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.
We arrive now at part two, centering on those actors whose work goes unappreciated, maybe more so for the fact that they’re surrounded by talented fellow actors. But that only makes it all the more a shame that their contributions go unsung.
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?
Or: Probably the Only Time You’ll See Hayao Miyazaki Compared to Frank Miller
Spring season is finally bringing us a new installment of Lupin III, dear readers. As much as I adore The Woman Called Fujiko Mine (and I do, emphatically), it was quite the departure for the series’ established MO – a contained, stylish thought experiment and deliberate period piece rather than a fast-and-loose adventure story with a consistent core cast. Meanwhile, the new “Blue Jacket” (premiere date undetermined at time of writing outside of the general spring 2015 timeline) seems set not only on returning to the adventure of the week formula but in finally updating the thief to the modern day – and I’ll be particularly interested in seeing how deep that goes. Annual Lupin specials might have had modern tech interludes (who can forget the oddity of Goemon using an iPhone), but the character writing has never really felt like it left the 70s.
In fact, while I’ll fight for the highest caliber entries of the franchise’s status as timeless classics, it can be really tough to sell a modern anime fan on getting into Lupin. Part of that’s the age (particularly in the art style), but beyond that I hear over and over again that the amount of content is just overwhelming. We’re talking over 40 years of animation, after all. And it’s not always evident from the outside how loose the continuity between series is – not to mention the many, many different tones and takes over the years, meaning there can be different “best starting places” for everyone. But I think I’ve finally got a way to explain it to people: Lupin III is like Batman.
Not the go-to comparison (that’s usually, off the cuff, “James Bond meets Bugs Bunny”), but it works. Trust me, I can prove it.
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.
[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.