Thursday, May 12, 2016


It’s safe to say with our mutual heads reeling from the explosive ending of Fujiko, the series has lived up to its exceptional hype. With mixed responses to Fujiko’s ultimate history and some critics who found the turn around plot lacklustre and unresolved, this particular fujoshi found the series on the whole ended with an utmost satisfying finale.

The curious responses to Fujiko’s ending says a lot about otaku culture on the whole, especially certain comments about Fujiko’s virtue. And some reviewers feel that turning the male gaze inward isn’t confronting the male gaze in a sufficient manner at all. These are interesting discussions and that individuals are turning to these themes while talking about Fujiko says a lot about its power to entertain and educate.
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about, what I’m here to talk about are the rising peaks of femininity…
All right, all right and Fujiko’s further engagement with literature of a different type. But while we’re focused on glorious boobs, let’s talk about the prevalence of nudity in the series. Our first stop is the reasoning behind Fujiko and her penchant to be naked in the opening sequence. We’ve seen by the ending how this has all worked out and clever watchers noticed that the opening theme seemed to be some kind of metaphor for the rest of the series. Let’s go past the initial response that Fujiko is a gorgeous woman and it’s extremely satisfying to the nether regions to see her disrobed, while her glorious breasts heave in a landscape of personal struggle. Sexuality is part of Fujiko’s character, and you can track the series by the stylization of her breasts from Mamo to the Pink Jacket. The only place you don’t really see her perversity is in Miyazaki’s gentle side-stepping of her sexual nature. Although her boobs are absurdly enormous, we don’t really see her in full seductress mode in Cagliostro. It’s easy to look at Miyazaki and instantly write off Fujiko’s contribution but I think there is something to be said in the way some men deal with women’s sexuality – by keeping their clothes on and their legs firmly shut.
This is also not so coincidentally one of the largest discussions in feminist history and has been going on since the dawn of feminism itself. Extremely simplified this discussion amounts to; what is the woman’s body, who has the right to use it and for what purpose.

While I admire Miyazaki and his desire to turn women into something other than sex symbols I’m not sure if cutting off anyone’s genitals, child or not, is an entirely healthy thing. The Fujiko in our current series is something I find absolute stunning both visually as a beautiful woman and mentally as a glorious representation of woman’s freedom. The exposing of her body at key points during the series is both amazingly beautiful but also an implication and you see this most in episode 9. If you didn’t notice the smaller details in that episode, let me help you out.
Geishas. A Japanese traditional sign of the patriarchy getting teased and manhandled by foreign men.

A woman who is an infant mentally being bought and sold via a TV screen. Welcome to painful metaphors for modern living.

The circus fair a Japanese traditional scene for the Camellia girl, another popular culture trope for a girl’s sexual and psychological exploitation.

And Fujiko, losing her shit because to reconcile with the sexual past supplanted in her mind, she must kill herself.

That last bit is prevalent in so much literature geared towards women it has become a trope of itself that I can’t help but cheekily call ‘the slut suicide’. Destruction of virtue is implied as the destruction of worth, and if you aren’t convinced just recall what certain otaku proclaim after it comes out their beloved waifu’s ever touched another man. The gothic romantic exploits this in numerous ways as does traditional literature but the difference between other literature and the matured gothic romantic is that we’re supposed to feel sorry for the woman who suffers, instead of judging her as worthlessly perverse with only one dignified fate left for her to coldly embrace.
And while your skin is hopefully crawling with disgust, let’s confront the finale head on that so many people had issue with. Fujiko is not a slut because of a disturbing past, she’s a slut because she likes it. And that is the essence of the argument surrounding sympathy for or against Fujiko. And for or against the very idea of self possessed womanhood.

But what struck me the most about the ending and the part that will linger, is the unmasking of the owl. It was a woman all along, and doesn’t that say something about the rotten comments about how often Fujiko is naked from other women; the slut shaming and judgement from people of our own gender, and the female misogyny that women encounter every day. Because the number one enemy of woman’s progress towards independence isn’t the father or brother or lover, but women themselves. We see it in traditional repression, in the way daughter’s are raised, and at work when a woman in power marginalizes and treats poorly the younger, more attractive co-worker. And in the gothic romantic tradition, nothing is so heart wrenching than the evil women who are most often victims themselves flitting around the heroine, causing her despair, destruction and grief because of their own unfulfilled ambitions. Fujiko’s confrontation of her fabricated past is like confronting the real past of women’s nature being defined by the shadow of a patriarchy that is slowly dying. And still, those horrifying shadows linger in our society through tradition and culture maintained by an older generation too unaware of it, just as Aisha is longing for a freedom impossible to have and projecting a nightmare onto another woman. The decrepit lolita is like the decrepit remains of a patriarchy that women already have the ability to shove off, if it weren’t for deeply engrained constructs.
Perhaps the most revealing moment of the entire series is when Fujiko, in what appears to be an act of masochism, casts off the yolk of a fake and fabricated past that was real to her only as a history of experiences and Aisha under the halo of a mysterious light, is finally at peace.

There is a lot to discuss in Fujiko and this series has barely nudged the surface. Oscar for one, is someone who deserves his own post and a discussions of his own tropes, and it’s something I’ll endeavour to cover in the future since I love the kid and feel a bit sad he so often gets maligned. I hope that readers have at least used these posts as a starting point in their own critical discussions of not just Fujiko but anime on the whole. As a genre that is rich with tropes, cultural curiosities and artistic talent, it’s a type of popular culture that deserves deeper scrutiny. Fujiko is absolute genius because it has a male audience unused to flowery tropes and love literature who have appeared due to Lupin, but then an entirely different audience more sensitive to women’s literature and desires has also arrived to clash with any preconceived dialect concerning Fujiko herself. A great series goes beyond its genre limitations and brings together culture and conversations that wouldn’t appear otherwise and it’s arguably a hallmark of the great literature we’ve already talked about. The Lupin fan meets the shoujo fan meets the yaoi fan, and the culture clash has been spectacular to behold. But above everything else, Fujiko has given new life to a much older series that had almost run itself into the ground with predictability, and garnered an enormous number of fans that might not have shown up if it weren’t for Okada’s sensitive treatment of the typical Bond girl.
And personally I can’t deny being affected. Recently I went back to the 70′s Lupin which I had seen many times before. When Fujiko came onscreen, I used to groan aloud.
Now instead, I cheer.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


The new Lupin series is really ratcheting up the cause. Before, we explored the gothic novels that shoujo manga and in this case, Mine Fujiko To Iu Onna has been drawing from. While not every episode lives up to the gothic novel tropes, the mood has still been set throughout. Even the political flavour of episode 7 was highlighted by a clever coup by Fujiko and her ‘samurai boyfriend’. The latest episode was a virtual explosion of everything that’s been hinted at in the series, and short of episode 6 which is probably my favourite, was the most impressive exploration of feminism I’ve seen since Utena. I cannot wait to see how it ends but until then, we still have some reading to do.
Let’s get to it!

Firstly, let’s talk about creepy owls.
What in the world do these things represent? Owls represent knowledge and mystery, especially in the realm of the gothic romantic novel. Their head placed on a male body is an interesting representation of Fujiko’s secret, exploitative past. But that’s not all, the use of a mask is very important to women’s studies and here is why.

This is a little known fact outside of art history, but the Masquerade, particularly the Grand Masquerade in France was one of the few places in the 18th century that the social classes could intermingle. It was considered a place where the wealthy and not so wealthy could let down their hair (figuratively and literally) and – get this- cross dress. The disguise was both literal and figurative with the wealthy dressing like peasants, peasants dressing like the wealthy, men as women and everything in between. There are hundreds of accounts of homosexual liaisons, cautionary tales and women dressed as prostitutes ‘seducing’ wayward men and ruining them. Naturally, the church and government found these parties erm…problematic. Particularly when concerned with women’s chastity. Masks and the masquerade became a visual cue for prostitution. Want proof? Hogarths’ the Harlot’s Progress directly references a very well known visual cue in his print right here (lower left). The most interesting thing about his work is that it was meant for the common people to consume – this was already a well established visual cue concerning prostitution and feminine promiscuity.

Why is this important? Because the gothic novel was born in this period, out of an atmosphere of an emerging print culture that was exploding with opinions both informed and uninformed concerning women’s bodies, their images, what they should be like and horrific, morally charged rape stories about what happens to women if they don’t toe the line. You see it in the books – women sent to ruin by horrible husbands, rape, violence and brutality because of the marriage culture emerging at the time. The mask and masquerade although diluted by the 19th century still appears in many of these novels, like Jane Eyre, Rebecca, Phantom of the Opera, etc. Disguise has always been associated with women, their bodies and the nature of their relationship with the wider world but the gothic novel took this association into a specifically sinister place.

Phew! With all of that said, let’s talk further about the nature of disguise in Fujiko. We all know by now that Fujiko is promiscuous, she has no qualms ruining men with her many visual representations. But that’s not all, her wayward fellow friends all have their own disguises and even Jigen’s hat that obscures his face and plays a role in the tropes exploding from the notion of the mysterious thief. In episode 6 we have the most potent, vicious and direct representation of the female body and its tormented role in gothic fiction – Oscar takes on the role of a love sick school girl both literally and figuratively. He writes poems, he bemoans his affection, he observes the romantic infatuation of others and allows himself to be nearly seduced.

But this all comes crashing down when he turns on Fujiko and reveals his disguise. Although far more aggressive than the virtuous heroines of gothic romantic fiction past, the trope is clear – he’s saving himself for love and the potential rapist must be subdued. That he’s a man in disguise doing it for the love of his superior, makes it even more scrumptious. After all, true and ‘pure’ love will always win out in the gothic romantic novel…unless it’s tainted by death or madness. The promiscuous, beautiful but morally corrupt woman always loses and yet, Fujiko is the one who gets the drop on Oscar with a little help from Lupin. Love has been usurped by a woman with a plan and no amount of emotional anguish will sway her.

Once we start talking about the position of love, now we must return full circle to Heathcliff himself from Wuthering Heights. Why is Heathcliff so important? Why is he the symbol of Fujiko and her story? The answer is obvious and direct – Heathcliff is a man without a past, with no status or family. A representation of absolute freedom but also absolute torment. Animalistic by 19th century standards and privy to the whims and desires of those with status and power he becomes the past itself and haunts the story with his decrepit figure. As we see in the most recent episode, Fujiko isn’t just tormented by her past but a piece of herself – a ghostly image of her childhood- that has become the a living reminder of the past itself. Those who would love her and know her are dead or dying, caught in a tormented circle between reality and fabrication. The Owl Mirror of legend becomes literal – a situation that is both wisdom and folly, just like Heathcliff who is tormented by his inability to reconcile his past and present before he dies. The message is clear; without status, without history a human being is just an object in the present to be used and abused, falling endlessly into the stories of others.

NEXT: the culmination of our examination; why women should care about this show, nudity and what it means, and the combination of tropes, genre and gothic romantic narrative as a feminist piece.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


The new Lupin III came bursting out of the gates which such force, I was left reeling from the impact of its images. It was a testament to the new ‘old style’ animation, with character designs by Takeshi Koike and the director Sayo Yamamoto (check those staff credentials; X, Redline to name a few) it was set up to be a fascinating series from the moment it appeared.
The initial commentary about the new Lupin was thus: Lupin must be updated, particularly the role of Fujiko Mine who was an oft-maligned heroine in a series defined by it’s naughty perversions and slapstick humour. While still an adventure series it was less Indiana Jones and more James Bond with boobs. The new series Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna is an ambitious attempt to imbue more character development and interest into its long running characters.
But I won’t get into that here, what I will get into is how a relatively two dimensional character like Fujiko Mine has been transformed very cleverly into a gothic romantic heroine who is subverting all the tropes. Because the new Lupin isn’t just for men and boys any more and despite the prevelant presence of boobs and ass, there is something beautiful happening in this series. It pains me to hear people call it sexist, when there is so much more complexity. And I hope over the three parts of this exploration, I can convince you to take another look at it too.
Enough! Before I lose my shit and everything with a penis is lit on fire. The proof is in the pudding.

Pudding, not poing.
And it’s time to have it. In the words of Fujiko Mine:
Stop everything but your beating heart.
And look at me.

Fujiko Mine and the Grand Masquerade

Women and disguise is something heavily discussed in women’s studies and of course, in women’s literature. For brevity’s sake, I’m going to cut out everything but the romantic gothic novel, which is where Fujiko derives its inspiration. Arguably, the entire show is driven by shoujo manga and I’m sure an astute shoujo manga fan can tell me what I’ve missed, but every shoujo manga fan also knows that European literature is the bread and butter of dramatic gothic shoujo tropes, so I will cut the middle man and go straight to the source. It’s time to start from the very beginning.
Boobs in clingy gauze.

Sorry, a little distracted by glorious tatas. I meant the roles Fujiko takes on as a capable thief.

Every disguise she takes is a reference to a gothic novel, gothic literature and the heavy tropes implied in the stories. What Fujiko is doing is playing the damsel in distress; she’s the future sex toy of a cult leader, the foil to a gilted lover, a beautiful and pure governess, and finally (so far with the release of episode four) a tormented opera singer. By the end of each episode, she has turned on her male exploiters, found her treasure and disappeared.
If you need books to assign to each of these tropes – I haz them. The cult leader to be fair, is also a trope prevalent in adventure stories, pulp books and mystery novels. That one is pretty obvious, but it also heavily relies on the idea of a corrupt religious leader, which has its first popular appearance in one of the first gothic novels ever written, The Monk. The idea of a man of religion turning on his vows was big news, and The Monk was treated like the worst kind of pornography when it was released. However, it left a lasting impression with its damsels tormented by a religious man and his desire to fornicate, and the story itself became a tawdry sexual trope in the penny dreadfuls to come in the 19th century. The gothic romantic herione swoons under his corrupt spell, but of course, despite the threat Fujiko manages to get a head of everyone else.

The next role involves the suicidal lover, which I am sure we are all overwhelmingly familiar with thanks to Shakespeare. But also, a woman who becomes overwhelmed by hysteria and jealousy is a major trope in just about -every- gothic romantic novel to such a profusion it becomes difficult to name just one. I can’t help but wonder if it’s no accident the story is focused on an Italian character, because as some of you may know, Italy was the focus of the gothic romantic revival in Europe and the home of its inspiration through stories like the Decameron. To entrench Italy even deeper into gothic romantic canon, the first truly gothic romantic novel The Castle of Otranto was originally published as a long lost Italian medieval text. It’s worth it to also mention that the imagery in this episode is extremely prevalent in shoujo manga, and before I even confirmed it, my Utena sense was tingling when I saw the elevator scene in episode 1. Excuse me, while I drown any incumbent noise out with the sound of fangirlish squeals. EEeeeeee….

The governess is another plethora of roles stretched from the early 17th century well into the 19th. What we have here is the endless struggle between classes, romance and children. Fujiko is coincedentally well behaved as the trope requires a virtuous maiden who loves children to be betrayed by herself or society to complete the story. Jane Eyre is the most famously known of these stories but you can find them all over the place written by all sorts of European cultures. Of course, it seems in this instance Fujiko betrays herself by actually giving a shit and yet, still manages to get the goods. A possible parable for how women must disguise their true nature in the public sphere to get the job done? I think it’s a strong possibility. We also have the wandering samurai, who can take the usual place of the ignoble duty bound romancer in these sorts of governess tales. Of course, instead of being a modest romance, we see a nude kiss. Delightful.

I hope I don’t have to recall every female entertainer in gothic romantic literature, do I? Oh. Phantom of the Opera is directly riffed in this episode, but this time, the women take the starring roles. It’s the opera singer who has the burned face, who hides under a mask for love. This allows Fujiko to take the starring role using the oldest trick in the book – the old switcheroo. But we have a -double- switch, as the opera singer was already two steps ahead of even Lupin. This is probably my favourite episode so far, combining my love of classical music with my love for strong active women in anime. Fujiko and Ayan Maya know what they’re doing and have turned the tables on the performing arts. We also have Oscar who I’m beginning to suspect is a Rose of Versailles nod, as the name and character design bear a strong resemblance. Is he a reverse trap? I’m not sure, I lean more towards an unfortunate closet case at this time. All I know is that his pretty face and passionate interest in Zenigata is more than a small nod towards the hallowed past of gay men in shoujo manga.

The tropes I have chosen are a mere taste, with a little research I’m sure the astute watcher can find even more. Found something you think is awesome and I should include it? Comment below, I’d love to hear about it.
Next up: The Grand Masquerade Part II – more old books, the masquerade and what it means in the artistic tradition, the not so secret meaning of Heathcliff and why women should care about this show despite the sexualisation of Fujiko.