating.
Still, in my travels across the internet there’s one constant that continually baffles me: nobody seems to like Oscar. Either he’s labeled unnecessary and irritating, resented for the amount of screen time he received, or (in a moment that was at least a nice change of pace, and not out of step with the franchise’s somewhat dubious record on that front) lambasted as being a particularly offensive portrayal of a queer character. I, meanwhile, find myself sitting in the corner with one persistently recurring thesis: Oscar’s the most important thing about The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, after Fujiko herself.