Weekly Digest: 4/13/12 – Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna, Kore wa Zombie, Ginga e Kickoff

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Ancient Chinese secret, huh?

Lupin III: Mine Fujiko Iu Onna – 02

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One thing I’ll say for this new incarnation of Lupin III – it absolutely drips style from every pore.  It’s swimming in cool, this one – from the music to the wardrobes to the dialogue, the show just plain gets it when it comes to the vibe it’s going for.  Not a huge surprise given that Okada Mari and Satou Dai are writing for it, but it’s noteworthy nonetheless.

Episode two is a different sort of caper than the first, as Mine gets herself caught up in a war between a strange casino owner named Ciccolina (Tanaka Atsuko) and her ex-bodyguard – and Lupin regular – Jigen Daisuke (Kobayashi Kiyoshi).  It’s interesting seeing the Lupin-verse (which I know only casually) reimagined from Fujiko’s POV, and she’s almost a sort of facilitator here, as Ciccolina tricks her into owing her a big favor when she loses a winner-takes-all bet at the roulette wheel.  It was clear from the beginning that there was a lot more going on between Ciccolina and Jigen than she was letting on.  Ciccolina, death-obsessed and somewhat twisted, was a weird kind of anti-heroine – but it was Jigen’s world-weary ruthlessness that carried the episode.  That, and the overwhelming cool factor – I especially loved the insert song that ran in the B Part of the ep.

My only complaint about this episode – and indeed the series, if things progress as they seem to be – is the lack of Lupin himself.  I knew he wasn’t the MC here, but my favorite moments of the premiere were still the ones where he was on-screen, thanks in no small part to Kurita Kanchi.  Still, there’s an awful lot to like – Fujiko is undeniably sexy as hell, and this series is really subverting the notion of “fanservice” in general – it’s not fanservice, it’s just sex.  It’s altogether less naïve but much more honest than what usually passes for service in anime.  In a different season on a different schedule, I’d be spending a lot more time on Lupin III – it’s that good.  But Thursdays this Spring necessitate some hard choices, and covering this show with brevity is one of those choices.

Kore wa Zombie desu ka? Of the Dead – 02

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I’m very conflicted on whether to continue to cover this series, as I very much fear what happened in the first season – the jokes cycling and getting repetitive and losing their punch – will happen again.  There are a few small differences – Saras in obviously going to play a larger role, there’s Chris the Booze Fairy, and maybe (hopefully) Yuki will be more of a factor as well.  But basically the shtick seems about the same – Ayumu crossdresses, Ayumu gets abused, Sera is a chore, Haruna is genki.  I’m not sure there’s going to be enough here to keep this feeling fresh, but we’ll see.

My favorite part of this ep was indeed “Tomonori”, mostly because unlike the rest of the main cast apart from Eu she treats Ayumu perfectly nicely.  Saras is also interesting in that she seems to be an interesting twist on the tsundere trope, in that she takes it 100% literally – she’s totally tsun and dere simultaneously.  The bit with Ayumu’s schoolmates deciding he was actually cool instead of pervy and pathetic was amusing briefly, though the whole Youtube thing never reached even that level.  And interestingly, Kyoko showed up at the end, in the company (though unwillingly) of Dai-sensei.  I wasn’t necessarily expecting a callback to that so early in the season.

Ginga e Kickoff – 01

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When Erika told Shou, “You wore me down with your persistence”, that pretty much captured how I felt about Ginga e Kickoff.

Listen, I’m under no illusions that many Westerners will watch this series.  But that’s their problem, not mine, and if you’re someone who can appreciate really well-made kids anime, this should be in your rotation.  It’s definitely a kids series, but Ginga e Kickoff packs so much energy, determination and cheerfulness into 22 minutes that anyone capable of having fun themselves should be able to enjoy it.  The pedigree here will surprise you, too – Tyo Animations brought in Uda Konosuke (One Piece, Galaxy Express 999 Eternal Fantasy, Lovely Complex) to direct, James Shimoji (Redline) to do the music, and Yamada Takashi (Onegai My Melody, Shion no Ou, Yumeiro Patisserie) to adapt Kawabata Hiroto’s manga.

Ginga e Kickoff – like its hero Ota Shou (Kobayashi Yuu) – knows only one speed, and that’s full-steam ahead.  It’s the story of a sixth-grade soccer player whose team is disbanded, and his quest to find a coach and teammates to bring it back to life.  Along the way he meets transfer student Takato Erika (Nakatsu Mariko) – a much better player than he – and her soccer-playing dog.  They also cross paths with Nadeshiko team member Shimizu Misaki (Kuwashima Houko), rehabbing from injury, and she befriends the kids and inspires Shou to go forward.  There’s also Hanashiro Masaru (the always great Koyama Rikiya) who appears to be a drunk in the park but seems destined to coach the kids eventually.  Shou’s Mom Haruka (Neya Michiko) owns a restaurant, at which the boy ably helps out when needed.  The excellent cast is also going to feature Hosoya Yoshimasa, Rie Tanaka, and Kenn, among others.

With a cast and staff like that, you’d figure this would be more than a generic kiddie show – and you’d be right.  The pacing is relentless, the cast amped up and energetic (no one does amped quite like Yuu-san), and the animation is excellent – the soccer scenes are artfully staged and well-animated, and the facial expressions hilariously over the top (think Avatar: the Last Airbender).  The triumph of the Nadeshiko in the World Cup seems to have sparked a new peak of interest in soccer in Japan – that great moment is referenced here – and this looks like a show that will celebrate achievements of both girls and boys.  And the fun part is, because this is sixth-grade, Shou and Erika can be teammates – I haven’t seen a sports series featuring grade-schoolers on this level since S1 of Major.  Shou states the nature of his ambition in the very first scene, imaging his Predators team at no less than Camp Nou, challenging F.C. Barcelona and Lionel Messi.  I don’t have expectations that lofty for Ginga e Kickoff, but I do expect it to be a lot of fun to watch.

Finally, I did watch Medaka Box this week, and felt pretty much the same as I did after the first episode.  I think the word that best sums up that feeling is “generic” – whatever game Nisio is playing here, it isn’t really working for me.  I’ll check back after the legendary genre change, and see if I like it any better than.  In another season I’d give this a little more time based on GAINAX, but this is not recognizably GAINAX in any way I can see and there’s just too much good stuff this season.

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17 comments

  1. I

    Boys be ambitious, epic.

    KwZD was as expected quite low key compared to last week. I quite like that this episode focused on Yuki and her role as the only member of the harem (Saras isn't in the harem yet) not living with Ayumi. That she had insecurities about that was quite a touching moment. Comedy was hit and miss and whatever it is that Saras is doing; it's getting boring. Bring back the man-pantsu.

    I'm dropping Medaka too, everything is too generic and if that is a trick from Nisio then I'll go to the source and read the manga. Plus Aki Toyosaki as Medaka doesn't work for me.

  2. d

    @Enzo: The second time Haruna was surfing the net. At the top left corner. There was another tab. "The art of murder:.

    Haruna! what are you teaching Eu? How the kill without words?

  3. t

    Lupin shouldn't be back before episode 4,episode 3 will have Fujiko meet another Lupin side character,Goemon (it'll be written by dai sato)

    As for Ginga e kickoff,I'll just pull out a quote from CS Lewis that I love "When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up"

    And for Medaka,if it's only one cour it might never even get to the genre change in question.

  4. I thought it was supposed to be 45 eps?

  5. t

    Only one japanese website has it listed that long,others have it as one cour,there's no official word either and so far amazon only has 6 DVDs available for peorder.

    So the situation is kind of confusing.

  6. e

    Just a note: I think the name is – according to the subs – CiccIolina. And it had me snickering because here in Italy 'Cicciolina' (true name: Ilona Staller. She of 80's bleached hair and dark thick eyebrows) used to be a popular porn star… before trying the politician route.
    I'm quite happy with the focus on Fujiko at present : she never was my favourite (I rooted for poor Lupin XD), but a bit more insight into her could bring out interesting stuff and even awake some sympathy for her. After all this series is her series. Since the opening sequence and title it's all about her. Under this aspect if and when Lupin&Co.appear they're still means to an end. Her end.
    Well, in marketing terms we might debate if it's actually the reverse: she's the Trojan horse to grab and lure newbies into the franchise. With all the persuasion of her Chinese secrets knowledge XD.

  7. S

    I read "Since the opening sequence and title" as "Since the opening sequence and tits". If you've seen the OP, you know exactly what I mean, haha.

    I love this series, but it's not a "normal" type of watch. It's more like something to have with dinner. It just feels more refined than your normal anime. Much more "adult" in its presentation. Even if it's still about wacky & deadly hijinks of Lupin III and crew.

  8. Yeah, I may have spelled it wrong but my first thought was of the porn star turned politician. She was even elected to Parliament as I recall.

  9. e

    @Enzo: I'm afraid your memory is correct.
    @SQA: the OP is glorious :D, although I can't really see much of the stated similarities between 'thief' Heathcliff and Fujiko yet. The ball is in the scripwriters' court…

  10. A

    well give fujiko series is a prequel origin type series give fujiko 1st meet with lupin then jigen & with goemon next to visit.

    soon we lead to origins of fujiko cause likely this is her series.

  11. b

    You will never have a vampire ninja girl who loves you enough to make your ass famous online T_T

    And sources say that Medaka Box is only 12 episodes so it'll be cut at a specific point. You'll get to see the genre shift somewhat though.
    See you until then…

  12. i

    In Kore wa Zombie desu ka?, it actually really bothers me how much they abuse Ayumu. I don't even find it funny anymore. It reminds me of when someone takes a joke that starts funny and continues it for too long until eventually it just becomes hurtful and annoying. I might be dropping this one.

  13. I've never found it funny seeing Ayumu abused, to be honest. I was tired of that part of the series by the second episode of the first season.

  14. A

    Ugh, this season is going to be really tough figuring out what to follow. SO many choices …

    ''Listen, I’m under no illusions that many Westerners will watch this series. But that’s their problem, not mine, and if you’re someone who can appreciate really well-made kids anime, this should be in your rotation''

    I think you missed a ''not many''

    '' this is not recognizably GAINAX in any way I can see''

    Of course it wouldn't be, every veteran animator they had had left the studio, how it could it be Gainax without the people who made Gainax in the first place?

  15. A

    Well okay, not every veteran animator, more like the key ones. They still have a number of veterans with them still …

  16. "no illusions that many will". "Not many" is actually not an illusion – it's what will actually happen. I own my typos (see the F/Z post) but I actually got this one right…

  17. B

    Zombie Desu Ka: Agreed; the opening with Sera was painful to watch. On the bright side, at least this arc's plot is kicking in. Do wish for more Tomonori though xD

    Lupin: I feel so shallow. I'm tempted to watch this series because of that Fujiko shot you took, even though I disliked her back in the 90s. God, where's Lupin? D:::

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