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Now on Newsstands: Otaku USA Magazine June 2023

I'm always excited to see the latest Otaku USA magazine come in the mail. It's a gorgeous publication full of great articles by awesome people. And also, I love writing for it. I'm already excited to tell as many people as possible about anime I think they'll like, and this is (potentially) my biggest platform to do so.

For June 2023, I've got a trio of pieces: two reviews and a feature. This was one of those issues that got me to sniff out at least one series I wasn't as familiar with, and I'm glad I did.

First, though, reviews.

Any day I get to write about Lupin the Third is a good day, to be honest. While Part 6 isn't my favorite season, it's still pretty sharp. I steer clear of spoilers in my review—it's how I try to be in anything I write for the magazine, unless the statute of limitations is well and truly past. I knew coming in that this was a divisive season, and I can see why.

My full opinions on it are in the magazine, of course, but there's one thing I didn't get to bring up: the dub. It's a Tony Oliver/Richard Epcar joint, and the dub cast they lead is super-strong and does things with a lot of care. Oliver really hits it out of the park at the end of the Witch & Gentleman storyline especially. What was odd, though, was that all the British characters had American accents. A weird choice, and one I still can't get my head around. Then again, this is a season of weird choices.

For my second review, I revisit Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun. I will admit a slight bias toward this series, as I am long-time friends with the dub voice of Ronove Romiere. But I do legitimately like this series, and I love where the third season goes. Again, further details in the article itself.

Previously, I did a feature-length write-up on season 2. I can't for the life of me remember which issue that was in; but if you can find it, I'm a bit happy with it, so give it a read.

Last but not least... it's cover story time! Arknights: Prelude to Dawn was very new to me, as the mobile game from which it originates is not one of the few I play. (These days I'm a Disney Twisted-Wonderland girl.) There were a lot of really fantastic things this show did in terms of serving as a mobile game tie-in, though. And considering the game itself is already lauded for its art and lore, it's only fair that the anime adaptation measures up.

This is based on a tower defense game, by the way. Anime is wild.

If you're interested in reading these for yourself, grab a copy on your local newsstand or order online. Let me know what you thought! I'm always really happy to know when my features hit right for people, and when I'm giving ink to a show people don't get to see represented much.

On that note, I've just turned in my pieces for the next issue, and I get to cover some winter series I'm extra passionate about. You'll know when it drops.

BOOK TOUR: Z-Rod: Chosen Wanderers


The Z-Rod trilogy is a full-scale epic set in the turbulence of 6th century Scotland, bringing to life a distant era through the divergent lives of two cousins among a whole cast of characters. Theirs is a very human story of rivalry and love, faith and wild adventure played out through landscapes described sometimes poetically by someone well-acquainted with the hills and coasts of Scotland.

Into this turbulent scene come the Gaels from Ireland, aflame with a love for their heavenly High King. Their story is seen through the impressionable eyes of an adolescent pilgrim, eager for adventure but frustrated by their slow progress in establishing communities known as ‘muintirs’ – a Gaelic word meaning ‘family’.

I'm always fascinated by historical fiction, especially historical fiction about periods with which I'm unfamiliar. This new-to-me trilogy from Martin C. Haworth hits me in a place where I'm equally uneducated and fascinated: early Scotland, and the arrival of the Christian missionaries on its shores.

Our central characters are Oengus and Taran: a pair of cousins born quite close to each other, each in the running to become the new warlord when the time comes. On the same night, the two receive tattoos that will foretell their roles in life. Taran, oddly, receives the Z-Rod: a Z-shaped icon intersected with various other iconography (in his case, a snake). This is allegedly the mark of a warlord, given after achieving this status, and to have two bearing this tattoo at once is unprecedented.

A bit of an aside here: the actual meaning of the Z-Rod, as is the case with many Pictish symbols, is a mystery. Author Martin C. Haworth makes some assumptions that work well in context, and that mirror theories put forth by other scholars. In the end, though, it doesn't actually matter what the symbol means historically. For the purposes of the story, it has been couched in such a way that even these fictional Picts' understanding over the symbol is moot. All that matters is what Taran's Z-Rod means to his story: an ingenious approach to such unknown factors.

As Taran eludes the scheming of Oengus—the more driven of the pair—there is another conflict afoot. Believers in the old gods of Scotland are crossing paths with Celts spreading the word of Christ. It's a heightened conflict (one Haworth acknowledges in his foreword), with prophecies and miracles abounding on both sides. How historically accurate this storm front of religions is, I will leave to people who study this period. I was pleased to see that neither side was depicted as inherently Good or Evil, but rather two groups of faithful trying to find their own ways in a world bigger than themselves.

This first installment in the Z-Rod trilogy is a promising read. Haworth's love for Scotland—its land, its history, and its people—is clear from page to page. By the end of the first book, there are still plenty of mysteries to unravel, and a long road ahead for its many protagonists. I look forward to seeing what's next, and what Taran's ever-evolving prophecy means for him and his people.


This post is part of a book tour sponsored by The Book Network.

Lupin the Third Rewind: A Wolf Calls a Wolf


Welcome to the gang, Goemon

This week's episode of Lupin the Third Part 1 is a big deal for a few reasons. It's Goemon's official induction (if there is such a thing) into the show's "gang." It's a big lore drop for Zantetsuken as we know it. And—probably the biggest deal of all—it's Hayao Miyazaki's debut. Not just as part of Lupin the Third, but as an anime director.

He didn't direct the full episode, just a couple of scenes. But it does mark the beginning of the director changeover, which is going to usher in the beginning of Lupin as we know it in a big way.

Note: This post contains sponsored links. If you purchase something through one of them, I may get a small commission. Thank you for supporting the blog!

There Are Two Wolves Inside You

Lupin in training

After the briefest of distractions, Lupin is gearing up to cross swords—this time literally—with Ishikawa Goemon XIII once again. In particular, he has his eye on a trio of scrolls that divulge the secrets of Zantetsuken, Goemon's mighty sword that cuts through steel. Lupin has a very specific reason for wanting to get his mitts on these, though: his grandfather went for the same prize. It's a matter of Lupin family pride, so he disguises himself as one of five challengers preparing to face Goemon in battle.

Lupin is not the only one who's had this idea: Fujiko is there as well, and makes quick work of Goemon's champion with a shortsword. She and Lupin, both in disguise, are the only ones to fight their way up the ranks to earn the honor of facing Goemon personally. But Fujiko bet on Lupin being there, and is prepared for him in more ways than one. (Before you go making assumptions, one of those ways is a floor full of caltrops.)

Despite Fujiko's best plans, and warnings from Goemon's mentor that Lupin might be in the ranks of his challengers, our antihero makes his way to the hiding place of the scrolls. After a round or two of bait-and-switch, we learn that yet another Lupin had designs on the treasure: The Second dueled Goemon's mentor. To bring things back around, Lupin and Goemon's mentor battle it out. Lupin wins the day with a simple pit trap, and Goemon hands over the scrolls... but he's not done.

See, Goemon still wants to duel Lupin. The two do eventually meet to face off, but gosh darn it, they make friends instead. They're both having a great damn time, and Jigen closes out the episode with the realization that their weird little gang has gotten weirder and less little.

The Third vs. the Thirteenth

Lupin and Goemon would reexamine their rivalry again decades later

Lupin and Goemon's friendly rivalry is one of the series's more fascinating dynamics. They clearly have mutual respect. Over time, they become more similar, but initially start out as quite different. While Goemon is a staunch traditionalist, Lupin kicks off his existence by taking the "gentleman" straight out of "gentleman thief." (That will eventually come back, but we're getting there.)

All that said, there's a recurring point on Goemon's side of this scenario, even in the scant two episodes we've seen him in so far. Both here and in his first episode, he's looked down on for not killing Lupin on sight. More than one mentor has called him soft for refusing to do away with the rival thief, and even Lupin himself did away with one of said mentors with exceptional dramatic timing.

Of course, there's some narrative causality there: you can't kill the star of the show. But it's also an interesting early sign of this mutual respect they have for each other. Lupin makes no secret of his when Goemon hands over the scrolls as promised. Goemon never outright admits his respect, but it's pretty obvious by the end when their "duel" ends with the pair of them laughing and having a grand day out.

We'll see Goemon finally bring this rivalry to bear again in Part 5, as pretty much every player does as regards their relationship with Lupin. For now, it's interesting to see where it all began, and how Goemon's own feelings went from murderous ire to cheerful respect.

The Miyazaki Factor

from The Castle of Cagliostro

As I mentioned earlier, this episode marks Hayao Miyazaki's foray into Lupin the Third, and into anime in general. He only directed a couple of scenes, and originally went uncredited, but it's our starting point for the soon-to-be-legendary director's involvement.

For those less familiar with the timeline of Miyazaki's work, The Castle of Cagliostro came before Studio Ghibli was even a thing—six years before, as a matter of fact. It was partly Miyazaki's responsibilities with his new studio that led to the 1985 Pink Jacket film Legend of the Gold of Babylon, the Part 6 episode "Darwin's Bird," and Mamoru Oshii's film Angel's Egg, but that's for another time.

What's important to note is that Miyazaki will, in the very near future of the series as I'm covering it, make traceable changes to Lupin as a character. You can almost see those changes starting to hit here. When Lupin attempts to sneak into Fujiko's bedroom, he gets a foot full of spikes. We've already seen several examples of his more lecherous manga self either getting toned down or taking serious pain for his attempted actions. 

As of episode 7, Green Jacket Lupin still hasn't become the more gentlemanly version of himself we're familiar with. That will take time, and most of it will hit in Cagliostro. But as we go forward in these blog posts, keep your eyes peeled for the sort of person Lupin becomes.

Next time, it's a proper heist with the whole gang!

Lupin the Third Rewind: Rainy Days are Bad!


Waitin for the Lupin in the rain

Episode 6 of Lupin the Third Part 1 is... a hell of a thing. We've finally got the entire group assembled, we know who everyone is and what they stand for. And also, we've got like. Amnesia machines and diamonds inside corpses. It wouldn't be right to say this is the weirdest the series has been, considering we've met Linda the exploding flower witch. But it's a screwy one full of double- and triple-crosses. And we see the return of the whole idea of the Lupin Syndicate.

Note: This post contains sponsored links. If you purchase anything through one of these links, I may get a small commission. Thank you for supporting my work!

Welcome to the Amnesia Machine

Lupin and this guy

As the episode title indicates, we start on a rainy day. And not a great one. Lupin and Jigen are, let's say, forcibly encouraged to assist with a job. (The forcible encouragement is issued by a fella who goes by the code name "Kid's Meal," which Lupin absolutely will not let go, nor should he.) Three guesses as to who's involved in today's heist. That's right, it's Fujiko.

She's currently playing caretaker to a dude who, frankly, looks like he's seen better days. No name, no memory, no animation. He just sits there looking a bit fishy. There's a lot of mystery around this guy, too. Apparently a highly-regarded doctor went missing in his general vicinity.

Lupin's attempts to get to the bottom of what's going on lead to him nearly getting killed, but the story finally cracks open. This guy is Kamaitachi, a once high-ranking mob boss who inflicted temporary amnesia on himself to guard some big secret. That big secret involved the aforementioned doctor who, when refusing to get into the amnesia machine (an actual thing—maybe Goemon's mentor's story wasn't so wild after all), was shot and killed.

Unfortunately, Kamaitachi died mere days before his amnesia was due to wear off. His secret, as it turns out, is that he had a precious diamond called the Star of Kilimanjaro surgically implanted in him to hide it. The self-inflicted amnesia kept it extra safe... but he didn't live long enough to benefit. Lupin rallies the troops to intercept the car (guarded by Zenigata) taking Kamaitachi's body to the morgue, ousting an imposter Jigen in the process.

In the end... well. In the end, Fujiko gets her diamond.

Lupin the 3rd The Woman Called Fujiko Mine Blu-ray - $44.96

from: Right Stuf, Inc.

Return of the Lupin Syndicate

Lupin, Jigen, and a new ally

I've talked before about the presence of the Lupin Syndicate in the manga and early anime, and how it eventually faded away. It's weird to look back on the earliest days of Green Jacket era and see Lupin with a reputation that's closer to mafioso than gentleman thief. His syndicate has its own motto, a bunch of members, and is relatively feared. We see this organization hat-tipped in Strange Psychokinetic Strategy, the extremely weird live-action film (and the first-ever Lupin the Third film), with Lupin not particularly wanting to take up the reins Because Fujiko.

The decision to veer away from the Syndicate, with the group eventually consisting primarily of the main four (five if you count Zenigata, which I do whether he likes it or not), has served the series well. Lupin clearly has connections; but they're more peers than underlings, which allows for far more interesting story beats. Having him as an authority figure takes a little of the intrigue out of his dealings with these one-and-done characters. This is played with a bit in this episode, where Lupin tests the impostor Jigen with a series of ridiculous passwords. But knowing that any ally could turn enemy (or vice-versa) for the right amount of money/prestige/spite keeps the arc story relatively mobile.

Well, that and the fact that it's more fun to root for Lupin when his list of allies is small and scrappy.

The Many Faces of Fujiko

Diamonds are a girl's best friend

As with previous episodes, this one is based on stories from Monkey Punch's original manga. And, as with previous episodes, one of the major changes is the role of Fujiko. Which is to say, she's there in the manga... sort of. Specifically, she's a Fujiko: one with amnesia. Because, up until a certain point, "Fujiko" was the stock name for The Girl in different manga episodes. They were confirmed to be different people, with different family ties and backgrounds. Over time, though, she became the single character we know.

Turning Fujiko into one character changes Lupin's entire vibe, and frankly in a good way. When every woman is Fujiko no matter who she is, that kind of sends a message about Lupin and his relationship with women. Then again, Monkey Punch did not attempt to hide this. Early Lupin was a character who wanted what he wanted and could absolutely have it. The Japanese economic miracle, as I have said before, hit the late Kazuhiko Kato like a freight train.

But with a single Fujiko, we go from Lupin viewing women as a sort of nebulous Hot Female Hivemind to an almost Twelfth Doctor-ish divide between "everyone else" and "the one who could break my heart and I'd thank her for it." Granted, on the surface he still appears to treat her like he treats every woman (a jacket-dependent behavior as time goes on), and she still appears to treat him like she treats every man. But scratch the surface, and you get moments like Fujiko's tearful monologue on the cliff in "One Chance for a Prison Break." Or Blue Jacket Era. Like anything in the series, how that relationship is treated will depend on who's at the helm. But solidifying her as a single person was a damn good start.

The next episode is a biggie—as it marks Hayao Miyazaki's first (albeit uncredited) directorial work, and thus the beginning of his influence on the series.

Lupin the Third Rewind: The Coming of Goemon the Thirteenth

Ishikawa Goemon XIII arrives

So far, Lupin the Third Part 1 has introduced us to four of our core five characters — the team that, no matter what else changes over the decades, won't be going anywhere. We've been down one major one, despite him appearing in the opening credits (though that's nothing weird for anime). In episode 5, though, we meet another descendant of a legendary thief. And with this episode comes a lot of lore that sometimes gets buried under the decades of TV episodes and specials.

Like, you know, the fact that Lupin and Goemon's entire association started because Goemon wants to kill Lupin.

Note: This blog post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may make a small commission. Thanks for supporting my work!

Samurai Showdown

Lupin and Jigen's flawless disguises

This episode starts with, frankly, one of my favorite Lupin and Jigen moments. As Goemon Ishikawa XIII practices his swordplay, these two idiots in their flawless non-disguises watch and applaud. Lupin attempts to pass himself off as a talent scout, and Jigen as an American gunslinger. Shockingly, though, Goemon sees through their ruse. Can't imagine how.

As it turns out, Sandayu Momochi — Goemon's mentor and the world's most prolific assassin — has tasked Goemon with killing Lupin. Oh, and Fujiko is there, and Goemon introduces her as his girlfriend. The initial battle between Lupin and Goemon is short-lived: the former douses the latter in fast-burning fuel, but ends up burning himself in the process.

Not long after, Fujiko finds Lupin and laments the horrors of Goemon and his lascivious ways. Lupin, always ready to white knight for his girl, immediately goes out to kill the heck out of this guy... and I'm sure you can guess what's going on. In an absolutely wild and totally unexpected turn of events, Fujiko has told Goemon that Lupin is the pervert she needs saving from. They realize they've been had just in time for Momochi to open fire on them.

Fujiko gets her reward for helping Momochi, but victory is short-lived. Goemon and Lupin (naturally) both survived. When Goemon demands an explanation, Momochi spins a wild story about being brainwashed by a powerful group with advanced computers. This would be a completely legit Lupin origin story, in fairness; but for now, it's not. By Goemon's reckoning, the whole thing is a lot more simple: Momochi is past it and can't handle Goemon, the wielder of the world's strongest sword, showing him up.

Momochi escapes in a hot air balloon, taunting Goemon the whole way. You see, this is the difference between Goemon and Lupin — Lupin would've just killed Momochi. Meanwhile, on a nearby rooftop, Lupin is like "Too right" and lights Momochi's balloon up. Goemon and Lupin have one more battle in traffic, with Fujiko catching the resulting traffic accident and selling it to the local news for a tidy sum.

Thief vs. Thief

Lupin joins Goemon for a spot of potential murder

Goemon was a presence in the manga, but this is our first time encountering him (outside the opening) in the anime. A few aspects of his whole scene have changed over the years. For example, his mighty sword Zantetsuken is said in more contemporary adaptations to be forged from a meteorite. In this episode, he says it's forged from the three greatest swords ever made... making it the triple-best, I guess.

While the ridiculousness of Goemon's sword comes into play much more as time goes on, we focus primarily on his actual skills and training. We see the finesse with which he uses Zantetsuken: the episode's final shot, for example, shows him slicing through a tree, leaving the butterfly on the other side unharmed to flutter away. We also see just how hardcore traditional he is. When asked why he's so different from other Japanese people, Goemon argues that he's the one who has it right.

Most of all, though, we get to see Lupin and Goemon's real reason for hanging out. Goemon is determined to kill him — a motivation that evolves over time into Goemon considering himself the only person who gets to kill Lupin. Lupin, meanwhile, takes a liking to the guy. We'll see this reexamined (as we do every relationship in the show) in Part 5.

For now, though, what the heck is a Goemon?

Thieves Are Eternal

Like Lupin and Inspector Zenigata, Goemon has his origins in literature and legend. The original Goemon Ishikawa allegedly lived in the late 16th century, a Robin Hood-esque outlaw. Over the centuries, accounts of his life have morphed and changed hugely. There are allegations of him attempting to assassinate a feudal warlord (which one depends on who you ask), and even the story of his execution by being boiled alive varies from telling to telling.

The original Goemon has become a popular kabuki character and tends to be depicted, like Arséne Lupin, as a sort of Gentleman Thief character. And, like Lupin, back in the day he apparently had some frankly beautiful words about his chosen profession:

"Like sand in a river, thieves will forever be countless and not wash away."

These were allegedly his final words, written as a poem. It's no wonder Monkey Punch threw Goemon's descendant into the mix.

When I first got into Lupin the Third, I was completely disconnected from its literary and historical connections. Digging into all its inspirations really changes the vibe of the whole piece.

In college, I was in a production of Pseudolus for the Classics Club. The era was non-specific — or rather, it was many eras at once, meant to show how long-lived the "clever servant" trope is. Examining Lupin the Third with an eye to all the different eras and cultures of its characters is fascinating... and the arrival of Maurice Leblanc's work in Japan in the early 20th century is probably worth a deep dive of its own. For now, it's a reminder of just how much thief and detective fiction has been imported and exported.

Lupin the 3rd Part I Blu-ray

I've been off track with my posts as I started a new gig recently, and I managed to start at the busiest time of year. But I've got my feet under me, and I'm back to it. Next week (on our usual Wednesday), it's episode 6: with at least one (1) each of corpses and diamonds!

Lupin the Third Rewind: One Chance for a Prison Break


Lupin goes to jail

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Our first introduction to Koichi Zenigata was, technically, at the very beginning of Lupin the Third Part 1. He was a presence, but not the key antagonist. We got a taste of what he's doing there and why — his belief that the two are destined to be at odds, as well as his links to the literary Zenigata and Lupin the First's Ganimard and "Herlock Sholmes." (More on that in my first blog post in the series.) But he's not the chief antagonist there so much as an extra wrinkle. His appearance is more for the sake of crafting the universe up front.

In "One Chance for a Prison Break," we truly see Lupin and Zenigata go toe-to-toe as equals, rather than Zeni getting comically thwarted as an afterthought. It kicks off a long history of rivalry mixed with respect, bloodthirsty intent tempered by actual investment.

The Long Game

Zenigata keeping a weather eye on the prisoner

The episode starts theoretically at an end: Lupin wrapping up a successful heist with Fujiko. With embarrassingly keen timing, Zenigata and his men swoop in at the last minute, peppering Lupin with tranq rounds and carting him off to prison.

Immediately, Lupin goes off. He's not Lupin, he's one of the guards. The real Lupin has disguised both himself and the guard and swapped places. There's a hot second of concern, but Zenigata finally confirms that, yes, they caught the real deal and he's just making a scene. Lupin is bundled into a straitjacket and locked up, with his execution scheduled for a year hence.

Yeah. Execution. That's the only thing that will satisfy Zenigata. Kill the son of a bitch. Put a pin in that.

Time goes on, and Lupin attempts... well, nothing. Except growing a hell of a beard and gettin' gaunt, and continue to inure Zenigata and the guards to the whole "I'm not the real Lupin" rant. Fujiko makes repeated attempts to break him out, with Jigen stopping her each time — Lupin knows what he's doing, Jigen assures her. But even Jigen begins to wonder what's up, finally disguising himself as a Buddhist monk and paying a visit as his partner's execution draws near. Lupin assures him this is all according to keikaku.

Hell, even Zenigata is freaking out at this point. A fellow officer points out that it's almost like he wants Lupin to escape. Put a pin in that, too.

Finally, the day comes, and we discover that Lupin hasn't been idle. He's been... growing out one fingernail. Now that it's razor-sharp, he can cut his way out of his straitjacket, shave half his face, and (unshaven side forward) lure a guard in. Then he really does pull the ol' switcheroo. As the prisoner is screaming that he's not the real Lupin, that the real Lupin has pulled a switch and is now posing as a guard... oh, right. That. Of course, as planned, Zenigata rolls his eyes and waves it off.

Lupin almost gets away with it, too... except that he accidentally refers to the prison having a gas chamber rather than an electric chair. That gives the game up, but Lupin still makes his escape — taking the time to point out that, yeah, he could have escaped at any time. But since Zenigata embarrassed him by thwarting him at the last second, Lupin wanted to do the same to him.

There's just one down side to Lupin's spite-motivated plan: the forest where he and Fujiko hid their acquisition got mowed down in the intervening year.



As with previous episodes, "One Chance for a Prison Break" was adapted from Monkey Punch's original manga. Specifically, the very second installment. A few changes were made here and there, chief among them being the presence of Jigen (who hadn't been introduced in the manga yet). Lupin was also due to be executed by gas chamber in the manga — hence his (not-so-)fatal slip-up in the anime.

But the adaptation action doesn't end there. This episode (and by extension the manga chapter) takes inspiration from parts of the very first Arséne Lupin collection. After being arrested in his first story ("The Arrest of Arséne Lupin," 1905), he sends a letter from prison claiming he'll be around before his trial for another round of light thievery ("Arséne Lupin in Prison," 1905).

It all kicks off in the appropriately-titled "The Escape of Arséne Lupin" (1906), when Ganimard allows Lupin to affect his jailbreak. The plan was to use the opportunity to nab Lupin's co-conspirators in the process... except that, aware he's being watched, the thief simply pops out for a meal and then returns to prison. On the same day, a lookalike was arrested and summarily released. But at trial, Ganimard becomes convinced that Lupin and the lookalike got switched around that day, and the Lupin on the stand is in fact the lookalike. And so, he's let go.

Except... whoops, it really was Lupin all along. His cohorts made sure the lookalike got in the mix on the day of his escape, and Lupin used dieting and drugs (ah, the early 20th century) to make himself look enough like the lookalike to cast doubt in Ganimard's mind.

Fortunately for The Third's health, we have it confirmed throughout the series that he prefers to use a Hollywood level makeup kit that he stows... somewhere.

Eternal Rivalry

Inspector Zenigata

The relationship between Lupin and Zenigata is, frankly, one of the best things in anime. It's interpreted a lot of different ways — full disclosure, I personally approach them as either friends or familial. Your mileage may vary, that's just what's here. Regardless.

I touched in my post on "Is Lupin Burning?" on the original Arséne Lupin's view of detectives and thieves (as he explained to Herlock Sholmes), and how we see that reflected throughout Lupin the Third. It's one of my favorite quotes from Leblanc's original stories: to paraphrase, the idea that the two are on opposite sides of a fence, with directly opposing purposes in life, and that they may occasionally meet and cross paths, but the fence may never be jumped. It's great. I love it.

Zenigata has a moment of pause in "Is Lupin Burning?" where he speculates (without actually verbalizing) on how life would be if he, a Zenigata, were not fated to chase and capture a Lupin. As time goes on, he doesn't really have to speculate, since the two are on the same side more and more as Lupin's ideals and characterization change. You see it in The Castle of Cagliostro, you absolutely see it in The First, and you get a big weird bite of it in 2001's Alcatraz Connection... where Lupin effects another jailbreak using Zenigata, his weird American partner, and a hearse.

Part V is where this really shines, though. It's a season devoted to testing and pulling on the core cast's interpersonal relationships, questioning them, and ultimately strengthening them. That includes Zenigata's obsession with bringing Lupin in. Koichi Yamadera gets to chew on possibly Zenigata's greatest monologue ever: where he explains exactly why he's doing this, filling in that blank from nearly 50 years prior.

As much as I want to just copy-paste it here, it's so much better to see it on your own.

From Part IV, episode 13

Part IV has another impressive jailbreak, this time out of a bespoke prison designed from Zenigata's own specs. I won't go into it here (maybe someday on the blog); the short version is, there's some serious power creep between these two. Driving home that Zenigata really is a high-level Lawful Good Paladin when so much of his time is spent being thwarted can be difficult. His goofiness comes from his personality, not from any lack of skill. Zenigata is good. It's just Lupin is better.

Up next, we introduce a familiar face who's been notably absent so far. And he's got a bone to pick with Lupin, too.

Lupin the Third Rewind: Farewell, My Beloved Witch


Linda the Flower Witch

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Pretty much any long-running anime series has to have at least one episode like this week's. You know the kind: our hero meets a mysterious and tragic girl whose fate is inextricably linked to a thing that must be destroyed. There's probably something vaguely supernatural (or at least weird) about said thing. The girl probably doesn't deserve whatever is going on, but she's almost certainly going to die.

In this spirit, we get Linda the Boomflower Witch. Though what actually makes her a witch... I'm still trying to figure out.

The Story

Lupin and Jigen are shocked by all of this.

There's a fair bit of futzing around in this one to start. Lupin and Fujiko are on a motorboat, playfully acting like they're going to kill each other, when they catch up to some actual killers trying to take out a young woman in another boat. The assassins are a notorious gang known as the "Killer-in-Killers," and the woman is a blonde named Linda. Some sharpshooting from a previously-hidden Jigen saves the day, and Fujiko (presumably seeing Lupin is otherwise occupied) takes off with the boat.

No matter, Lupin and Linda are now on an island full of flowers. Flowers Linda smells like. The two have a nice little frolic before meeting up with Dr. Heinlein, a nuclear fission expert running experiments from his lab on the island. Turns out if you pulverize the flowers and mix them with his proprietary blend, you make a powerful explosive. The aforementioned Killers want it very much.

As for Linda? She was Dr. Heinlein's assistant, and he "ran experiments" on her involving the flowers. Now she needs them to survive. Also this "turned her into a witch," though what that actually means is sort of vague.

The battle for the explosive is underway. Fujiko wants it. The Killer-in-Killers want it. Lupin... wants to help Linda. He says as much when captured by the Killers, eventually making his escape. 

Dr. Heinlein finally decides the only solution is to burn up all the flowers so no one can use them. Where's Linda when they do this? Frolicking in the flowers, obviously. Dr. Heinlein shoots her as she's burning to death, then gets shot in return by the Killers. His last request to Lupin is to find a missile deep in the ocean, one containing the last portion of his explosive, and deliver it to a lab in Japan.

Lupin nearly manages... but Fujiko shows up, wanting to ride the missile out of the wreckage with him. He explains that any extra weight will prevent them from making it to land, but this doesn't stop her from hitching a ride. We end with Lupin, Jigen, and Fujiko paddling to shore with the remains of the missile.

Witchy Things

Linda the witch

This episode is notable for being Lupin's first (and dear God not remotely his last) time rescuing a damsel in distress. His entire motivation is Linda; and once he's gotten the horny out of his system, he actually does respond to her promise to protect her. Granted, he initially assumes she's simply being dramatic, but finding out her claims are true only strengthens his resolve.

Granted, we're dealing with pre-Miyazaki Season 1 Lupin (more on that in a moment), so he's going to have more than a smattering of his manga persona still about him. But this is where, at least in his anime form, we get a first glimpse of his more heroic side.

Then there's the whole thing of Linda herself. The story of the Third Sun flowers, Dr. Heinlein, and Linda herself doesn't come from the manga. The story "Lupin of Arabia" follows Lupin stealing a missile (with the intent of selling it and stealing it again), and is the source of the episode's final scene with Fujiko and a bit of the Killer-in-Killers action.

It's not really sticking my neck out to say this new story is a one off of Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "Rappaccini's Daughter." Just in case you didn't have to read it in high school: our narrator Giovanni goes away to school in Padua and falls in love with Beatrice, the daughter of medical researcher Giacomo Rappaccini. Raised among the poisonous flowers he researches, she herself also becomes poisonous - and so does Giovanni the more he comes to visit her. He gives her an antidote to the poison, so she can leave her father's garden, but it ends up killing her.

Linda is a pretty clear analog for Beatrice: she's forced to live among the flowers because of an experiment, and eventually dies among them. But that's about it. It's never really explained why Dr. Heinlein claims he turned her into a witch (the word used in Japanese is majo, specifically referring to a magic-using woman, and some releases have translated it as "sorceress"). 

We do see a final shot of her as she dies, appearing to turn into a flower and waft away on the flames, and Lupin gives a similarly romantic description of her demise. Whether we're meant to see this as some magical happening, or simply an artistic interpretation of her death, it's hard to tell. It's not a terribly well animated episode to start. In fairness, Hawthorne's original work was similarly vague about Beatrice. But it does feel a bit as though there was a scene or story beat cut that might have clarified the "witch" claim.

The Lupin Syndicate

Fujiko, as seen in "Lupin of Arabia"

In my first entry of this series, I glossed straight over something pretty big: mention of the Lupin Syndicate. This gets mentioned as a major plot point in Strange Psychokinetic Strategy, the manga, and early episodes of the anime. But we don't hear about it much these days.

So, surprise! Back in the day, Lupin the Third had his own crime syndicate. And I don't just mean Jigen and Goemon and sometimes Fujiko. The manga laid down the idea to some degree that the Lupin family was actually a... you know. Family. That Lupin was feared and revered by the criminal world. And it can be a bit strange to see in retrospect.

It's not hard to see why this has gone almost entirely out the window. Lupin still has associates, old friends, old rivals. In the Blue Jacket series and forward, it's established (at least as far as the TV series go) that "Lupin" is a name passed down along a line of thieves, rather than an actual family line. But even then, he sticks to his trusted small crew.

It's part of his regeneration into the "thief with a heart of gold," it seems. It's a bit hard to argue you're a good guy when you're leading an international crime ring. That aside, we do get to see the great dichotomy of Lupin: the total goofball who can also be pretty terrifying if he cares to be. The guy who, even when his brain seems to be switched off, is potentially still keeping his eyes open. There's a fun little scene in this episode to that effect where Lupin and Fujiko, both seemingly ready to get it on under a tree, are actually squaring up to shoot the half-dozen assassins gathering around them.

Lupin the 3rd Part I Blu-ray

I want to close this one out by pointing out something someone else noticed about this episode: it's our first time seeing Lupin actually shed a tear about something. (That "something" being, of course, Linda's demise.) It's an empathy alien to Lupin in the manga, who was all about getting money and things and girls, and whose stories generally ended somewhat humorously. We still have a few episodes left until the game-changers start to arrive on the scene. But even now, he was making a move toward becoming the character we know.

Next week, Zenigata is back!


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