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There goes my punctual schedule of blogging this series each week. But I'm not going to give up like I did on Denno Coil. I'm going to catch up. There's not much left to go anyway.
The story this time is about a fortune-teller who supposedly can predict the date of a person's death. There have been a few fortune-teller stories in the old shows, and the main character here is a little reminiscent of Pycal from episode 2 of the first show, the famous foe whose magic powers were the product of technological trickery. The nice thing about this episode is that it's a fairly intriguing story, and it manages to involve Lupin and Jigen in addition to Fujiko. I wouldn't say I exactly loved the episode - it was a little slow and the quality was typically low - but at least it was written in a way that forces you to pay close attention.
The thing I liked about this episode is that Lupin was Lupin-like, with his Monkey Delivery Service rescue of Jigen, disguise, comical cooking scene (his gnocci didn't look very appetizing), and the way he sees right through the fortune-teller's tricks and describes various ways of killing someone on a foretold date. Also, starting with this episode Lupin and Jigen seem to begin to warm to each other and develop into their familiar odd couple relationship.
The story was not bad, but I found the script a little confusing. Even after watching it a second time knowing what was about to happen, I was still lost. There were a lot of oblique references to plot points the audience has no way of knowing as of yet, obviously meant to prompt speculation. It feels like they went a little too far into the ellipsis. The scriptwriter is Junji Nishimura, who has been a director all his career. It seems he started writing scripts in the last few years. It's not a bad script, it's just really challenging to follow, partly because so much of what's mentioned you have no way of knowing.
Beginning with this episode, the show is finally bringing the back-story into focus. Only hints have been dropped here and there so far in the flashbacks about what exactly went on in Fujiko's past, but this episode finally reveals the name of the mysterious owl-man character who seems to have done something unwholesome to Fujiko when she was a little girl, and hints at a complicated web of control and manipulation involving the fortune-teller, Fujiko, Lupin and the owl-man. This Fujiko back-story seems to be the whole point of the show, so it feels weird to me that they only drop hints about it stammeringly for 3/4 of the series rather than diving right into it, and finally begin actual storytelling just a few episodes from the ending.
I like that Fujiko has been decisively given a refreshingly more complex personality. She's not an easy character to read. The problem is I find the directing of her personality a little erratic and inconsistent. I think they need to be prepared to follow things through with elaborate detailing of the intricacies of her thought process if they're going to bother to do a radical overhaul. It feels to me like they're skimping on the difficult character writing pretending that they're just being stylish and subtle about it. If Fujiko is to be perfectly OK with cold-bloodedly shooting the guards in the face when there probably wasn't any need for her to do so, which is obviously pretty shocking, then her personality has to have been elaborated in a way that her doing so makes sense. As it is, that scene just comes out of the blue, and passes without any comment by the directing. Even Jigen says he doesn't want to have to pull the trigger unless absolutely necessary. I got a similar feeling of confusion when Oscar, a police officer, casually menaces to kill one of the other officers in an early episode, and the directing treats this as if that were completely normal and acceptable.
The animation was as weak as usual. Sadly, it's clear that a low level of animation is the norm for this series. They must really have had no schedule for this show. At this rate, we'll be lucky if we get one more really well-animated episode.
I thought this one was better than the few that preceded it, mainly because there was some fun Lupin/Jigen comedy and development in their friendship. That’s one aspect of the show that I think works well. The story itself was sort of confusing, and I wasn’t entirely sure which parts I was supposed to understand and which parts were just foreshadowing something in the overall series arc. I was particularly shocked by the out-of-the-blue guard killing at the beginning. I assumed we were going to be introduced to the villain of the episode, but then Fujiko entered. I suppose it’s not all that uncommon for nameless goons to be killed in Lupin, but lingering on their dead faces as blood pours out onto the ground seems unnecessarily cruel.
I don’t think they’re doing the greatest job of integrating the ongoing story with the stand-alone plots. Or maybe I just don’t particularly like the direction they’re going with the story about Fujiko’s past.
I liked the next episode a lot more, but I’ll wait till you get there to discuss it.
I have to agree with your comment about Lupin/Jigen here as well as in the last episode with the Goemon/Fujiko scene at the end… As much as this new show may try to do something new and daring, it just never winds up being as interesting as when the old characters get together and interact with one another the way they did in the old shows.
Usually Lupin & gang would knock out guards or what not to get past them. They would never just kill them like that, when there really wasn’t any need to do so. They could easily kill people, and did, but usually death was reserved for people who truly deserved it, so when they killed someone, you understood that it was warranted, and not just some hapless guard who got in their way. That’s what I don’t like here - that it feels like thoughtless directing. I suppose it must be intentional, like they’re revealing that Fujiko was even more cold-blooded before she became ‘friends’ with Lupin, but it doesn’t feel explained enough to work.
I really can’t say I like what they’re doing with this show; the traditional Lupin comedy feels really odd when mixed with the super-depressing childhood trauma stuff they’re adding in, and applying this sort of content to Lupin just seems out-of-place to me.
I know the old manga had rape in it, and certainly treating it like a joke or not that big of a deal as Monkey Punch did is much more morally questionable than portraying it as a horrible scarring experience like this new show. But ultimately this is a matter of tone to me and the idea of explaining away an iconic character’s quirky traits as ’she was raped and horribly experimented on as a kid and basically tortured endlessly’ is certainly not what I want to see in Lupin, and it only gets worse in the next episode.
I like it when a Lupin story is more serious and dark, but not to an extent where the characters are permanently scarred, one that gives a depressing undercurrent to one of the defining elements of the series.
Ugh, the next episode sounds like a downer. I started blogging the show assuming I’d love it, but I have to admit I also don’t like it overall, because of what you say - they’ve gone a step too far into the seriousness with all of this childhood trauma stuff. That stuff sits very uncomfortably next to all other other typical Lupin elements in the show, and it feels like an unpleasant mess overall. Fujiko’s back story is turning out to be my least favorite part of this show, and unfortunately there aren’t many other saving graces.
episode 9 is actually pretty funny. Probably the closest this show gets to the old Lupin.
I don’t know what to say to that - ep 9 is just another example of how weird it is to mix Lupin comedy with such super-depressing stuff. I mean, it had… [spoiler warning]
More childhood abuse flashbacks, including a super-disturbing one involving what appeared to be horrible experiments of some sort, ultimately leading up to an actual *suicide attempt* from Fujiko.
Yeah, there are the usual hints at how Fujiko was abused in the past. Besides that, it’s hard to find the episode depressing. It’s certainly the one that made me laugh the most, by far.
I just find it hard to laugh at Lupin shenanigans when they’re superimposed over something so depressing, but eh, opinions.
There’s been good Lupin and bad Lupin works; from Miyazaki kiddo-friendly to Otsuka Yasuo spirited ones, with Lupin playing the petty jewel thief to Lupin saving the world…again (my lest favorite kind). Point is, neither Lupin nor should his gang, be written in stone (may be that’s why I like Green vs Red, in spite of its many flaws). I feel it’s best to view this incarnation by first ejecting all past baggage.