Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Archives for: April 2012, 18

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

11:57:00 pm , 810 words, 6751 views     Categories: Animation, TV, Lupin III

Lupin III: A Woman Called Fujiko Mine #3

The next candidate for introduction after the previous episode was obvious: Goemon. And so it turned out. Now all the players have been introduced. How will they converge?

This episode was super weak. I may have been dissatisfied with the first episode for whatever reason, but at least it was technically well made. This one had the weakest animation so far, and even the directing and story weren't very compelling. The first episode was filled with Sayo Yamamoto touches, the second had great tension and atmosphere, but this one is just kind of bland and safe. It sadly seems to suggest the project didn't have as long a schedule as I was hoping. They were clearly struggling with the drawings on this one. Five sakkans, and they even outsourced 2nd key animation. Some of the drawings in there were painful to see. I don't mean to pick on them, because I'm sure they wanted to do better, but I wish they'd have spent less time putting hatch marks on the characters and more time animating them.

I wouldn't have minded so much that the animation wasn't great - episode 2's animation wasn't that great - but the story and directing didn't make up for that shortfall. I was surprised to find the story to be somewhat tame because I'd heard Sato Dai was writing it and expected something with the irreverent humor and unpredictability of his Samurai Champloo episodes, or at least something to distinguish it as a Sato Dai episode, but there wasn't much. The team of Sato Dai and Sayo Yamamoto did amazing work on that show. It's their episodes I liked best in the show, and it's seeing those episodes that I knew Sayo Yamamoto was a name to watch.

The story isn't bad per se, but it just didn't have many surprises. There was a good train episode early on in the 2nd Lupin III series with some great animation from Kazuhide Tomonaga, so I couldn't help but compare the two and find this one lacking. This episode felt basically like a standard episode from the second series - okay, but nothing remarkable. As a way of introducing Goemon it didn't really tell us anything we didn't know already. The good thing about the episode is that Goemon's character was pretty well captured. He really felt like Goemon. I also liked how Fujiko was never called by name until the very end of the episode. It took me a few minutes into the episode to figure out that she was the tutor and hence was up to something. (partly because her face wasn't recognizable from the poor drawings) The episode felt true to the spirit of Goemon and the old Lupin III - hard-boiled in that Goemon is a hired killer, but not cold-blooded, because he has a personal sense of justice and won't cross a certain line. And of course, we got to hear the first historical instance of his trademark line - "mata tsumaranai mono wo kitta".

For Goemon's introduction I was hoping they would do something special to fill it with good samurai action, dare I hope even perhaps invite Kazuto Nakazawa to sakkan the episode? You know, a reunion tour from the Samurai Champloo team - Sato Dai, Sayo Yamamoto, Nakazawa. But it was not to be. There was one short scene where Goemon does his bullet-cutting trick where suddenly - bizarrely, even - the animation gets extremely fluid. It's decent (albeit short), but honestly the movement isn't particularly interesting. It's nice that they tried, but it only goes to show how amazing the old animators were. With just a few drawings Yasuo Otsuka could have Goemon whip his sword around in a way that felt infinitely better and more convincing. There are tons of contemporary animators who I'm sure could have done some good samurai action. It's sad that they didn't have the budget/schedule to get them.

The weird thing to me about this show so far is... Where's Takeshi Koike? I was expecting the show to be rife with his touch, but for the most part in this episode I couldn't even tell he was the character designer. It seems odd to call him in and then create a show that had nothing whatsoever of his style. I know he's just the character designer, but I guess I was hoping that he would be involved on the same level that Kazuto Nakazawa was involved in Samurai Champloo. Nakazawa made that show his by his amazing and voluminous work as a sakkan/animator on the show. Different directors have different styles and priorities, I guess. Perhaps that will happen in future episodes, but it's a pretty short show, so I hope it happens soon if it's going to happen.

The joke with the European city names was weird - Poris, Dinajon, etc. I didn't quite see the point in doing that.