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April 12, 2012 / Bradley

Worried, Unhappy, Lonesome and Sorry: Lupin III: A Woman Named Fujiko Mine #2: “Magnum .357”

I’ve written extensively about Fujiko as a character for the past few weeks, but I’ve never spent much time talking about the rest of the Lupin Gang. It looks like I’ll have plenty of time to do that, though, since the series seems to be spending each of its opening episodes focusing on one member of the Lupin gang. This week’s episode was Jigen’s, Lupin’s stalwart partner, sharpeyed shooter, and the most constant skeptic of anything related to Fujiko in the Lupin gang. Sure as the fact that Fujiko will betray Lupin by the end of the second act of a special, Jigen would have warned Lupin that this is exactly what will happen, and Lupin will also say that he knows, he just doesn’t care. This week’s episode lays the foundation for Jigen’s animosity to Fujiko, and also signals a couple themes we should expect to see more of in future episodes.

One of them being that, yes, we are going to see Fujiko’s Dark Past. The series more or less came out and said it without just saying it. I still have my reservations about origin stories, but after this episode, which was elegantly handled if a bit loose, I have a lot more faith in this series to create an interesting backstory to familiar characters.

But first, let’s talk about Jigen, who is probably the simplest character in the Lupin franchise. He shoots things real good, and he can shoot almost anything real good. He’s not quite Ishikawa “I can cut a tornado in half” Goemon XIII levels of absurd, but what he can’t solve with his pistol, he solves with either his wits or a bigger gun. He drinks a lot, and he’s very noble. And that’s all there is to him. While it’s true that Lupin characters have gotten simpler through sheer repetition over the last decade, I can’t think of an episode, special or movie that really added anything to his character. He’s simply been Lupin’s most reliable partner since episode one of the first TV series. And I don’t think he needs much more than that- he’s an effective character, and even if he is simple, that simplicity makes him iconic. So, unlike Fujiko’s debut last week, there’s no new perception or tweak to his character. Even the story this week is familiar territory. But it all comes together for an affecting episode.

The story opens with Fujiko gambling- and, of course, cheating- in a casino controlled by the Italian mob. The management catches on, and the Boss herself, Cicciolina, pays Fujiko a visit to her table. Cicciolina makes a bet with the Female Phantom Thief- if Fujiko wins the next round, she will win the casino. Lose, and her body becomes Cicciolina’s to do with as she pleases. Some details here that I love: it’s never explicitly stated how Fujiko was manipulating the game in her favor, and how Cicciolina negated Fujiko’s cheating is never explicitly stated either- it’s simply left to our imagination. This is all set-up for how Fujiko is lured into working a dangerous heist for the mob, anyway, so none of the details are really important, but it’s fun to think about.

The job is a doozy: steal Jigen Daisuke’s iconic .357 Magnum. Jigen assassinated Cicciolina’s husband while he employed with them, and betrayed them to the Chinese mafia. Cicciolina wants revenge. Fujiko will need to seduce Jigen’s current employer, and then seduce Jigen. Item One was easy enough- she captures the boss with just a sultry look- but item two is a lot harder. As I said before, Jigen is extremely noble, and isn’t easy to seduce. It probably made Fujiko wonder if Cicciolina was right when she said Jigen’s one weakness was women.

Which brings us to the meat of the story: Cicciolina and Jigen’s complicated history. It turns out that they were lovers- or rather, Cicciolina pursued Jigen relentlessly until he gave into her, and then she killed her husband in an argument while he took the fall. This flashback was the best part of the episode, tender, tragic, and a bit sweet. Episode one showed the series’ chops with action, and this episode showed its skill in emotionally involving storytelling. It handles Cicciolina’s manic-depression with grace and a bit poetry- “she is tired of life, so she plays with death,” says her husband- and makes her one of the most memorable characters from any piece of Lupin, even if her story arc is a bit predictable. It was this subplot that gave me hope for Fujiko’s inevitable Dark Past, since it handled such a bleak subject so well. Depression is usually a hoaky subject, and handled with the subtlety of an anvil, but A Woman Named Fujiko clearly understands the disease. Manic-depressives are not the only victims of their disease, and the way Cicciolina’s moods and impulses warp the fates of everyone around her, primarily her husband and Jigen, is good pop culture approximation of a real life tragedy, but with more guns and sex in coffins. And the full consequences aren’t resolved until years later- once Fujiko steals the Magnum and Jigen pays Cicciolina a visit to get it back, it turns out that this was all an elaborate plan by Cicciolina for her to finally commit suicide, this time at the hands of Jigen.

Which brings me to the second theme that comes up again from the first episode: killing. When all is said and done, with Cicciolina’s suicide successful and Jigen once again unemployed, he takes a moment on how little he likes being a bodyguard. “It’s the killing,” he says, and decides to pick up thievery instead. Lupin mentioned killing with a touch of distaste as well, and seemed to go out of his way to avoid to killing in his heist last episode. Fujiko, notably, still seems to have no qualms about it. I suspect this ties into her Dark Past. I’m not sure I’m ready for another anime lecture and angst on how terrible it is to kill another human being, though I always appreciate that anime goes out of its way to remind us that violence has consequence. A care-free attitude towards sex and nudity, while having a conscious about killing? It’s almost like this is a mature cartoon.

One Comment

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  1. Balloon Thief / Apr 16 2012 8:14 am

    This episode was interesting because without Lupin it became a serious story. Or maybe not serious but at least not as light, bubbly, and full of energy as I remember the first episode. Though, all in all, I enjoyed it.

    The way that two characters so far appear to have a distaste or at least disrespect for killing reminded me of something. From what I’ve read of the original Lupin novels, Lupin the first had a similar disrespect for killing. He explains that killing takes away some of the difficulty associated with thievery. Entering buildings filled with armed guards without the intent of killing any of them ends up being a much more complex endeavor and requires more planning and a gentler touch. Of course the Lupin the first also dislikes murder because of its moral implications so he is a very different character.

    A better way to illustrate the difference would be the rivals Neal Caffrey and Matthew Keller from the TV show White Collar. Neal Caffrey is considered a “white collar” thief and conman. Caffrey is portrayed as the type of thief with a professional courtesy against murder. His motivations are similar to Lupin the first. In comparison Keller is described as the blue collar version of Neal. He is less likely to take the time to find an elegant solution to the problem if he can settle the matter more quickly with murder. Keller is to Caffrey, as Fujiko is to Lupin.

    Also the suicidal tendencies of Cicciolina are interesting to think about. I will be back this following week for your next Lupin post.

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