Spring 2014: Jojo, Ping Pong, Kagepro, DBKai, and Some Others

I don’t have particularly long things to say about what’s on this season, but I do have some short things to say, so here goes.

Jojo no Kimyou na Bouken: Stardust Crusaders

This is the hottest thing on the Japanese tube at the moment. I got on series one’s case for being kind of cheap and ugly looking, and it didn’t help that the earlier arcs of the manga didn’t really live up to all the Jojo’s talk that’s built up over the years (part two ain’t bad, though.) This new series, however, is on fire. The production values are impeccable, accurately reproducing Araki’s style and bringing it to life with imaginative battle sequences and slick cinematic presentation. I never got people’s obsession with the first series’ music, but this show’s soundtrack fits perfectly, boasting some right-on-the-money leitmotifs, and all the bombast of a Hollywood soundtrack mixed with some that “anime sound” to remind you that you’re watching a Japanese cartoon. I only fear for the animators drawing all those detailed designs–will this show be able to keep up the quality for the assumed over two-cour runtime?

Ping Pong

I’m not one of those guys who’s obsessed with Yuasa Masaaki, but I do like his work, and I like Ping Pong. Episode one had a bit too much 3D CG, but subsequent episodes strike a more pleasant balance. The show is compellingly ugly, mixing Matsumoto Taiyou’s gritty aesthetic with Yuasa’s bold cartoon expression. The show’s also pretty cheap, but it fits with the show’s rough aesthetic, and it looks good where it counts. The story is obviously less about some kind of shounen manga sports arc and more about the characters, who are all really interesting. Everyone stands out as a distinct individual with realistically quirky personalities, such as veteran teacher Koizumi’s habit of speaking English for no reason, or Chinese exchange student Wange’s strict devotion to his game and harsh evaluation of others. The main pair, Smile and Peco, perfectly capture a picture of two best friends who couldn’t be more different, and their interactions and personalities are incredibly well crafted and familiar.

Also, that opening rules.

Mekaku-shi Actors

I’ve been giving SHAFT the cold shoulder lately. Sasami was garbage, and I didn’t even bother with a single episode of Nisekoi. I wasn’t going to touch Mekaku-shi Actors either, as I distinctly remember kids at the school I used to work at reading the Kagero Project novels the show is based on (with the novels based on a series of Vocaloid songs), and I figured myself too good for something aimed at teenagers. However, I realized I basically have the mind of a 15-year-old myself, and actually don’t hate Mekaku-shi Actors. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s popcorn stuff. The characters all have very simple, easily amusing personalities and gimmicks, though some of them do get on my nerves. Also, given this is a huge show with a huge audience, it looks great, which I’m of two minds about. On the one hand, it’s great to see SHAFT’s slick style taken to its full intentional, but on the other hand, I wish this kind of time was taken on a better show. Monogatari Season 2 looked good some of the time, but it was unfortunately a lot of long shots of static characters moving nothing but their mouths.

The show isn’t a keeper, but it works. And, I do like everyone’s dead, tired eyes.

Dragon Ball Kai

Dragon Ball is a series that, at this point, commands two different levels of nostalgia in my mind. I of course watched THE DUB on Cartoon Network, caught some episodes raw on the International Channel, and watched fansubs of the movies with my friends years back. When I studied abroad in 2009, the first airing of Kai had just begun (I distinctly remember an elementary school kid singing the opening on his way home) and I was keen to take a dip in the nostalgia pool, especially given that the show was cut down so that every single rise of a finger or something similar didn’t take roughly ten episodes or more. The first Kai was a good edit of the original–some of the re-done animation looked hokey, but the new music was a decent enough facsimile of the original. It’s the opposite now–the staff seems to know better at this point not to mess with the original animation, but for some reason they decided to fuck up the music. I’d almost prefer Mr. Faulconer’s score to this one. Also, as with the last Kai, there is absolutely no need to change the opening and ending sequences. The new eye-catches are pretty bad too, like the one with Goku and Vegeta putting on fusion earrings, then immediately getting thrown towards each other, colliding at the crotch. Did it happen that way in the original? I’d really just like a version of Dragon Ball that kept all the good stuff from the original (background music, opening/ending animations, actual story stuff) and cut all the bad stuff (Super Saiyan Constipation).

I’m actually interested in seeing this outing until the end, because I never watched the original DBZ until the end when I was a kid. It gets old after a while, you know? And even though Kai is cut down, both this airing and the last one feel a little slow, so I can’t even imagine how slow the original must have been.


I watched the Manga-ka and Assistant show. This kind of stuff would have been funny if I was in college, but the show’s humor doesn’t really work on me anymore. I also caught Insufficient Direction, but it seems to be the kind of thing that can be consumed faster just by reading it, so I think I’ll do that eventually. I’m really interested in the new Mushishi, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

In the wake of Kill la Kill, this season does feel a little empty, but all the shows I have my eyes on now are still really good, so I’m satisfied.

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The Dandying Ends… For Now: The First Season of Space☆Dandy

Space☆Dandy is the most anime thing I’ve seen in a while. It had action, was a sci-fi work, was also a comedy work, had bits of martial arts, came to America straight from Japan (before Japan could even see it), was totally unexpected, and was certainly not kids stuff at certain points. If ADV still existed, I’m sure they’d love to get their hands on Space☆Dandy. We’ll getting more of Dandy soon, but given it’s a couple of months until season two, let’s take a look at how the first season worked out.

When Space☆Dandy first dropped, I wasn’t all too impressed. Since those irresponsible Dandy Days, the show evolved a bit over the course of its thirteen episodes, and proved itself a work worth paying attention to. But, did it meet the lofty expectations set by its predecessor, Cowboy Bebop? After thirteen episodes, it unfortunately has not. And yes, I will be comparing Space☆Dandy to Cowboy Bebop because I think they have a lot in common. I could also compare Samurai Champloo, but I don’t remember that one very well, so I’ll leave it out of this.

Space☆Dandy and Cowboy Bebop share some common attributes that makes them apt for comparison:

  1. They are both heavily episodic works
  2. They are both science fiction works (with martial arts and action, natch)
  3. They both place heavy importance on music
  4. They share the same director
  5. Woolongs

However, while sharing these common attributes, their respective approaches are quite different, particularly in the first one. Cowboy Bebop is mostly episodic, but does have a few story threads that underlie the whole thing, while Space☆Dandy is unabashedly episodic–one of its strengths–and it gives a lot of power to episode directors, animation directors, and script writers. Less than being a coherent work, as Space☆Dandy progresses, it becomes about letting creators do their own thing in each episode, which makes for a very eclectic set of episodes.

But before getting that deep, here are some favorite episodes.

While the show gets off to a weak start, it hits its first very strong outing at episode five, in which Dandy helps a young girl reunite with her family. Interestingly enough, this episode is less comedic and more rooted in the Japanese’s love for tear-jerking emotional bullshit, but thankfully it doesn’t lay the emotional stuff on too heavy, balancing out it with some fun scenes that stray from the main jokes the series had established until that point, none of which were particularly funny. It warms the heart without being too overdone.

The next really good one comes five episodes later, where Dandy and crew find themselves on Meow’s home planet. Being someone who has actually lived in the dead-end Japanese suburbs before, the way the episode perfectly captures the bleakness of that environment–with shots of unfinished highways, abandoned shopping arcades, and old rusted metal work–along with the monotony and redundancy of life out there by actually throwing the characters into a time-loop is very well executed, and an appropriately severe examination of a major issue in real life Japan. However, at the same time it doesn’t completely bash the inaka lifestyle, and also shows how it does work for some people. The episode has many details that bring it very close to home–despite everyone being cat-aliens. Meow’s delinquent sister asking for money to buy “textbooks”; his old friends souping up an old clunker of a car and painting it garish colors; and the down-home snack bar the trio finds themselves in every night are all real slices of Japanese life outside of big cities like Tokyo that give the episode a palpable realism and familiarity. It addition to its sharp commentary, the episode also has a sharp sense of humor–the scene with Dandy getting all yankii (btw: I think that article is meant to be sarcastic–there is nothing cool about yankii) in Meow’s house is pure gold, and the revelation of the relationship between Meow’s childhood crush and the Mama-san at the snack bar is hilarious, and comes at exactly the right moment. This wit can be credited to script writer Ueno Kimiko, who writes a lot of the show’s funnier/weirder episodes.

But the show’s absolute best episode is the twelfth, where it goes complete slapstick, and doesn’t letup with a succession of hard-hitting, wonderfully stupid gags and running jokes. The episode is also one of the few to move at a very brisk pace, and effectively fits three different stories into its twenty minute run-time. This again comes to us by way of Ueno’s pen, taking the show’s basic setup to great places. Making QT a fishing addict? Hilarious. Making the universes’ most mysterious and unknown alien a stupid prankster? Hilarious.  Making Dandy face off against himself in a Who Wants to be a Millionaire?-style game show? Hilarious. This episode was the only one that had me laughing out loud, which the show really should have been doing from episode one.

There are a few other good ones–episode four’s zombie apocalypse gets off to a pleasantly morbid start, but the second half is a bit too slowburn for me. The seventh episode’s space race is almost funny enough to make it into my favorites, but I think the pace should be more on par with episode twelve. Episode eight–by Bebop vet Nobumoto Keiko–has a strong emotional first half, and a strong comedic second half, but the way they blend doesn’t quite work for me.

But yeah–giving power to creators. On the forefront, the show boasts a wide variety of art styles every episode, and effectively enables animation directors to get their own individual style out there, whether that be pushing their own vision, or just letting the animators under them do whatever they want. The coolest looking episode is the eleventh, which brings to mind Shinbou Akiyuki, if his style was more muted and sketchy, and makes for a deeply mysterious and moody atmosphere that compliments the material perfectly. The show’s ninth episode fully convinces you that Yuasa Masaaki is behind it all until the credits roll to reveal that it’s actually Eunyoung Choi following in her master’s footsteps. It’s a great looking episode that takes cartoon expression to the extreme, both in the bold way in which it presents itself and in the imaginative design of the world itself. The show’s sixth episode which, according to Anipages Daily, is mostly the work of a single man, has a decently strong visual individuality, mostly in its rough and bizarre backgrounds that set the tone for a suitably bizarre episode. Nobumoto’s episode eight also looks really good in addition to being one of the better written outings of the series. The characters look distinctly more cartoony, and move constantly with energy and dynamism. While not exactly pushing some huge artistic agenda like the show’s eleventh episode, episode eight brings back a more loose and free cartoon atmosphere that is sometimes lost in a medium filled with lots of very well drawn still shots and not much in the way of movement.

Okay, so both Bebop and Dandy use the episodic format in similar but different ways. They both take advantage of their episodic approach to flesh out the world through a series of one-offs, but they differ in that Bebop uses it to cop various genre movies, while Dandy uses it to give power to a variety of creative hands. One thing that makes or break any show, especially a show without a serial plot, is the characters. You have to be interested in what these people are going to get themselves into each week, or else your show isn’t going anywhere. Cowboy Bebop has a motley crew of misfits who don’t get along with each other and are written as realistically flawed human beings. They are a very strong pillar that holds the series up, even during some of its weaker outings. Sadly for Space☆Dandy, its motley crew of misfits doesn’t quite do it for me.

To put it bluntly, they’re all very stupid, and not in a good way. Dandy’s yankii personality is genuinely funny, but he doesn’t have much to play off of. QT is the obvious straight man, but is played entirely too straight. Same with Meow–he’s supposed to be this nerdy country bumkin, but that angle isn’t played up at all–he just actually acts like a real otaku from the country side. I know those people. They’re boring, and Meow is boring. And with Dandy left with no-one to really bounce himself off of, he too begins to fall flat as a character. For these characters to work, they have to be brought up and above the stereotypes they’re supposed to represent. At the moment, save for a few episodes (notably the twelfth) they’re just the real thing, and those people kind of suck.  The writers have to find what makes those character types funny and exaggerate those aspects, or turn them on their head–not play them straight.

Actually, on the whole, the show just isn’t funny enough for a comedy. The beginning is particularly dire, as it relies on the same couple of jokes far too often, but thankfully it moves away from that swiftly enough. Once the show hits its stride, it does have some amusing outings, but there’s only really one that’s honestly laugh-out-loud funny. The show has a few more serious outings, and they’re good, except for the fact that the characters remain their typical stupid selves, clueless to what is going on around them, which makes the episodes fall flat. I would have loved the show’s eleventh episode with its moody visuals and trippy story if the characters were a bit more keen to what was going on. Same with the ninth.  These episodes are great chances to give these characters some extra dimensions, but at the moment they’re just idiots being passively strung along, which doesn’t make for compelling storytelling. The show actually does this in episode five, showing that Dandy isn’t just a giant pervert, and has something of a soft spot. But there’s not enough of that.

Dr. Gel, Bea and Admiral Perry are the show’s antagonists who show up every now and again, and it unfortunately kind of takes too long for the show to really have fun with them. Sure, they get blown up in the first episode, but other than that, they’re not terribly funny until about the show’s half-way point, where they become the funniest part of each episode. When they show up, that is.

Okay, so the characters more or less suck and the writing is questionable. What about the sci-fi setting? Cowboy Bebop came on the scene with a very unique approach to SF that cranked up the realism and the grit, with characters living out their days on busted up spaceships and jumping between planets with cities overflowing with grime and character. It’s an SF work in the sense that there are spaceships and high technology, but it’s painted over with a thick brush of realism, with nothing exuding a particularly “futuristic” vibe. Space☆Dandy goes the exact opposite direction into vintage SF, taking itself into colorful intergalactic territory, something it touted right at the get-go with its long list of artists in charge of alien and world designs. Dandy’s setting is what allows the animators to go crazy–it’s an anything-goes universe that stretches as far as the creator’s imagination. If there’s one thing Dandy gets right, it’s some serious-business world building. Well, maybe not serious, but there are many worlds in the show, and they’re all unique and wonderful in their own way. But, similar to the Bebop, the Aloha Oe is also a clunker. It does look slightly nicer, though.

Much like Bebop, one big thing Space☆Dandy boasted about before it even started was its music. While Cowboy Bebop has a primarily jazz focused soundtrack with some blues, country, and a few other eclectic genres mixed in–all from the talented mind of Kanno Yoko (guess who got his Cowboy Bebop limited edition CD boxset signed!!!)–Space☆Dandy calls upon several talents to provide musical accompaniment for Dandy’s adventures. Despite having a wide variety of artists on music duty, the soundtrack leans heavily toward the electronic side, with some exceptions. For a show that calls upon so many people to handle its music, there doesn’t seem to be much variety. It’s all well done stuff, but a lot of it just falls in the background, whereas any given cut from Cowboy Bebop’s soundtrack jumps out every time it comes on. Perhaps I’ll see the music in a different light once I get my hands on the soundtrack. One track that really gets me is the disco number at the end of episode six, though. That owns hardcore. And Dandy surfs through space while it’s playing! That’s a really good scene is what I’m saying, okay?

The music really shines in the show’s opening and ending sequences. Japanese funk-master and former drug-addict Okamura Yasuyuki (affectionately dubbed as “Okamura-chan” in Japan) provides his entirely overdone (and entirely wonderful) soulful voice to the show’s funky-as-hell dance opening, Viva Namida. And as if God had granted a wish I never knew I had, Space☆Dandy brings Kanno Yoko and Yakushimaru Etsuko together for a spectacularly phantasmagoric and spacy tune in the form of X Jigen e Youkoso. Kanno’s strings and sax goes with Yakushimaru’s airy voice in a way I never thought possible.

As far as the direction goes, while lots of Dandy seems to be left up to episode directors, Watanabe guides it all with his steady and experienced hand. What surprised me about Space☆Dandy is that Watanabe is actually a pretty lousy writer, writing the extremely weak first episode. He also wrote episode nine, which was substantially better, but the original idea was by Eunyoung Choi. In short, I think he’s better in the director’s chair and figuring out what music to match to which scenes.

As of season one, for all the efforts put into its stylistic elements, Space☆Dandy falls devastatingly short in the writing department, specifically in how it portrays its characters. Cowboy Bebop isn’t even a comedy, but its characters fare way better in comedic situations than Space☆Dandy’s do, and they obviously do much better in serious stories than Dandy’s could ever hope to do. I hope that season two will mix things up more and make the characters more interesting, because at the moment they are what’s dragging the whole thing down. Everything else is great, guys! The Woolongs are a nice touch, too!

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They’re All Grown Ups, It’s Okay: Lupin III–The Mystery of Mamo

Mystery of Mamo is Lupin boiled down to its core. It’s big, stupid, confusing, crazy, cool, sexist, bold, and… kind of smart. It’s probably the closest the animated side of the franchise has come to original creator Monkey Punch’s fucked-up vision of Lupin III, with considerations for a wider, movie-watching audience kept in mind. But only a little bit. It happens to be his favorite Lupin movie.

Since Mamo’s been around for a while and you’ve probably seen it if you like Lupin, I’ll dispense with the synopsis, but if you’re not keen to the basic details, you can read up here. That said, if you’re going to start with a Lupin, this movie may not be the best place. While the franchise’s characters aren’t particularly complex, the movie doesn’t necessarily try its best to introduce you to these guys, and jumps straight into the action by killing the main character. That’s not going to mean anything if you don’t know who Lupin is, so it may be best to take in some episodes of one of the TV series before jumping in.

But boy, what a way to open. The movie doesn’t pull any punches from there–it’s non-stop action, complete with chases, gunfights, and explosions, interspersed with the characters’ usual cynical banter as they try to figure out what’s going on. Since this is Lupin’s first movie, there is a very deliberate attempt to make everything big–with the characters as a baseline, it raises the stakes as high as it can, upping the ante with every subsequent twist in the story, to the point where it hits a peak of ridiculousness that must have had Monkey Punch rolling around in glee. It’s a film for people happy to throw their suspension of disbelief to the wind. A movie for people who won’t get worried about things like “that’s not how nuclear missiles work” or “that’s not how lasers work” or “that’s not how clones work.” Yeah, we know.

Contributing to the movie’s everything-and-the-kitchen-sink aesthetic is a very crass, sexist, and somewhat nationalist viewpoint that permeates throughout the script. Sure, it’s “Lupin for adults”, but “adults” in the “1970s salaryman” sense. This is a movie for dudes, and dudes who have no problems with things not being particularly PC. Japanese cinema from the 1970s, okay? And it’s not as if Fujiko’s portrayed as some kind of damsel–she’s her usual independent, sexually aware self–but nearly all the male characters’ remarks about “women” (they’re nuthin’ but trouble, they just get in the way, they’re just out to trick ya) are probably enough to ruffle the feathers of anyone with good sense. On the other end of the non-PC spectrum, the American government has a big role in the film, and are portrayed as cold psychopaths who desire world domination as much as Mamo does–“If there is a God that will control this world, it will be us” says the the president’s assistant, who bears striking resemblance to Henry Kissinger. Not sure what they’re trying to say with that, but that’s just the kind of movie this is.

The film complements every one of its gradually crazier developments with a constant and shameless cartoon realism. That is to say, no realism. Car chases in this movie are complete bonkers, and only fly because it’s a cartoon. Characters are able to survive basically everything, as well–Zenigata makes it out of a carpet bombing and manages to swim from the Caribbean islands to Columbia in one piece. Oono Yuji’s dependable jazz soundtrack underscores the whole affair, running the gamut from goofy, romantic, to kind of spacey and weird. This all comes together to complete the film’s bold and irresponsible aesthetic, which is a pretty big part of what it is. While some of it can be chalked up to the time and place, the film has a rather bold and outspoken outlook and approach that makes it super interesting, as both a piece of entertainment and a reflection of what was going on in crazy Japanese film makers’ heads at the time.

The movie’s writing seems to get a lot of heat from English-speaking audiences–and to be honest, I wasn’t too hot on it either when I saw it for the first time, but I’ve come to appreciate it now. The way the movie moves from action, to international conspiracy, to science fiction is just another aspect of its bold, wacko, “try anything” style. Does it do these things well? Perhaps not the best, but it tries, and you commend it for having the courage to do so. While I used to think the gradual change in focus was scatterbrained, I’ve come to like how it dips its toes into many different genres. Much like its many twists, the movie doesn’t try to restrict itself to any certain genre. None of this genre jumping effects the main plot thread–the mystery surrounding Mamo is quite strong, unravels at a good pace without spelling everything out, and carries the film well. While it could be criticized for being confusing, I’d like to think that it just opts to not hold your hand. Is all of the stuff Mamo has going on real, or is it all just a giant bluff to freak Lupin out? Maybe it’s a bit of both? You come to your own conclusions.

Throughout the film’s non-stop irreverence, the characters remain themselves, and advance through the maddening beginning, middle and end the same way they handle anything else. Jigen is so cool that he doesn’t let his wine spill from its glass even during a crazy car-chase; Goemon remains true to his traditional code and comes through where it counts; and Zenigata is ever the picture of Japan’s bungling salaryman who does his job awfully, but is willing to do serious overtime to make up for it. On the subject of Zenigata, like many other Lupin features, he gets the short end of the stick in this film as well, and is absent for a good stretches of the run-time. Given how much this film tries to recapture the original manga, it would have been nice to portray Zenigata closer his slightly more clever manga counterpart.

The most interesting characters in the movie are Mamo, Fujiko, and Lupin. While Mamo claims he’s trying to rebuild a new world where only the beautiful and brilliant survive, it becomes obvious that he’s simply jealous of what Lupin and Fujiko have, and wants Fujiko for himself. While he seems to take joy in claiming he’s superior, one starts to realize that he’s afraid of Lupin, and could just be going to extreme lengths to get rid of him. And while Lupin and Fujiko continue with their typical game of double-crossings, it’s clear that in this film Lupin actually likes Fujiko (beyond her body, maybe), and Fujiko actually likes Lupin, even if she is easily detracted by shiny things (like promises of eternal youth). Despite being pure pulp, the film manages to paint a surprisingly accurate picture of flawed human-beings in these three characters. Lupin and Fujiko clearly like each other, but they can’t let one best the other when it comes to their trade as thieves–they take their work very seriously. (Perhaps a message about the working Japanese and their fucked up love lives? Maybe they weren’t that sharp in the ’70s…) Mamo convinces himself everything he’s doing is for a grand cause, but all he really wants is a girlfriend. Similarly, the film itself also claims to be about some giant scheme, but at its heart it’s about the stupid things men will do for women–such as destroying the world in a nuclear holocaust–a message that resonates with men the world over, I should think.

While it’s unwise to try to fit Lupin into one canon at this point, and it’s not explicitly said in the film, but by my guess the film is probably meant to be set before the second TV series (despite being produced in the middle of its airing). Zenigata still works for the Tokyo police department, and there are a few references to events from the first series, such as Lupin’s remarks about Mamo pretending to levitate by walking on reinforced glass (a reference to Pycal) and Goemon makes reference to his promise to kill Lupin. But who knows.

Production-wise, the film goes up and down. It apparently was quite expensive for the time, but the animation falls flat at some key points; mostly the car chases. I suspect this is because the staff may not have had much experience with animating mechanics. Lots of times things don’t move fast or dynamically enough, and robs scenes of some excitement–car chase-wise, Cagliostro cleaned the floor with this movie a year later with its opening scene. Still shots of cars and the like look great, though. Character animation is generally pretty good. I wouldn’t say “movie quality”, but movements are expressive, specifically the typically goofy Lupin fashion in which the characters run that’s just fun to watch. The chase scenes between characters in this movie are great. One big highlight is when one of Mamo’s dimwitted guards and Lupin have a Tom and Jerry-style chase through Mamo’s first stronghold in the film’s second act.

The film particularly excels in its environments, layouts, and color palette. Like any good Lupin, there’s lots of globetrotting, and the movie makes sure to portray each of its locales as colorful and interesting places. The movie also has a lot of effective layouts that make full use of the wide theatrical screen, particularly in the more outlandish settings, like Mamo’s various fortresses. Utilizing the wide theatrical aspect ratio to throw in exceedingly large structures and maximize wide open spaces, the film effectively expresses how expansive Mamo’s strongholds are. The crew also utilizes experimental animation techniques to drive home just how crazy this wacko’s homebases are–Lupin runs through Escher-inspired structures and Salvador Dali paintings in Mamo’s fort in the Caribbean, and when Mamo uses his mind machine to peek inside of Lupin’s head, the screen becomes filled with a psychedelic collage of cut-outs from nudie mags (he’s a pervert, okay?). The film has a pretty standard bright and cartoonish color palette, but it makes use of bold single colors at points to create very convincing atmospheres that draw you in. Fujiko has a great scene at the beginning where she rides her motorcycle through a forest during sunset bathed completely in red–another reference to series one, incidentally.

A note should be made about the character designs–they are distinctly different from those of the second TV series, and resemble those of the original comic (the pilot film gets closer, though), contributing further to the film’s grand vision of being the original in motion, with all the violence, sex, and nonsensical developments that come with it. While the designs don’t hold up all of the time, they allow for a good range of cartoon expression, and make up a main pillar of the ridiculous aesthetic that makes the film so compelling.

Mystery of Mamo is the closest there will ever be to a feature length imagining of Monkey Punch’s original. While it is toned down a little, the changes are for the better–especially as far as plotting goes–and it delivers a very strong dose of what Lupin was originally meant to be.

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