Anime Worth Watching: Lupin The Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine

Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine (LUPIN the Third ~峰不二子という女~) is a 2012 13-episode action-comedy psychological thriller produced by TMS and directed by Sayo Yamamoto. Veteran writer Mari Okada served as the series’ primary writer. It is the fourth televised anime series in the Lupin III franchise.

Synopsis

The Lupin the Third manga series, which followed the adventures of the beloved “gentleman thief,” was penned by Monkey Punch (real name Kazuhiko Katō) in the late sixties. It spawned a multimedia franchise that appealed to folks of all ages, despite the original manga being a little darker and more sensual than what followed. Yamamoto, who was given full creative control over Fujiko Mine, wanted to bring back some of that darkness and sensuality. She decided to centre the narrative around the franchise’s popular femme fatale, the titular Fujiko Mine. This is her story, through and through, with Lupin III himself appearing as a supporting character. Without spoiling the story too much, it presents a sequence of seemingly disparate vignettes about Fujiko’s exploits as an expert schemer and thief, before elegantly weaving them together and turning into a bizarre, disorienting psychological thriller.

Appeal

Who said being a thief wasn’t fun?

The most immediately appealing thing about Fujiko Mine is its distinctive art style. In contrast to the clean, thin lines of most anime, Fujiko Mine, features bold, messy, almost charcoal-like lines of varying thicknesses. Coupled with the relatively muted, grey-tinged colour palette and the grand architecture of the depicted buildings, it lends the show an almost gothic feel. There’s nothing else quite like it in anime that comes to mind.1

The second most immediately appealing thing about Fujiko Mine is the titular character herself. Fujiko is no shrinking violet. She’s brash, clever, funny, and just about the perfect point-of-view character for this world of crime and intrigue. I’ve only seen the English dub, so I can’t speak to Miyuki Sawashiro’s original voice work, but Michelle Ruff’s performance as Fujiko is one of the all-time greats.

Finally, the main appeal of Fujiko Mine doesn’t become apparent until its conclusion, so all I’ll say is that what initially appears to be a series of standalone episodes reveals itself to be an intricate web of semi-related stories. Okada can be hit-or-miss as a writer,2 but Fujiko Mine might be her finest work.

Downside

Bang bang!

That writing is a double-edged sword, though. It takes a while for the series not to feel like fluff with some nudity thrown in for good measure. Fujiko Mine rewards people who stick with it; the early episodes are undoubtedly entertaining, but its true pleasures lie late in the series.

Speaking of nudity, some might find it excessive. Almost every episode features an extended sequence of Fujiko in the buff. There’s no doubt that Fujiko Mine pays homage to erotic thrillers, or even outright is one at times.

Conclusion

Weeb level: 2/10. You might benefit from some familiarity with the Lupin franchise, but it’s not necessary.

Fanservice: 9/10. You are going to see Fujiko naked. A lot.

Quality: 8/10. Some of the darker episodes sag a bit, and it takes a while for everything to come together, but when it does it’s fantastic.

Where to Watch: It used to be available for streaming on Amazon Prime and Funimation, but no longer. As far as I can tell, currently the only way to watch it legally in the United States is on Blu-Ray.