(Update: This video has since been removed from Youtube. Sorry.)
What better way to spend New Year's Day than watching a couple really good movies? Well, going outside, I suppose, but it's bitterly cold outside where I live (Minneapolis). Fortunately, I found a couple surprises at YouTube that I'm sure you'll enjoy.
Today's first screening is the final episode from the second series run of Lupin the Third. As we all know, the original series ran from 1971-72 and was helmed by the likes of Yasuo Otsuka, Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and a 22-year-old Yoshifumi Kondo. It was gritty, violent and realistic; the tone of the show shifted more towards comedy (at the behest of the studio bosses), but the episodes were always excellent and captivating. The "Green Jacket" Lupin was retired after only 23 episodes.
Much like Star Trek, then, the series grew in popularity over the years. Eventually, a second tv series was commissioned at the Telecom studio. This time, the "Red Jacket" Lupin was a success, and ran during the late '70s. The quality at the beginning was suspect, but with the arrival of the old veteran Otsuka, and the gradual migration of all the heavy talent, the show was firing on all cylindars.
Miyazaki directed two episodes of the second Lupin series, which naturally are the most famous. He and his colleagues had already finished Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro, which harkened back to the original Lupin, and were ready to wrap things up on the small screen.
This final episode, "Farewell Beloved Lupin," is quick on its feet, but also shows Miyazaki's older, mature style. This is the more reflected, more experienced style we saw in Cagliostro, less anarchy, but more confidence and style. Fans of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli will immediately recognize the giant robot. It was made as a tribute to the Fleishers' Superman cartoon, one of his many nods to the beloved Fleisher studio. The Superman robot made its second appearance in Laputa: Castle in the Sky, and today a giant statue stands on the roof of the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Japan.
There's also a scene in this episode where tanks rumble through a downtown district. This was an idea that Miyazaki originally used in the 1969 Toei Doga movie The Flying Ghost Ship. It was a very minor film, somewhere between monster movies and Scooby Doo (no, seriously), but it sported the talents of Miyazaki, and the husband-and-wife team of Yoichi Kotabe and Reiko Okuyama. Other story elements would be riffed years later in Future Boy Conan...and am I reminded of that "Slurm" episode of Futurama? Never mind - I'm rambling.
More surprises for the devoted Miyazaki fan await. Sumi Shimamoto makes a return appearance as the Herione. This is her crucial link between Clarisse, the imprisioned heroine of Cagliostro, and Nausicaa. By now, she is firmly establishing herself as the voice of the Miyazaki Heroine, that great and mysterious archetypal character who haunts the master's work.
I was struck by the relationship between the Heroine and her giant robot. This was an idea that was also brought forth in Castle in the Sky, before reaching its final destination in the final volume of the Nausicaa books. The recently-published Nausicaa Watercolor book suggests that the revived God Warrior would play a role in the manga's climax early on, but it would take many years before the necessary details would be ironed out. It's another example of Miyazaki's writing style, in which he only carries a general idea of where to go; the story will literally be written during the journey itself.
As far as finales go, I enjoy this a lot. I made a backup copy of the American VHS tape, which is rather badly dubbed, so it's a treat to watch it in the original language. Subtitles would be nice.
Riff Alert: Here's one of the great Miyazaki riffs. Near the end, a villain is knocked out; his pose slyly matches the same pose from the original animated Lupin III pilot from 1969. Sneeze and you'll miss it.