Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today we’ll be returning to the beautiful, incendiary production that is The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, where we most recently learned the name of her childhood tormentor: Count Luis Yew Armeid. A figure of seemingly supernatural menace, Armeid has been manipulating characters like the fortune teller Shitoto from behind the scenes, as he attempts to guide Fujiko towards some unknown end.
This production has been refreshingly direct about Armeid’s crimes: it seems clear that he sexually abused Fujiko as a child, and that her resulting trauma manifests through the otherworldly flashbacks to her childhood abuse. An incidental detail like an owl motif on a wall can draw Fujiko right back to those strange chambers, where the specifics of her experience are abstracted into this ominous owl-headed count, the nightmare jailer who haunted her childhood.
In the present day, Armeid seems determined to embody more than just the lingering effects of trauma. Statements like his intent to “test the Third to see if he’s worthy of Fujiko” imply a sense of patriarchal ownership, as if Fujiko is Armeid’s possession, who can only be gifted to another man by her current owner. It’s a not-uncommon cultural assumption, drawn to its perverse extreme by the fact that Armeid was already her childhood abuser.
Of course, all of this is precisely what Fujiko has spent her adulthood rallying against. She values freedom over all else, and makes it a point of pride to mock and discredit those who’d hope to cage her. She does not see her femininity or sexuality as a “precious gift” to be claimed by some male retainer; she has sex freely and for personal or mercenary reasons, disdaining the idea that woman are “supposed” to be meek and modest. That convention is just another sort of cage, after all.
Ultimately, Armeid seems like the ideal antagonist for a show so in tune with the complex realities of gender as a social construct. He represents basically all of the conservative, patriarchal social values that Fujiko disdains, coupled with the menace of the violent desires those values have worked to sanitize. He is the condescending pat on the head and the underlying threat of consequence in one, and though Fujiko has grown far beyond his influence, destroying him would nonetheless serve as a satisfying denouncement of his wretched perspective. Let’s get back to Fujiko at work!
Sayo Yamamoto is so good. I feel like her inspiration for this series must have been half “let’s use the assumed but unconsidered nature of Fujiko’s sexual agency to explore self-determination within the patriarchy,” and half “oh my god we are going to draw so many sexy Fujikos”
We open with some steamy shots of hot springs, complemented by the oranges and reds of festival lights. After the austere blue-and-grey of last episode, it’s a shock to be confronted with such a warm color palette
So I assume this will be both a hot springs and a Goemon episode, which seems like a natural pairing – plenty of opportunities for Fujiko to fluster her Samurai Friend
A couple foreigners are taking pictures with women in geisha outfits. “Oh, geisha!” “We eat sushi off your bodies!” Establishing lines that simultaneously emphasize the artificial, tourist-focused nature of this place, as well as how its women are particularly commodified
Like her mentor Shinichiro Watanabe, Yamamoto is dedicated to portraying a variety of cultures and ethnicities in her work. Anime tend to establish a specific “generic anime person” template and deviate only slightly from that look, but Watanabe and Yamamoto consistently emphasize the visual distinctiveness of their multicultural casts. It’s a particularly appropriate choice for a globe-trotting Lupin series, but also just a welcome inclusion in a general sense, one that enhances the feeling that this is actually our world
Jigen and Lupin are together again. Jigen is bickering with the attendant at the shooting range. I love all the ways this show pokes holes in its stars’ egos – what a perfectly demeaning detail
And this tongue-in-cheek freeze frame after he just pulls out his actual gun. This show has such a good sense of humor – something that may also reflect Yamamoto and Watanabe’s shared appreciation for world cinema. Comedy based in timing and cinematography tends to translate across cultures better than comedy based in more intellectual, and thus culturally-influenced modes
“Steamy Desire.” Yeah, Fujiko’s gonna be taking them to the cleaners this week
“The moan you can hear from back there is the snake woman!” As ever, women are simultaneously figures of allure and danger
Natarle Aiden, a genius artist of magical realism
“A woman so pitiful to behold, it’s like looking through a kaleidoscope!” All of this carnival barker’s announcements serve as clean summaries of ways that women who deviate from convention are dehumanized or infantilized
“Natarle used this woman’s body as his canvas. A living painting. You’ve never seen nor will you ever see again a woman of such worth.” This woman’s worth is framed as reflective of the work Natarle enacted upon it – another sly articulation of “women’s value is defined by their relation to men”
She flinches as the bright auction lights come up
“See? I always hit the right spot.” As Fujiko intrudes, Jigen frames his shooting expertise as a come-on. Everything is framed through the prism of sexual politics
The woman flees as the circus tent collapses. “Stop, monster!” They simultaneously idolize and revile her. She flees and hides between two trash bins, a trifle to be used and discarded
Lupin and Jigen pick her up
“She was always treated as a painting, and probably never educated”
“To make the very life of a woman into a work of art!” This episode is also playfully gesturing towards the idolatry and dehumanization inherent in less extreme cases. The cameraman does not always concern himself with a star’s humanity when attempting to capture their ephemeral grace. To be remembered as someone else’s masterpiece is a strange thing
She is delighted by Jigen’s carnival prize, seeming more like a child than an adult woman
“Don’t fall in love with the goods.” “Would you hand that over?” Both Lupin and Fujiko treat this woman as an object. As ever, Fujiko’s not here to save the world, she’s just determined to extract her own slice of it
Delightful sequence of them racing through the bathhouse. This festival makes for a visual playground
“You can appreciate her as the highest form of art, as well as the story of her life.” Flashing back to Fujiko’s discovery of this woman, it actually seems likely that Fujiko sees herself in this person. Armeid was essentially “sculpting” her in the same way this woman has been used
Fujiko once again flashes back to her childhood nightmares, stretched on an operating table and poked at by a flock of those ominous owl men
“Fujiko… give me… your story.” Armeid wished to claim her story for himself, to make her an extension of his own world. Even now, she struggles to avoid that curse – to define herself as an independent person, and not as the natural consequences of the trauma he inflicted on her
“I’ll definitely make her mine”
An owl lurks in the trees as Lupin tries to escape
The three flee Fujiko in a cable car
“The way she’s shooting… it’s like she doesn’t care if the merchandise gets damaged.” Whether Fujiko saves or destroys this woman, she can’t allow this mirror of her fears to exist
In a state like this, Fujiko is even more terrifying and implacable than usual
“If she dies in a remote place like this, I guess that’s just as far as she could go.” Lupin is being cryptic as well, raising Jigen’s suspicions
As ever, Jigen is more of a soft-hearted romantic than the others, in spite of being the only one who’s actually a hired killer. He wants to let this girl go
In spite of his claims of indifference, Lupin still immediately checks out the site where Fujiko’s gondola crashed. This show refuses to let Lupin get away with his cool show of nonchalance
Fujiko is clearly far less level-headed about this situation than usual. With the target embodying her reviled past, she’s making clumsy and dangerous plays to resolve this as quickly as possible
I like the unique soundtrack for this episode, a freeform jazz composition whose energy rises and falls with the on-screen action
“You actually want to kill her, don’t you? No, that’s not true. The actual one you want to kill is yourself.” Lupin’s a clever boy
“Everything in your life – stealing, eating, and even breathing – has been controlled by others”
She claims his gun, and puts it to her own head. If her life is still predetermined by the people she hates, then at least by ending her life, she hopes she might claim some autonomy. To someone who values independence so greatly, learning that the demons of her past still guide her must feel intolerable
She actually pulls the trigger, but it’s a water pistol
“In my mundane life, I’ve finally found a treasure.” Even Lupin uses this framing of ownership
Having lost all certainty, she stumbles without direction until running into Goemon
Well, we’re clearly not wasting any time diving into Fujiko’s story! This episode served as a focused investigation into her current mental state, using the premise of this painted woman to reflect on Fujiko’s feelings about her own past. Just like the boarding school episode used a specific realm of fictional narratives to reflect on feminine power and presentation, so did this episode use the painted woman to examine how women more generally are reconstructed and framed through media. Through destroying this woman, Fujiko hoped to destroy the lingering fear that she too is someone else’s art object. Failing that, she attempted to at least express agency through destroying herself – but even in that, Lupin didn’t allow her to die. I have nothing but love for Goemon, but I’m not sure he’s equipped to help Fujiko escape her current desire for destruction.
This article was made possible by reader support. Thank you all for all that you do.