While it’s imperative that animation enthusiasts and die hard Lupin the Third fans see The Woman Named Fujiko Mine, the series does enough things right that it can be recommended to general anime audiences. While its not perfect, it gives a solid run at how these iconic anime characters crossed paths and an average mystery storyline that’s worth following. The series plays out as a few stand alone episodes at how Fujiko, Lupin the Third, Jigen and Goemon all met up, to then switch gears to try and create psychedelic mystery at the origin of Fujiko. Along the way, we get an atypical Inspector Zenigata and a new character named Oscar, an effeminate police officer that has a soft spot for the gruff inspector. All of these different elements create a show unlike any entry in Lupin series to date and make for some solid entertainment.
What’s most striking is the art style, no doubtedly influenced by the deft hand of Takeshi Koike, who served as the character designer and overall animation director. Responsible for Redline and The Animatrix: World Record segement, Koike possesses a style unlike any other Japanese animator and has made some iconic anime imagery in the last decade. Here, Koike chooses to retain the classic Monkey Punch designs, but adds a bit more flair to them. Director Sayo Yamamoto does a fine job at steering the ship and certainly makes me want to see more of her work. Cowboy Bebop’s Shinichiro Watanabe even lends his brilliance to the project, by being a music producer, that gives a fantastic jazzy edge to the series’ score.
If there was one major aspect to pick at, it would have to be the writing, that fumbles upon giving the definitive origin and double backs on what it set out to do. While there are a few screenwriters that are attached, there’s one that I felt has his hand in the downfall of the show. Dai Saito is responsible for writing only a few of the episodes, but with his previous works being things like Ergo Proxy and Eureka Seven, makes me feel that he’s the sole reason why Fujiko Mine falls into a bit of meaningless misdirection. While all three of shows are incredible, there are plenty of moments in each, where there are plot points or some over the top elements are introduced, only to ultimately lead to nothing of major significance to the characters, plot or overall story. With Fujiko Mine, the entirety of her frightening origin turns out to be something else completely, which is fine, but to have it seem like we’d get to know more about this character and how she functions, to then just have it be something else entirely is a bit of a disappointment.
Writing aside, the overall aesthetic and art direction of the series is where Fujiko Mine shines. The sketchy shading techniques, along with the detailed backgrounds and wonderful character designs make for some fantastic eye candy. Even the commercial breaks, which pertain specifically to each episode, contain some well composed imagery and add a little bit more flair to the already flamboyant series. There are but a few brief moments, where the animation isn’t up to snuff, but for the most part, the animation holds up pretty well for all of the 13 episodes.
In the boxed set from Funimation, the series contains a few awesome extras, mostly pertaining to the cast attached to the series. There’s an interview with Michelle Ruff, who’s lent her voice talents to the character of Fujiko before, in The Mystery of Mamo and the Lupin the Third TV Series. There are parts where we see her in the booth performing the role, intercut with her talking about fond memories of the character and her take on this latest entry in the franchise. There’s also a reunion for the dub cast, with the likes of Sonny Strait, Richard Epcar, Christopher Sabat, Mike McFarland and Michelle Ruff. They all sit and laugh about the good times they’ve had with the series and talk about the differences between the past and present Lupin the Third.
This boxed set is pretty amazing, with its overall presentation and the amount of extras that are included. While it fumbles just a bit, Lupin the Third – The Woman called Fujiko Mine is certainly much better than a majority of anime produced. It looks unlike anything else and certainly tried to take risks with characters that are beloved by many. If you’re already a fan or you haven’t found a way to break into what makes characters like Lupin or Fujiko legendary, then do yourself and your eyes a favor and get down with this series. Highly Recommended!