Episode 05, "The Magician's Left Hand"
Synopsis: Lupin investigates Fujiko's relationship with a young magician from a circus, Luca, who seems to have had fallen in love with her. Lupin is incredulous, as Fujiko's motivations always involve a swindle, and becoming a knife-throwing act seems like a cover. Sure enough, it seems like Fujiko is after the Trick Recipes, the codex of circus tricks and secrets, that could be valuable, and which only exists in Luca's mind. What is Fujiko's motivations for supporting the reserved young man whose burning desire is to become a great magician? It's all about slight of hand as Lupin tries to decipher the clues to this magical mystery!
Lupin III's relationship with Fujiko Mine is as simple as it is complicated: in equal parts. He's obviously very taken with her, and I think it goes well beyond just her ample... physical attributes. Lupin can be fairly charming when he wants to be, and there are women who fall for him, but usually the only woman that Lupin goes that extra mile for is Fujiko. But Fujiko can be a fickle lady, and her affections are mysterious. It's not always clear if Fujiko even ever feels geniune romantic feelings for anybody, let alone Lupin. She's always got an angle. But she also has a bit of classic romanticism to her that rears its head on rare occasions.
So we find Lupin here investigating a possible romance Fujiko's struck with the young, uncertain magician's apprentice of a circus. He's deftermined to prove the guy a fool, skeptical to the point of laughing that Fujiko would ever fall for him. But Luca is likewise adamant that Fujiko has a legitimately affection for him and desired to bring out his talents for his own best interests. Lupin is certain that Luca's been fooled. After all, he's had decades of experience with Fujiko, and there's always an angle with her. The question is, why is he so curious about this, to spare the fellow's feelings, out of jealousy, or to get in on whatever she's after? It's never made clear.
Well, whichever it is, Luca was left all the secrets of the famous Tony Belcastro's magician tricks, instead of his son, and it's clear he's only being kept on the staff for that reason, because he doesn't really do any real act. If those tricks aren't being used by anyone, Luca's knowledge isn't very useful to the circus. When Fujiko appears in his life, it's like a revelation. She councils him, nurtures him, stirs within him the passion to make use of the secrets entrusted to him by his mentor. And he's not even doing it to hit that! What is he, some kind of earnest individual with pure motivations? What a doofus.
Of course, the ending seems to bear out Lupin's theory on the matter, as she (of course) is really in it for the cash-in, but plays coy about it with our sideburned stealer. She's able to convince Luca to sell his magician services to a big time outfit, which Fujiko gets a big pay out from. But there's an air of mystery to Fujiko's state of mind on the matter. While she is getting paid, it's possible she did actually care about Luca. Maybe not some deep traditional romantic love, but a passing affection, a generous whim or fancy in seeing somebody live to their potential.
This episode does a really weird, unsettling thing where there are flashbacks inside of flashbacks. Lupin is interviewing acts in the circus and they're giving accounts of Luca, which gives way to flashbacks to those happenings. The problem is, these interviews are flashbacks of Lupin's. It's a particular pet peeve of mind when there are flashbacks inside of flashbacks. This isn't some nesting doll, so get your narrative right, episode!
One thing I enjoyed about the episode was that scene after Luca's confronted Tony's son about his father's death, and he's in a field of flowers with Fujiko, in the moonlight. In this scene, Fujiko is essentially offering Luca the world, a gesture which is both a lie and the truth, as while she's about to leave him, he's now free to come into his own. And in this scene, an instrumental of "Fire Treasure" from Castle of Cagliostro plays in the background, a pitch-perfect choice for this touching scene, and sort of an echo of a similar scene at the end of that movie where Lupin says goodbye to Clarisse.
This wasn't one of the strongest episodes, but a marked improvement from the previous one. I liked that they didn't take any hard position over whether Lupin was right or not. Its ambiguity plays to the relationship between Lupin and Fujiko, and indeed Fujiko's personality itself.
3.5 out of 5