Lupin III – The Hard-Boiled Bullet

Like a fair number of Western anime fans, my main experience with Lupin III is with the classic flick Castle of Cagliostro and a few TV episodes here and there. Always meant to watch more, but it’s always been unfortunately easier for me to put aside long stuff like Lupin III, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Urusei Yatsura or whatever in favor of short series, movies and OVAs that build up on the ol’ to-watch plate. Maybe this new series will be the kick in the ass I need to plunge full-on into Lupin III whether it’s only partially representative of the Lupin experience or not.

The second episode of the new Lupin III series struck me hard because it’s so god damned noir in tone, style, look, story, character . . . you name it, this episode has it. I know only the most surface things about the Lupin III characters, but from what I do know, Jigen and Fujiko strike me as being the most at-home in a film noir. (Goemon is, of course, a friggin’ samurai, and Lupin himself is maybe a bit too free-flowing and fun for a super hard-boiled story like this . . . but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were several tales that proved me wrong.) Jigen in particular I could see being a detective in an L.A. noir in another life.

You’re usually one of two types of folks if you’re a noir hero: A desperate sucker (or a sucker whose false bravado hides his desperation), or you’re the man with a heart in a sick, decaying world. Jigen is clearly the latter. He’s tough but not uncaring; suspicious, but not unfeeling. He cares about honor in a world that has none, but he’s not a sap because he sticks to a code. Jigen’s character design here also screams noir hero. The thick, black, sketchy lines benefit him more than anyone so far — they give him a lean, tough look. Jigen’s gun looks bigger, his chin and beard longer and sharper, his fedora more menacing, and the deep shadows below the brim darker. Jigen might initially come off as built from the scraps of film noir, but he’s made in such a way that he’s his own person and nothing else. He’s an archetype, for sure, but an archetype that sticks.

As for the story, you can’t get much more classic film noir than this. You’ve got a self-destructive woman who tempts the hero; a gruff man with a hidden heart; layers of deceptive storytelling; and settings that seem built specifically to play with darkness and light. Film noir stories strike me as interesting because while they are often complex and occasionally difficult to keep straight, it’s rarely the details that matter so much as the chords struck by each individual beat. Details are hidden not because it’s clever storytelling, but because it means something that the details are hidden. In this case, Cicciolina’s desire for self-destruction had not disappeared; her plot is an elaborate suicide by the hands of the one man who touched her heart.

For me, when the details in a noir story come together like this, the feeling afterward is insanely harrowing despite the often dark, dour outcomes. Much of that feeling comes down to noir having a feeling that truly resonates. It’s the type of feel that can only be captured in a visual/aural medium. (Don’t get me wrong: I love Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, et al as much as anyone else, but the feeling from reading a book is something different.) When Jigen goes to Cicciolina’s body, opens the chamber of his trusted gun and finds no bullets within, that’s a Moment. That soft jazz, that dark church, Cicciolina’s pained confession, and that dark church with the Madonna on the wall . . . so fuckin’ perfect, man.

That’s the kind of shit that gets me. I’ll eat that up to the day I die.


13 Responses to “Lupin III – The Hard-Boiled Bullet”

  1. God damn I am so hype now. Gotta get home to watch this.

  2. The epitome of style and classiness. This series must be watched in HD in a big flat screen with you on a velvet couch and a glass of old wine in your hand… Just for Fujiko’s pretty eyes (and body) and the retro atmosphere I watch this.

  3. If it weren’t for Fujiko’s body looking like a Doric column that took one too many hits at about the halfway point, I’d enjoy the style a bit more. Of course the plot’s a bit more fleshed out in several ways, but I’m a sucker for nostalgia trips so… yeah, bias.

    Anywho, can’t wait for the next episode!

    • lol, yeah, her body does have some painful proportions that are particularly noticeable during that initial scene where she’s being told the plan.

  4. blackdalek Says:

    man! this episode remember me a lot movie that i love ! Le Samurai , directed by Jean Pierre Melville and acted by alain delon, a must see (avoid the english dubbed version). I Agree, best episode of the season.

    • You have fine taste in movies, my friend! Great movie. I really like how restrained it is, like noir cut down to the bone.

      • blackdalek Says:

        I feel the same way when i saw Ghost Dog by Jim Jarmusch, just Le Samurai re-lectured, but still good.

        • Haha, man, are you trying to become my new favorite commenter? Ghost Dog is so fucking awesome. Really need to watch that again some time.

    • Landon Says:

      Yeah. So far the new Lupin series has harkened back to a LOT of crime movies from the late 60s, Le Samourai included. These guys are really capturing the whole era of stuff from which the original Lupin manga originated.

  5. Very well said. The noir feel to this episode gave it a much different feel than the comedy-action feel of the first episode. Even if future episodes don’t turn out this way, this was a very entertaining episode, and makes me glad I decided to watch this series, despite not being familiar with the franchise.

  6. I’m trying to get more into noir, I really don’t have a ton of knowledge outside of having read and seen Maltese Falcon (one of my favorite movies) and a couple other flicks of the era. My wife just bought a rare movie whose name escapes me at the moment. Jigen doesn’t quite have Bogey’s charm — in fact he’s quite a bit more of a gentleman and less of a scoundrel. But he was always my favorite of the Lupin gang for his quiet cool and improbable hat angle.

    • Allow me to jump into recommendation mode!

      Double Indemnity (1944): Pretty much a classic. Anything directed by Billy Wilder is excellent — also love Sunset Boulevard and Ace in the Hole (which is still timely as a scathing takedown of the media)

      Laura (1944): The story is all over the place, but the pure style is awesome, and Clifton Webb is pretty great as a smarmy, manipulative prick.

      The Big Sleep (1946): You’ve probably already seen it because of Bogie, but just in case.

      Out of the Past (1947): Robert Mitchum as a flawed detective, and Kirk Douglas as a hard, mean bastard. Yes, yes and yes.

      The Lady from Shanghai (1948): Really strange flick with a weird sort of style and story to it. Also worth it for the phenomenal hilarity of Orson Welles’ Irish accent.

      The Third Man (1949): Fucking amazing movie right here. The style, themes, writing, melancholy, all damn near perfect.

      White Heat (1949): James Cagney being fucking bananas. Yes, please.

      In a Lonely Place (1950): Bogie is totally soul-crushing in this … in a good way, but Jesus.

      The Big Heat (1953): Really like how this subtly rips apart the archetype of the righteous cop, and it’s got Gloria Grahame as a tortured moll and Lee Marvin as an utter bastard. Sold.

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