Thursday, 28 June 2012

Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna - Episode 13 (Completed)

With Fujiko literally coming face to face with the core of her strigiform demons, does she have what it takes to defeat them or will she find herself beholden to them once again?

While Fujiko's own resolve appears not to be strong enough to tackle the overbearing influence of Luis Yu Almeida, luckily for her Lupin and Daisuke are soon on-hand to help her out and keep her from falling into his psychological clutches.  It's here that the twists start coming thick and fast, as the Almeida who seems to have been mentally torturing Fujiko proves to be nothign more than a dummy.  Moving further into the catacombs of this building, we find a puzzle controlled by a disembodied electronic voice which could give Portal's GladOS a run for her money - a voice which seems to belong to another of Almeida's victims.

Or does it?  Initially perhaps yes, but the woman in question - Aisha - is in fact a victim turned torturer herself, and it was she who invaded Fujiko's mind in the hope of both ensuring that the fear of her former keeper stays alive and giving her a chance of vicariously living the life which she never could.  Unfortunately for Aisha, most of the subjects of her brainwashing experiments quickly committed suicide, leaving only Fujiko, a former maid, to show Aisha her dream life.  While Aisha believes this is as a result of her experimentation, the truth is rather different, and things only unravel further once we learn the true face of Minerva.  As everything comes crashing down in flames, Fujiko is granted freedom from the demons which have plagued her, and even Aisha is offered a final glimpse of the outside world she never got to see.  But does Lupin get his woman?  Well, not quite...

Things were always likely to end on a complex note as Lupin III delved further and further into madness throughout the series, but this proved to a wonderfully twisting, turning and mind-bending finale to the series - the way the episode's revelations stacked upon one another was delicious, and even when it was obvious what was coming next it was hard not to delight in its reveal.  The series also excelled at ensuring that all of its main cast of characters remained largely true to themselves to the end, despite all the twists in the path laid in front of them, to prove that the show's characterisation was equally as strong as its storytelling.

While I've enjoyed a few shows this season, none really stick out as strongly for me as Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna - I was initially reticent about its art style, but as time went by it seemed to become more and more accomplished at using it to its benefit, and as the more surreal psychological drama of the show came into play so the dark tone of this artwork really came into its own.  Of course, visuals are nothing without a story to back it up, and save for episode seven's jaunt in Cuba this series was a triumph week upon week - its early episodic affairs were great fun to watch and compelling in their own right, and as we were dragged further into Fujiko's psyche and the events of these earlier episodes were linked into the bigger picture it became increasingly clear that here was an intelligently planned, plotted and paced body of work.  Quite simply, nothing else I've seen this year so far has come close to matching Lupin III in making me sit up and pay attention, and from some humble beginnings from my point of view as someone with no prior experience of the franchise it speaks volumes that this is currently my most beloved series of 2012.  I'm not sure whether to hope for more of the same in the future, or simply feel satisfied with what we have here as a one-off work of excellence that could, or maybe even should, never be repeated.

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