Sunday, July 23, 2017
50 YEARS OF LUPIN III: Daisuke Jigen's Gravestone
Nine days after Queen Malta's assassination at a peace concert, a sniper ends Lupin III's latest jewel heist with a well-placed shot, sending a bullet into Daisuke Jigen's leg. The thieves crawl away to safety before the next shot could prove fatal. Acting on a hunch from a spent round, Jigen searches the nearest cemetery. A legendary gunman, Jael Okuzaki, is known to prepare a grave for each target he kills. And the newest grave is Jigen's. As the country around him prepares for war, Jigen fights his own personal battle, gunslinger against sniper. Okuzaki knows the city and has a preternatural ability to know exactly where Jigen is at any time. All Jigen has is the revolver at his side--and the help of the world's greatest thief, Lupin III.
A two part theatrical film released in 2014, Daisuke Jigen's Gravestone occupies a strange spot in the Lupin III catalog. It is a rare direct continuation of a previous work, the controversial TV series The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. Intended as a daring reimagination of Lupin III, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine pushed the Lupin gang to the side, focusing on Fujiko's self-indulgent mysteries and centerfold preening for the camera. And, like many "daring reimaginations," the additions boiled down to the same three features: dark stories, boobs, and blood. Faced with complaints that Lupin was no longer in the spotlight, Daisuke Jigen's Gravestone returns the focus to Lupin III and his American gunslinger buddy, Daisuke Jigen. And as a character, Lupin returns in magnificent style.
As mentioned in the comments on the Italian adventures, stories that focus on the rest of the gang tend to be shallow and one-dimensional. Daisuke Jigen's Gravestone ran that risk by making Jigen the engine of the story. The gunslinger was Queen Malta's bodyguard, dismissed just before the assassination. Jigen is taking the failure and the dead hard, as it is hinted that his respect for the singer might be more than professional. If so, the relationship ended as most of Jigen's romances do. As the assassin, Jael hunts Jigen to tie up loose end, while Lupin tries to help his gruff buddy escape. At this point, the extent of Jigen's normal characterization has been exhausted. Rather than make up new relationships or backstories that would be forgotten in the next adventure, Daisuke Jigen's Gravestone instead removes Jigen from the plot for about half the movie, forcing a personal confrontation between Lupin and Jael in a clash that pays off the assassination of Queen Malta, Jigen's disappearance, and the MacGuffin of the story, the Calamity File stolen by Fujiko. Also different from previous stories is that Lupin and Jigen bond over this adventure. The stories of The Woman Called Fujiko Mine serve as a reimagined origin for the gang, and, true to the manga, Jigen and Lupin originally were rivals. Like many anime stories, Jigen's defeat turned into friendship, but the trust between Lupin and Jigen so often shown in their adventures had yet to develop. Unlike the fast friendships over a cup of tea in other anime, don't listen to their words but pay attention to their actions. There's a manly, even soldierly, respect between the two men untainted by the now normal pandering to otaku and fujoshi preferences for homosexual subtext. The character development remains focused by the limited cast, since as is often the case, Goemon is indisposed, and Zenigata only shows up in an after-credits scene. All the time is spent on Lupin, Jigen, and Fujiko.
The Woman Called Fujiko Mine reimagining continues with 2017's The Blood Spray of Goemon Ishikawa, which has yet to have an English release scheduled. While future movies in this series are unconfirmed, the appearance of Mamo at the end of Daisuke Jigen's Gravestone suggests that the blue-skinned villain in Lupin's first film The Mystery of Mamo may return in the future.