Anime World Order Show # 130 – I WAS a Fan of Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart

In this episode, Gerald reviews the 1978 theatrical film Lupin the Third: The Mystery of Mamo. Be forewarned that this episode is heavier on spoilers than usual, perhaps because the film in question is roughly 36 years old, has been released multiple times in the US, and has been legally streaming for a few years now. Also be forewarned that the person we are likely to model our pronunciation of “Lupin” after is Dennis Moore. Dennis Moore. Dum de dum. The night.

Introduction (0:00 – 22:50)
We’re getting set for Anime Weekend Atlanta which is now one week away. Better get started on those panels, huh. Especially now that the schedule’s online. In the emails, we’re asked a question about why more US anime fans don’t create their own animation which is mired within the same ol’ “what IS anime, man?” arguments we got completely and utterly sick of having a decade ago. I guess that goes to show how much traction our arguments had (none whatsoever).

Review – Lupin the Third: The Mystery of Mamo (22:50 – 1:10:49)
Gerald figured the Discotek re-re-release (that’s this one) was the ideal excuse to spring this movie upon Clarissa, who’d never seen it until this point. People may never agree on whether they love or hate it for hewing closest to the tone of the original manga source material compared to other Lupin anime, which of the four English dubs is their favorite–there is officially no love in the hood for the Manga UK dub–or whether or not that ending is perfect or just total bullshit, but one thing’s for sure: this is the best US release of the film to date until a Blu-Ray comes out, and after nearly two years it’s safe to say “just get this one for now before it goes out of print.” On one hand, the greater overarching plot of this film is pretty thoroughly spoiled. On the other hand, what TRULY makes this movie is all the little things such as that goddamned cigar lighter and the subtly altered advertisement for Clark bars. We said nothing about THAT stuff.

Next time, by popular demand, Clarissa cleans up Daryl’s mess and gives everyone a proper review of Shinji Aramaki’s Space Pirate Captain Harlock. Because you deserve it. Also, because it’s now on Netflix in both Japanese and Steven Fosterized English and thus requires minimal effort to watch.

22 thoughts on “Anime World Order Show # 130 – I WAS a Fan of Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart

  1. I was expecting the AWO-brand MAN THIS MOVIE IS AWESOME AND RIDICULOUS AND LET ME TELL YOU WHY review, but I guess not.

    I mean, I get you–when I saw this movie for the first time I wasn’t so hot on the tonal shift. Then when I saw it the second time I was so-so on it. I watched it again recently, and it more or less clicked.

    Daryl is right about its everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach. I think if you focus more on that and less about the details of the story, it’s really intriguing. I also like how it has this really old-style Japanese nationalism about it–the American government is portrayed basically as evil as Mamo is by the end.

    Though when I watched it again I thought at its core it’s just a movie about flawed human beings–especially men. In the end, it’s just about two men who want a girl. All of Mamo’s plots and stuff are just to do stuff to impress Fujiko, and he goes out of his way to expose Lupin as the pervert as he is. However, Fujiko goes back to Lupin, which just forces Mamo to do something crazier.

    I think the movie also poses the question of whether or not Mamo is actually the real-deal–there are clues throughout that he’s just a con-artist, and it’s all a giant bluff to get Fujiko. But maybe that’s just me.

    • I’m not sure if it speaks well or poorly of Fujiko that she shacked up with someone who looked like Mamo, regardless of his wealth. Vulgar and/or villainous rich guys she had experience with, but this dude was really one step beyond. Of course, the prospect of eternal youth might sweeten the deal considerably.

      Mamo and Cagliostro seem to enforce a strict separation on Fujiko’s character. In Cagliostro she’s “cool” but not “sexy”; in Mamo she’s “sexy” but not “cool.” It goes against the received image of how Miyazaki approached Lupin III, but he *was* capable of uniting those two characterizations of Fujiko effortlessly, in the 1980 TV episode “Albatross, The Wings of Death.” I think Albatross showed in 25 minutes that Miyazaki could convey a full Lupin package of weirdness, action, tricks, greed and lust while still making something that screams “Miyazaki.” No auburn-haired teenager Lupin can chastely assist in sight, just the usual gang of idiots versus a chap who seems like an old, rich, and evil version of the director. That may have been only an idle daydream for him in 1980, but I think in the decades since Miyazaki has more than earned a villainous retirement, and I will be very disappointed if he doesn’t become Dr. Lonebach as soon as possible.

      I said Fujiko wasn’t cool in Mamo; I’d even say she comes off as a bit lame. She lacks charisma, and I feel she should always be the most charismatic of the five main characters; to compare, Jigen and Goemon are pretty cool, but charisma per se isn’t part of their style. They don’t get business done by fascinating people with their mystique, whereas Fujiko does (By modern anime standards, not Fujiko, but the fell-handed, rage-filled, repressed Goemon is the sexiest character in Mamo; diagnosed briefly but accurately by Jigen: “Don’t get hysterical, you crazy man!”).

      Oddly enough, though, Fujiko’s desire for eternal youth in Mamo, which might be called shallow and superficial, can also be seen as suggesting an inner life to her she was rarely credited with in those days. They don’t really develop this–it isn’t that kind of movie–but there’s an idea there that Fujiko’s beauty isn’t just something she values as an exterior that gains confidences and money, it’s a profound element of her internal image of who she is. What I’m getting at is that Fujiko could easily gain enough loot in her youth to set her up in luxury for the rest of her life. But no amount of money could ever bring back her beauty as it was, and she already knows it. Again, the movie perhaps only suggests this idea–such as in her delight at the butterflies–but there’s a poetic, even epic aspect to her vanity. (Giant) Gorgias would have had a few things to say about her.

      I’ve seen Mamo dozens of times (but not as many times as uhhhh uhhhhROYAL SPACE FORttthhhhhhh uhhhhh) but while I agree with what you say about its portrayal of the American government, I don’t see it as paired with a dose of Japanese nationalism, like that twin bottle Kyousuke shared with Ruri back when he was still worried about his children having extra chromosomes. I mean, I do see things like that in (for instance) Summer Wars, but not in Mamo. Mamo was made in 1978, and even had it been made in America, it might have had a similar tone. This was post-Vietnam and pre-Reagan, the age of a cynical and/or paranoid assessment of American power that affected our own films, too.

      • “Albatross, The Wings of Death” is probably my favorite episode of the second series – nay, probably my favorite single episode of any Lupin ever. I think Miyazaki captures Lupin and the gang better there than Cagliostro, even if it it’s not nearly as breathtakingly gorgeous as CoC.

      • I agree that Mamo doesn’t get Fujiko right. If nothing else, Fujiko is such an expert manipulator and improviser that her desperation should have more dark humor to it.

        The whole “natural beauty” movement and second wave feminism basically killed the idea that a woman has an obligation to make herself attractive to others, which is awesome for me because while it’s nice to dress well, I want to be able to leave the house with my hair wet and still maintain my employability. Still, this has created an idea that female attractiveness (magazine cover level) should be achievable by just rolling out of bed and showering. Tumblr is full of variations on dudes telling ladies that they look good without make-up when the ladies are wearing make-up and telling them they look tired when they’re not. Which is to say that beauty is work and a source of power, and some vanity is taking pride the results of real skills applied well. Vanity does get short-shrift as deadly sins go, getting lumped in the corner with gluttony and sloth, while wrath, lust, covetousness, and pride get to drive operatic works.

        Part of the problem with Fujiko’s quest for youth is that charisma of the type that she has goes far beyond looks. Famous beauties have maintained the reputations long after the first blush of youth because people apply their personalities to their faces. As a femme fatale, Fujiko should recognize this. History is has many deadly mantraps who continue to ruin men well past retirement age. Unless, it’s just that she doesn’t want to change her tactics even a little, Fujiko does come off as a bit of a chump.

        On an only vaguely related note, the Korean drama Bride of the Century is pretty terrible, though reasonably well-acted. It’s real strength is the younger villainess who takes a very, very reasonable grievance and burns like a dwarf star of hatred. Her destructive ambition is aimed at a small group of people, but she’s as malevolent as any super villain ever was. Then the show wimps out, and she reforms for very poorly defined reasons. Overall, an enjoyable experience.

  2. On becoming “the Western Gainax…”

    As the conversation discovered, that’s a questionable goal. To me it sounds more like co-opting a persona than following an example, simply because of how it is phrased. If you’re determined to make your own way, the last thing you should do is invoke another creative entity.

    In my various adventures pitching to the US animation industry, I heard this phrase a lot: “we’re looking for the next ___.” Fill in the blank with a super-popular show, like The Simpsons or Sponge Bob. The ignorant assumption in that phrase is that the “next ___” will be anything like ___. ___ became a hit because it was nothing like what came before it. So a quest for the next ___ is doomed from the start because the parameters are automatically narrowed.

    I think you can see where I’m going with this. It is self-limiting for an artist to strive to be like another, even in the area of reputation. Gainax earned their reputation because their work arose in a very specific time out of a very specific environment in response to very specific circumstances. That can’t be manufactured. It has to happen organically, or it means nothing.

    I can assure you that the vast majority of us who work in the biz are influenced by anime in one way or another. We all have our favorite shows and we all try to channel them. Anyone who pleads ignorance of anime is either (A) prevented from discussing specifics of their work by an NDA or (B) a member of the upper age group that is slowly cycling out. Also, I find that artists bring far more anime influence to their work than writers, partly because US animation writing is episodic rather than serialized. Avatar and Korra feel like anime because of their serialized writing as much as their art. I wish we had more of that.

  3. My exposure to Lupin was first Castle of Cagliostro then the original manga then Mystery of Mamo, so the last really felt like it squared the circle or something. While I love Cagliostro and Fuuma Conspiracy, I do find the roguish thief with a heart of gold a little less interesting than the sometimes benevolent criminal who will give you chlamydia. You’ve sold me on this release either way.

    • Okay so, I didn’t pick up Mamo. This is my husband’s fault. The deplorable state of his septum means we cannot be carelessly spending money now, and besides since this would also be one of _his_ movies, he wants to wait for Blu-Ray. Anyway, health means we have to watch where we’re spending and I found AragornxBoromir djs. Also, while the eminent Mary Kennard had sold through any classic Gatchaman books she brought with her, she has more at home and gave me her card.

      Also, I got a friend to buy a shrink-wrapped copy of Lychee Light Club on the guarantee that I would reimburse her if it wasn’t to her taste. So I’m kinda expecting to disburse a few more funds.

  4. Ah, Lupin III. He’s probably my favorite manga/anime character of all time. Half James Bond, half Bugs Bunny. And Mystery/Secret of Mamo is one of my favorite entries.

    I’m one of those rare folks that’s a pretty blanket Lupin fan. I like most of the franchise, even though it’s pretty varied. I know Gerald hates to hear this, but Castle of Cagliostro IS a better anime film than a Lupin film. It’s more of a Miyazaki film than actually representative of the franchise, though even he couldn’t completely suppress Lupin’s rascality, despite his softening the edges. Don’t get me wrong, CoC is brilliant. I love it, I want the Blu-Ray in my life. But it’s a little different from the usual fare, both in a good and bad way.

    Eras of the TV Specials are interesting to me, though there hasn’t been a decent TV special in at least a decade, and they’ve really neutered him over the past few years outside the Fujiko TV series. The recent TV specials have been horrendous for a lot of other reasons, too. Just look at what I believe was this year’s special, or last year’s, where they tried to rip off CoC so badly. It was pathetic.

    I definitely have favorites in the franchise and entries I despise, and honestly, I’m just as much a “Lupin guy” as I am a “Gundam guy.” So you can count that as me pushing coke bottle glasses up the bridge of my nose and saying, “Well, actually, guys…” as I straighten my pocket protector. I’m really sorry. I don’t mean to be a pain in the ass.

    The manga is extremely poorly written, I should note. I mean, especially in the early stories, Monkey Punch couldn’t write a narrative to save his life. Things just kind of happen without any rhyme or reason. Later on he was able to develop his ideas a little better, especially in the Shin Lupin manga. What I do enjoy, though, is that there’s this mix of madcap antics and these really cynical, mean-spirited chapter conclusions. Recently there was some backlash over statements that the Fujiko TV series was “more like the manga” because people (rightly) pointed out how crazy and wacky the manga really was, but what they missed was that the Fujiko TV series does really get the dark, unforgiving mood of the manga right.

    I personally prefer any supernatural elements in Lupin entries to be muted. The reveal of Mamo was what prevented me from preferring this to, say, TV specials like Episode 0: First Contact. That’s a bit off-putting. I think they took it a little farther than they needed to, which is part and parcel of the franchise, and why so few entries truly achieve greatness, though most of them are at least likable. If anybody’s interested, I did a two part video review of this movie (SPOILERS INCLUDED) here and here. Forgive the poor audio quality for my narration. It was before I got a real microphone.

    My favorite English dub is the Phuuz/Geneon dub, because of all the English dubs of this franchise Tony Oliver, Richard Epcar, Lex Lang, and Michelle Ruff have the most chemistry with each other. I have the original Pioneer DVD release of this, but I lost the Lupin coin thing. I was really bummed. I hope some cunning thief stole it. Should I double-dip for the Discotek release, you think? I’m stilling hanging onto my Manga Entertainment DVD of CoC with the screen cap cover, so I’ll probably get the Blu-Ray of that.

    I remember going to Daryl’s Lupin III panel at Otakon in 2012. I sat near the front and of course, being the pile of dork I am, I placed a Fujiko statuette next to me (it’s Fujiko in prison stripes). It was really a lot of him preaching to the choir, but I’m sure some of us learned a new thing or two about the franchise. A great time with plenty of good Lupin cosplayers. I bought the first TV series set from Discotek shortly after on Daryl’s recommendation, and its wonderful Reed Nelson and Mike Toole commentaries.

    Also, yeah, Gold of Babylon is painful. I love that motorcycle scene, though. At least the first few minutes.

  5. Another enjoyable show, and timely to boot! Thanks for producing folks.
    And although it’s been said before, I too find this show more listenable as the speakers are more from my age range and have a more storied history with anime. It’s nice to hear people chatting it up about titles that are more than the latest greatest thing.

  6. Regarding the early days of GAINAX, Gerald and wah (from the comments thread) are too modest to say so, but they both wrote great articles for the Royal Space Force 25th Anniversary Fanzine. Since Royal Space Force was GAINAX’s first professional project, much of the story of that film is also the story of how they got together and got started. The TV show Aoi Honoo/Blue Blazes shows the kinds of things the proto-GAINAX were doing, but doesn’t get so much into what they were thinking about their work (whereas Honoo is shown mostly thinking about his work rather than actually doing it). If you’re interested in the “why” of the early GAINAX, beyond just the “what” and “how,” you can check out the fanzine here:

    http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/487410

    Comments about the acting in Aoi Honoo might overlook the possibility that Kazuhiko Shimamoto (on whom Honoo-kun is based) really can be like that. Anno once wrote of him, “within his name, the spirit of fire is contained but not restrained,” and that he’s the kind of guy who would shout defiance at the setting sun, and furthermore “what this guy is saying has nothing to do with reality. But that’s what being a man is all about!” Also, these days Shimamoto wears a French artists’ beret, as proper manga-ka were expected to in Showa times. We’re talking about a brother who’s so hardcore that, like a conjured demon, his true name is Tezuka.*

    Aoi Honoo, like Golgo 13, is published by Shogakukan; both carry disclaimers saying that they are works of fiction, and in both cases that means all events happened as described. Aoi Honoo is a comedy, however (I’d class Golgo 13 as more of a sports manga–a biathlon involving sex with prostitutes instead of skiing) and so it’s not so much that some of what you see in the show didn’t happen, it’s that lots of other stuff happened besides what’s in the show (and the show, naturally, doesn’t include everything that’s in the manga). Several of the people portrayed in the show, by the way, including Yamaga, Takeda, Akai and Okada, recorded a feature with the director for the upcoming Blu-ray where they give their own recollections of what Shimamoto was like in college, a sort of trial in absentia, like Bormann.

    —C.

    *Seriously. Hidehiko Tezuka.

  7. I am very surprised Daryl didn’t mention that time Frank Castle killed the entire Lupin gang. This was back in 1988, in the graphic novel The Punisher: Assassin’s Guild, written by Jo Duffy (one of the earliest anime fans at Marvel) and drawn by the late Jorge Zaffino. They may call him “Arsene Jourdan III,” and Goemon may look a little like John Belushi (perhaps that was the only samurai Zaffino had seen) but the murderous intent is clearly EXECUTED. The great thing is that it’s in an opening sequence that has nothing to do with the main plot; Frank just wanted to make sure that “they got what they deserved.”

    The difference between Mamo and Legend of the Gold of Babylon is that everything about Mamo is good, whereas everything about Babylon is bad. Motorcycle sequences are kept brief and to the point in Mamo. What would you rather see: Fujiko Mine’s Electra Glide in pink, or an interminable chase scene between Lupin and Zenigata, evidently sponsored by Rats & Star?

    The thing is, I actually agree with Gerald about preferring Lupin III stories without fantasy or SF elements. Somehow, though, I don’t class Mamo as such a film, perhaps because of the movie’s attitude. Daryl mentioned the example of Pycal/Paikal, one of the very first Lupin anime villains (there’s a Medicom figure of him!) being this supposed magician whose powers Lupin demonstrates to be stage tricks. But there’s another way to debunk such paranormal phenomena, and it’s the way the Mamo movie does it—by refusing to respect them. Yes, maybe Mamo actually *is* this being of strange powers and amazing technology, but to Lupin he’s still a “crazed, ancient dwarf” (to quote Dave Merrill). Lupin would no more obey him than he would the earthly powers of Gordon and Gissinger (I love the one-two punch of cynicism these characters represent—Gordon as the beefy, gung-ho, patriotic and stupid side of American power, and Gissinger as the cold, calculating side that uses guys like Gordon—there’s that aside near the end where Gissinger mentions that Gordon too will be eliminated once this whole affair is resolved). I think much of the reason Lupin admires Zenigata is that despite being a cop, he too has no respect for authority.

    Now, having said that, I don’t think every Lupin story should have Mamo’s tone, any more than I think every Lupin story should try to be like Cagliostro (I remember once drawing up a list of a dozen plot similarities between Cagliostro and The Fuuma Conspiracy). These are the two most iconic Lupin films, but that shouldn’t mean one or the other must be the “right” way to do Lupin. Both movies are 35 years old; the time’s long past to be relying on them as the only good models. For example, I love old Bond movies, but I also respect how newer ones take a different approach and mood. It should be easier to do new and interesting things with the anarchic, diverse Lupin gang than it is with 007, a man who can only move so far from his social and political context (or else he wouldn’t be James Bond anymore). Yet Bond films managed to evolve into something not only spectacular and entertaining, but critically acclaimed, while making more money than ever. Well, they didn’t “manage to”—it was the result of hard work on the part of the filmmakers. I can’t help but feel the Lupin III franchise has been handled in a lazy and unimaginative way by comparison.

    I actually would like to see more down-to-earth Lupin stories. To me there’s something of the random premise generator about trying to find the legendary lost treasure of Rasputin/Columbus/Napoleon/Marco Polo/Cleopatra, etc. I’d love to see a Lupin story that was more like a Guy Ritchie or Tarantino film, where what’s being sought isn’t nearly as important as the wild scheming, backstabbing, and bizarre happenstance swirling around it. Something that looks at the Lupin gang through fresh eyes, and sees them not only as icons but each weird in their own way, who win the prize in the end by gradually rewriting the rules of the game as they steal, shoot, slice, and seduce.

  8. My experience with Mamo is kind of similar to wah, in the sense that I outright hated it the first time, but warmed to it on rewatching. I largely blame Manga Video for this, as their decision to release this one immediately after Cagliostro lead me to expect Cagliostro II: Goat Harder, which it clearly is not.

    The third-act shift into sci-fi never bothered me (although I can see how it could put people off), but I’ve always been troubled by Lupin’s attempt to force himself upon Fujiko in the ruined house (however close to the original manga it may be) and I’m not sure how to feel about the almost Python-esque ending. Nevertheless, while Cagliostro will always be my favorite Lupin film, I actually think Mamo is a close second. It’s outrageous, ambitious and (attempted rape notwithstanding) I like how openly and genuinely Fujiko seems to return Lupin’s feelings for her for once.

    Having often appointed myself unofficial pink-jacket apologist, I also feel obliged to say that I think Legend of the Gold of Babylon isn’t that bad. Contrary to penguintruth, I thought the opening motorcycle chase was awful and I certainly wouldn’t say it was a good film (as Helen McCarthy bizarrely used to claim), but compared to what passes for a TV special of late, it’s an absolute masterpiece.

  9. I imagine it would be a lonely pursuit to try to imitate Gainax in America because Gainax was surrounded by the anime industry while Americans trying to run a Japanese style studio wouldn’t have that support system. America has standout companies with interesting origin stories like Pixar and iD Software, but they never tried to transplant an overseas culture to America. Pixar aspired to be a better Disney than Disney and iD laid the foundations for an American game industry that became very different than Japan’s. You have to love your neighborhood for what it is and be comfortable in your own skin.

  10. If you search on youtube “calarts short” or “student animation” you will find a plethora of well animated shorts from very talented young artists, who had the determination to pour a lot of hard work into these shorts. So clearly there is no lack of talent or drive for a group of animators to join together and make “the next Gainax.” What they DO lack is someone who is looking for a…MEAL……TICKET!

    • “If you search on youtube “calarts short” or “student animation” you will find a plethora of well animated shorts from very talented young artists, who had the determination to pour a lot of hard work into these shorts. So clearly there is no lack of talent or drive for a group of animators to join together and make “the next Gainax.” What they DO lack is someone who is looking for a…MEAL……TICKET!”

      The real problem there is that such avenues tend to be rather slim to strike it out on your own than to already be working for someone else, and of course schools like CalArts were originally set up with intentions those people would be going to studios like Disney’s anyway. I’ve known of that for a long time now and see how it has helped and hurt those wishing to break out on their own independently.

  11. While I hate to “Well Actually” here fellas, Mamo isn’t quite the most English dubbed anime film out there; to my knowledge, that honor would actually go to the third Dragon Ball Z movie The Tree of Might, with has been dubbed FIVE times: twice by Ocean Group in the 90s (in an edited TV release and then an uncut home video release with a more accurate script and a few cast replacements), then by Funimation with their usual band of in-house actors in 2005, then there was the infamous European released AB Group (aka Big Green) dub, and finally there’s the incomprehensible English-spoken-as-a-fifth-language Malaysian release on VCD by grey-area company Speedy Video.

  12. Hi guys! I’m an animator. Filmation started like Gainax. (He Man, Archies…) It’s founder Lou Sheimer bull shitted his way into the industry with a fake studio. After landing their 1st show they hired anyone to start cranking out TV animation. They always worked in the same tiny office with 100% American staff.

    • “Hi guys! I’m an animator. Filmation started like Gainax. (He Man, Archies…) It’s founder Lou Sheimer bull shitted his way into the industry with a fake studio. After landing their 1st show they hired anyone to start cranking out TV animation. They always worked in the same tiny office with 100% American staff.”

      Wasn’t too tiny from the pictures I’ve seen of it, also Lou at least had his start cranking out Bozo and Popeye for Larry Harmon prior to having the nerve to put together his studio in the first place.

      Of course at one point they had to farm this show out to TMS to get it finished (take that Lou).

  13. “On the other hand, what TRULY makes this movie is all the little things such as that goddamned cigar lighter and the subtly altered advertisement for Clark bars.”

    Lord knows I could win a trip to Gotham just like our intrepid hero–eh–thief!
    http://www.aquamanshrine.net/2010/11/clark-bars-in-japan-1979.html

    “We said nothing about THAT stuff.”

    Nor did you even bring this up, but that’s OK, people should forget about it…

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