The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine

Title: Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine aka Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: TMS Entertainment
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 5 Apr 2012 – 28 Jun 2012

Synopsis: Mine Fujiko is a smooth, confident thief who uses her considerable charms to get close to her targets. During her journeys she comes across the notorious thief Arsene Lupin III, stoic gunman Jigen Daisuke, wandering samurai Ishikawa Goemon XIII and the relentless inspector Zenigata Koichi, who is almost always accompanied by his subordinate Oscar. There is more to Fujiko than first appears though: she is being hunted by a strange cult that has connections with her past.

The Highlights:
Art style: Generally interesting and striking.
Animation quality: Inconsistent. Some episodes have excellent animation; others have the creators pulling out every limited animation trick in the book.
Fun: Episodes are often ridiculous, but in a way that makes them goofy and enjoyable.
Main plot: Interesting, but way too rushed. Characters stand around too much explaining the plot.

One of the most glaring holes in my anime experience is my utter lack of familiarity with Lupin III. Like many of today’s anime fans, I’ve seen The Castle of Cagliostro and… that’s it, actually. Fortunately, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine — like most Lupin titles — is inviting to newcomers because it throws all concerns about continuity to the side. It’s interested mainly in telling yet again the origins of Lupin‘s gang of near-mythical figures. The difference here is that the creative team — which includes director Yamamoto Sayo, writers Okada Mari and Sato Dai, and animation director Koike Takeshi — have opted for a more modern approach to the classic characters.

The most obvious change, of course, is that the series is seen through the eyes not of Lupin himself, but instead femme fatale Fujiko. She’s definitely a striking character: unapologetic about her sexuality, supremely confident in her abilities, and uncaring as to what anyone thinks about who she is and the way she lives her life. Indeed, she has little reason to be apologetic, since her globetrotting adventures would be the envy of any rational person. The show is at its most fun when it goes wild in far-flung locations; one of the best takes place during post-revolution Cuba, just before the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s ridiculous and audacious how the show weaves Fujiko into history, and the payoff is sensational.

There’s a more serious side to Fujiko’s role in the story, too, particularly in the second half where Lupin and friends get a larger role. Here the series stumbles a bit. What’s going on is definitely interesting. It feels as if the creators are playing with Fujiko as a character and how audiences and the creators themselves relate to her. (How the series goes about doing this would, of course, be a spoiler.) When it comes time to wrap the plot up, however, there’s been so much time spent laying out the ideas that the plot itself needs to be resolved through lots of exposition. It’s unfortunate because, while weird and surreal, the plot is at least relatively engaging.

Even with that, though, the show ultimately does justice to Fujiko as a character and an idea. She stands on her own. She is her own person, even if certain parties seek to exploit or control her. I’d even like to think part of the point of baring Fujiko’s breasts at such a gratuitous rate throughout the series was also to achieve this, but I’m not sure I’d go that far.

I would be remiss if I wrote about this series without bringing up the art style. It’s such a feast for the eyes. The characters in particular look longer, leaner and meaner than any previous incarnation. The thick bold lines and sketchiness of the character designs gives them a more pronounced pulpy feel that is utterly perfect for this show. It all seems especially striking in the second episode, which introduces Jigen and acts as a loving tribute to film noir and crime fiction. Whether they’re ancient temples or gothic mansions, the settings and backgrounds in each episode have such great detail to them too.

That said, the animation cannot always keep up with the splendid art. As is often the case with TV anime, the first episode is generally quite good, but from then on, the creators pick their spots to showcase their animation talents. There are sections that look wonderfully fluid and energetic; there are others where the viewer is buried in talking heads and speed lines. A Lupin III anime does feel as if it should always be moving and expending massive amounts of energy, so it’s disappointing when the show has to stop to catch its breath.

Whatever my complaints about the latest in the long-running Lupin III franchise, the show is still worth watching because it takes some risks with the characters and tries to put a different spin on things. Maybe it’s too self-indulgent on occasion and doesn’t have quite as satisfying a conclusion as it could, but when everything falls into place, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is as fun and explosive as the woman herself.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Shinmaru

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