So with the last review, The Castle of Cagliostro is mostly an animated marvel that amazed the world. As a Lupin movie though, I will say it mostly carries more of what Miyazaki carries with his films. So what would be more of a better Lupin story? Jigen’s Gravestone, a 2014 OVA special can easily be considered a perfect blend of what makes this franchise strong.
First off, one of the biggest factors of the shows big success was the change of focus for the other characters. Part I is heavily focused on Lupin facing off with Zenigata while characters like Fujiko, Jigen, and Goemon were simply minor characters. Part II changed that and gave these three characters more focus even with their own episodes. Part II is heavily loved for this change since it started to turn these blank slates into detailed paintings. My personal favorite of the four members has to be Jigen, he was always my favorite even when I was a casual fan of the series. So seeing the title, Jigen’s Gravestone made me ponder if they were really going to kill off Lupin’s closest partner. I will discuss more of this later on so spoilers will be later. So with the recent Fujiko series being done, the team got to make movies or to be exact OVA’s. Their first one being Jigen’s Gravestone and then Goemon’s Spray of Blood that was released this year. One thing for sure about the people who are working on these Lupin adaptations they really brought back the focus of the mature tones the franchise had in the early days.
There is no doubt that these recent showings of Lupin (except Part IV) has really brought back the sex, blood, and danger of the crime world. The Fujiko series had tons of nudity and got to show off the characters in their original personalities. Fujiko even almost had Lupin and Jigen kill themselves in their first encounter with each other. So with Jigen’s Gravestone it easily had the danger since Jigen was being hunted down by the most well-known assassin who makes gravestones for their targets, even before they are killed. The sex is shown through Fujiko yet again and even added a sense of danger. To be more honest that scene with her fighting for her life was incredibly creepy and it has been a while since an anime got me to feel so uncomfortable and shocked. Then the blood is easily through the bullets flying around, but I will say this film is a bit lower in the gore compared to the next film. The use of bullets are not always full on gore shows, they are quick killing tools and are not used for show. The film really captures that well since the assassin is a man who is so perfect that he makes a game out of his work.
This would then be another factor that I enjoyed, the use of a new character to simply be a challenge is a fantastic idea. Jigen has his challenge and so will Goemon, then the Fujiko series did give her some hard hurdles to get around. This does make me wonder if Lupin will have to face another great thief. Jigen had his challenges in previous shows and movies while one in particular rings true to me, the assassin named Beauty (episode 66 of Part II). With characters well established as Lupin’s, it is fun to see a challenge for them. They have defeated many foes before and some with ease, so it is a nice change of pace to have them on the run. Trust me, it is expected to be shocked when the man with a 0.2 second quick draw loses in a quick draw.
So why is Jigen my favorite Lupin character? Well to be honest it has to do with his design which I love how the OVA designed him here. To be honest his design just gets my attention off the bat regardless of which series or movie it is. Unable to see his eyes with that hat of his, the way he holds himself, where he keeps his gun at times, then just add one the suit and tie. It really creates this image of a professional, but with how he holds himself it looks like he barely even cares. I always wonder why he seems to appear to be lazy, is it confidence or is he truly just tired of everything? I do know that he got tired of being a hired gun so him still having to be on the run and holding his gun could still resonate negatively with him. Then I do love not seeing his eyes it works in two ways where he appears to be mad and serious or simply carefree because when he lies down, he appears to be sleeping most of the time. I do love how he has to keep that hat on at all times like in Castle of Cagliostro where he even swims with it on. Then to be honest I enjoy swordplay more than gun play, but with how Jigen faces people with his gun skills always gets my attention more than Goemon slicing through everything. On top of that he is usually always with Lupin so he is a constantly recurring character.
So with all of that said, the idea of Jigen possibly dying is a shocking idea. He is one of the main staples and is even Lupin’s closest partner. Now here comes the spoilers so skip this paragraph please! Since this is a sequel to the Fujiko series, this mean this is actually before many of other Lupin events and if you do know this coming in, that does kind of ruin the surprise. Now many could think that Lupin just does stories and does not worry too much about a connecting storyline. This can be true, but these guys are focused on many some connections here and there where this film has a direct connection with Mystery of Mamo. Now watching this film for the first time, Jigen’s fake death did trick me because of how long they were playing it up. Even when it happened we did not have all the information of what actually happened. The assassin also had this incredible lead on Lupin and Jigen and it is because Lupin is amazingly great at tricking his foes and he is actually leading them on. So even if the possible death of a character is ruined, the suspense is still quite there because Yael Okuzaki is no push over. Then the amazing comeback comes and hits you like a truck since Lupin really makes the impossible possible. Finally to add in a little detail, Jigen’s death date was April 1st, so this was a clever way of showing that this was a joke all along.
One thing that I extremely love about the Fujiko series and the movies after them is that their animation is so top-notch. The use of colors are so well done as it has a great balance and establishes moods so well. The use of shading is strong too since Jigen always has this heavy shading around his eyes. This Jigen looks serious a majority of the time and I enjoy it so dearly. The best part is that his smile comes off so distinct though since his grin is really big making it easy to tell. The backgrounds all blend in so well and then the characters simply look like characters in this said painting. I love it when animation looks more like moving art. It is always one of my favorite things to see in animation. Just add-on a great mixture of lighting as well and everything just looks so pretty. Which only makes it more creepy when the strange moment happens. I even adore their use of nudity, they use it correctly and to not just be for pornographic material. When someone is naked it could much more than sexy, it shows defenseless as well which that strange moment perfectly captured, hence the reason I felt so uncomfortable.
The action sequences are well done too with a great car chase that does remind me of Cagliostro’s car chase. The use of the Lupin’s car getting extremely damaged and Jigen trying to take out the car is very similar. Now in this, the two fail to take out the other car, but again the elements were all there. I even love the use of the mini gun because mini guns are always impressive. The best parts would be the two quick draws between Jigen and Yael. There is actually a good analysis about Jigen’s flaw as a gunman and it is amazing he is as great as he is with how he cripples himself. First off, the gun Jigen uses is big and heavy, so if he had a lighter gun, he could be going even faster. Jigen does not even have a proper holster for his big revolver. Yael is dressed so clean and is prepared perfectly to do his job. Yael’s gun is small and he even shaved off weight from it to be even lighter. Jigen’s first loss just shown him what kind of person Yael is and their second match just proves that. Jigen knew Yael is fast, Jigen just had to try to match that time and not beat it. Jigen knows his bullets are bigger and heavier so if they collide, is bullet will stay on track still. This is probably another reason why I enjoy Jigen’s gun play, he is extremely good even with what he has, just showing the type of person Jigen is a freeman with the only restrictions being the ones he gives himself.
Overall, Jigen’s Gravestone is a great way to watch Lupin the 3rd. Not only it is amazing on its own, it really brings back Part I’s aesthetic of crime and blends Part II’s character focus into it. Along with that character focus it rings true to what Lupin’s characters truly are. Lupin and Fujiko being thieves and Jigen being the gunman as all three enjoy life to its fullest. Also having Lupin, Jigen, and Fujiko being the major players even references the older days of the franchise before Goemon was around. There are still some laughs to have with this too and again the ending gets me grinning and laughing along with the two men. Add on a great cast of antagonists and the amazing animation that is carried from the Fujiko series, we got ourselves what I feel to be one of the best Lupin adaptations.