This week the wheel turns to Ishikawa Goemon (Namikawa Daisuke) the samurai past his era whose blade can (and does) cut just about anything, but usually something worthless. It’s a different kind of job for Mine this time, as she’s taken on a sort of Maria Poppins role of tutor/governess for the three young children of a fictional European King (Tachikawa Mitsutaka). The King and his grandchildren are on a train ride home with a boxcar full of national treasures (a hint as to Fujiko’s interest). Because the children’s parents are dead, the successor to the throne is little Marco (Kobayashi Yumiko, who still plays little boys better than any female seiyuu). That doesn’t sit too well with their Aunt (Yamazaki Miki) and her husband, Baron Schmeit (Nonoka Hideaki) who has designs on the throne for himself.
What’s interesting about this particular episode isn’t so much the plot itself, but the way it sheds new light on Fujiko as a character. It’s obvious he has ulterior motives for taking the job, but it’s also obvious that she develops very real feelings for the three children – teaching them songs about “Samurai Friends” and bulldogs. When a very real smaurai friend turns up on the train Marco is thrilled and Mine turns on the charm, but Ishikawa is there to kill the King as a paid assassin. However, when another assassin comes along to complete the Baron’s true plan by killing the drivers and eventually everyone on the train, both Ishikawa and Fujiko focus on saving the children rather than on their original task.
Like so many of Lupin’s gang, Ishikawa comes off as a rather tragic figure. He lives by a sort of honor code, but sees himself increasingly an anachronism in the modern world. – forced to kill men he doesn’t know to make use of his sword. When he says “I cut something worthless again” it plays as comedy, but there’s a dash of tragedy there, too. He’s also, like Jigen Daisuke, smitten by Fujiko (in every old movie like this, it’s always a dame who brings down the guy) and when she kisses him at the end, after the royals have been saved, he asks “Did I just get a real girlfriend?” Nope, sorry Samurai Friend. Fujiko walks away with the royal belt buckle that was her main target all along, and leaves Marco with a kiss, too.
I haven’t discussed it yet, but it’s really no wonder this “Lupin” has the second-best jazz soundtrack of the season – the Music Producer is Watanabe Shinichiro. The music here is incredibly authentic and evocative, some of the best in the history of the “Lupin” franchise. I do tend to forget the oddities of this mythology though – such as the moment when you had a Japanese samurai standing on-board a steam train as modern helicopters flew overhead. That’s anime for you.