Yes it was an Okada script this week, and certainly a provocative and interesting one – a massive improvement over the last episode she wrote personally. I must say, though, that the degree of pure hopelessness that pervades the episode tends to suck a lot of the fun out of the series – and after all, Lupin III should be a fun show to watch, shouldn’t it? It’s undeniably fascinating to watch it descend along with Fujiko on a path of increasing self-loathing, but it’s a bit of a downer to see her pull a trigger, fully expecting to blow her brains out.
What we have is the story of a “painted lady” (Shimamura Yu) paraded about as a circus freak – apparently raised strictly as a human canvas and unable even to speak. Fittingly, she serves as a canvas for the emotions of the characters to play themselves out. For Mine, the girl represents everything she hates about herself, having lived her life as a tool of others, principally the owl-ish Count Lewis Yew Armeid. For Lupin she’s merchandise, a job. For Jigen Daisuke, she’s something to be pitied – and she brings out the paternal instincts in him, as he tries to protect her from both Lupin (his nominal partner) and Fujiko. Jigen’s surprising sentimentality is the strongest element of the episode, and its most humanizing one.
A constant with this incarnation of Lupin is always the eye-catching and stylish animation, and this ep is no exception. The show never seems to cover the same landscape twice, and this time turns its eye to rural Japan. A circus, a hot spring, a lazy river, cable lifts and a painted lady – it’s all quite striking visually. There’s also a pretty funny take on American tourists (“I can eat sushi off your body!”) that’s exaggerated but not too much, and as you might expect as we’re back in Japan, an appearance from Goemon Ishikawa (briefly).
But really, this boils down to Fujiko and her impressive levels of dysfunction. I don’t recall another Lupin incarnation quite like this – Lupin continues to be his usual high-energy bundle of mischief, but Fujiko’s presence is a black presence that looms over everything. She really is crazy – wildly firing her machine gun without a thought to who might die in the process, including her “prize”. It actually boils down to Lupin doing psychoanalysis on her in the end – diagnosing her attempts on the Painted Lady’s life as suicide attempts and forcing her to the point of suicide. I don’t know where a Lupin series can go from here – will Lupin try and save Fujiko from herself? Perhaps Goemon will? It’s pretty much new territory for me but given where Okada has tended to take shows in the last couple of years, I expect things to get even crazier before they’re done.