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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.