Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine
Before Lupin, Fujiko, Goemon, and Jigen were a team, the four were on their own paths, following their own separate career paths. A chance meeting at a cult stronghold brings Lupin and Fujiko together, and the thief vows to make the grifter his. But Fujiko has her own troubled past to contend with, and as the men learn more about it and the sexy, enigmatic woman it belongs to, the group moves closer and closer to becoming the team we all know.
If the only familiarity you have with the Lupin the Third franchise is the DVDs Geneon released back in the day, this latest entry into the series is going to come as a surprise. Taking place before Lupin (green jacket, for the curious), Fujiko, Jigen, and Goemon are a group, this series charts the origins of Fujiko Mine, femme fatale extraordinaire, and it does so in a dark way. The term “gritty reboot” has perhaps been overused of late, but it really is a good one to describe what TMS Entertainment has done. Taking place some undisclosed amount of time before the familiar antics begin, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine offers an explanation of its heroine and a glimpse at how the whole thing came together.
The first thing that most viewers will notice is the show's unusual opening theme. Called “New Wuthering Heights,” it is less a song and more an elderly woman (voiced by Ichiko Hashimoto) speaking over classical music while Fujiko frolics naked in a variety of abstract places, pausing to make out with herself and fondle her mirror image's breasts. While it is bizarre, and may be a turn off to viewers not fond of or uncomfortable with overt and fetished sexuality, rest assured that in the very last episode, it will suddenly make sense. The same could be said of most of the series, and it deserves credit for having a clear goal and carrying it through. Simply put, this is a series that has been very well planned, right down to the last scene, which brings us to the start of the Geneon series.
The series opens with Fujiko infiltrating a cult that has been distributing a powerful hallucinogenic drug that is administered in floating petal form. Lupin also has a mission there, and the two cross paths. Lupin becomes fascinated with Fujiko, declaring her the cure for his ennui. He scrawls on her leg his promise to steal her, and from then on, he pursues the buxom thief. Also on her trail is Inspector Zenigata of Interpol, in this incarnation a much more hard-boiled, determined cop. Zenigata is naturally after Lupin, but once Fujiko is on his radar, he adds her to his list. Zenigata is accompanied by a character unique to this anime, Oscar, who looks pretty much what you'd expect an anime character named “Oscar” to look like post Rose of Versailles. As the show progresses, both Fujiko and Lupin make contact with Jigen and Goemon. Both develop very different relationships with the gunman and the samurai, with Fujiko and Goemon's being particularly interesting.
One thing that viewers going into this show need to be aware of is that is earns its mature rating. There is a lot of sex. Virtually none of it is explicit (one scene is moreso than the others), but it is never in doubt as to what is going on, and Fujiko has no problem with using her body to help get what she wants. She spends most of the series in a state of undress, and breasts and nipples are often on display. Fujiko is sometimes shown fully nude, and this where the series' primary artistic glitch appears – the groin area on all of the characters is very malformed, as if part of it has been excised. Fortunately most of the art is done in shadow, with a filter applied that makes it look as though pencil lines have been drawn over most of the images. The overall feeling the show gives off is “dark” with a dash of “gritty” for good measure, giving the sensation that Lupin and company operate in a world devoid of bright lights. This works especially well in scenes of Fujiko's past, such as the ghost town or the amusement park of the damned. Carnivalism is the primary mode of symbolism and director Sayo Yamamoto makes great use of it. There is an overall impression of the 1970s, but every so often a small detail will jar us into realizing that this show is apparently meant to take place contemporarily.
The plot moves episodically until episode 8, “Death Day,” although most of the previous seven do tie in to the two-part finale. The eighth episode marks where the the plot begins to feed more clearly into a consecutive storyline, with the final four following a straight line to the story's summation. The final two, both titled “The Woman Called Fujiko Mine,” satisfactorily explain all of the mysteries, including the haunting ending theme images of a dead-eyed little girl in sexual poses. While it may not feel as though the series is building towards a firm conclusion, upon completion, it becomes evident that very little was left to chance, and reflection makes this a very satisfying show.
If you're going into this expecting wacky hijinks or crazy exploits, you will be disappointed. Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is a mature, slightly dark take on the franchise, and it succeeds in bringing new life to it while still remaining faithful to Monkey Punch's original. There may be a few school girls present and more creepy owls than in Jim Henson's “Labyrinth,” but this show is a far cry from a lot of recent anime, and whether or not you're familiar with Lupin and his crew, this is a show worth checking out.
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Well built series that really pulls its threads together at the end. Interestingly creepy/tragic past elements and a nice segue into the Lupin we all know.
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