Reviewby Kim Morrissy,
Lupin the IIIrd: Mine Fujiko no Uso
The third in a series of Lupin the IIIrd films directed by Takeshi Koike, the story of Lupin the IIIrd: Mine Fujiko no Uso follows Fujiko running away with Gene, a boy who holds the proverbial key to $500 million dollars that his father embezzled from a company. They are pursued by Bincam, an assassin who can manipulate people's hearts.
It's easy to jump into this film if you've got a passing familiarity with the Lupin III series. Although Lupin the IIIrd: Mine Fujiko no Uso is the third in a series of films directed by Takeshi Koike (Redline, Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine), it's a nicely self-contained adventure centering on anime's most legendary femme fatale. I haven't watched the previous two films, which were about Jigen and Goemon respectively, but I was able to follow this film just fine. There are some threads pointing to an overarching story, but they weren't the focus of this film.
The other thing I want to note is that Lupin the IIIrd: Mine Fujiko no Uso plays out like an extended TV anime episode. There's even a break in the middle to indicate where one "episode" ends and the next begins. It has the production values of a theatrical film, but it's only about an hour long, making the scope of the story more befitting a TV special than a movie. The plot focuses on only a small cast of characters, and although there are some twists and turns along the way, overall it has the feel of an episodic adventure. As long as you keep the film's modest ambitions in mind, I don't expect that it will disappoint.
I was really impressed with Lupin the IIIrd: Mine Fujiko no Uso. It packs so much action and emotional drama into its runtime that I was surprised at how short it ended up being. The film's plot is confidently and expertly paced; not a single moment is wasted, and every key scene has its time to breathe. As you'd expect from a film directed by Redline's Takeshi Koike, the action scenes are superb. From start to finish, I was enthralled.
Story-wise, the film offers an in-depth examination of Fujiko's character. Fujiko has always stood out as one of the most memorable anime characters, and it's fascinating to see her re-interpreted as she passes between different creators' hands. True to her depiction in Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, which Koike helped produce as the animation and visual director, Fujiko is sexy and always in complete control of her body. However, this film delves deeper into the emotional connections she forms with others, bringing up the question of how much of her act is a lie.
All things said, I prefer Koike's depiction of Fujiko's vulnerabilities in this film compared to the subverted tragic backstory shown in The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. The Fujiko in this film isn't so much burdened by her past as she is by the lies she creates in the moment, which muddle her identity not just for the characters and the viewer, but also for herself. You get the impression throughout the film that Fujiko is lying to everyone, even to herself.
The story's best moments are between Fujiko and Jean, the boy who knows the password to his father's bank account, where millions of dollars of embezzled money lie waiting. Fujiko's motivations for protecting Jean from thieves who wish to take the money may seem transparent at first, considering that she herself is a master thief, but an air of ambiguity always hangs over their relationship. When Jean lashes out at her in one particularly memorable scene in a dank hotel room, I found myself wanting Jean to believe in the lies despite my own misgivings. Fujiko is right when she insists that Jean should not be obsessed with revenge over his father and that he needs a parental figure. And in that particular moment, Fujiko is the parent that Jean needs. As Kurt Vonnegut said, "We are what we pretend to be."
The actual cat-and-mouse game between Fujiko and the villains after Jean's money isn't quite as interesting in comparison, due to the fact that the villains are under-developed. You have the typical corporate bigwig and his team of assassins, but only one of them has a distinct name and personality. At least they give Fujiko a good opportunity to show off her femme fatale side, because as Lupin points out, her usual tricks won't work against a kid. But this also means that Fujiko's clashes against the assassin Bincam have a more predictable outcome.
On the other hand, the film never lacks for style. Fujiko's final confrontation with Bincam will be the standout moment for many when it comes to the animation, but I found myself particularly impressed with the car chase scenes because almost all of it was hand-drawn. That's a rarity for anime these days, but if there's one director you can rely on to do justice to 2D cars, it's the director of Redline. I also like the aesthetic of the film, which captures an adult tone for the Lupin III series, but never feels grim or dark. There's plenty of violence and some nudity, but if you've seen The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, you'll know what to expect.
Lupin the IIIrd: Mine Fujiko no Uso may not necessarily be a "must watch" for anime fans, but it's a consistent delight, even for a casual Lupin III appreciator like me. As the first Lupin III animation to be released after Monkey Punch's passing, there was a lot riding on this film and Koike's shoulders. Fortunately, I feel that Koike truly gets the appeal of Fujiko's character. Lupin the IIIrd: Mine Fujiko no Uso offers a modern reinterpretation of an anime classic with a boatload of flair and personality. Now I have to watch Koike's other Lupin III films.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Animation : A
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Fascinating exploration of Fujiko's character, oozes with style, hand-drawn car animation looks great
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