ANIME & MANGA - Review
10:00 - 9th November 2013, by David West

Lupin The Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine - Complete Series Collection

Sayo Yamamoto's new Lupin spin-off series is a prequel of sorts that provides a detailed look at Fujiko Mine's convoluted past and how she first met all the key players in his world, from the master thief himself, to sharpshooter Daisuke Jigen, swordsman Goemon Ishikawa, and hard-nosed cop Inspector Zenigata. The storyline gradually introduces each of the characters, while setting up the plot threads that eventually bring them all together.

Anyone used to the gags and slapstick of Lupin The Third's previous anime adventures may well be surprised by the shift in tone for The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. This is a much darker and, in some respects, more mature series that deals with illegal narcotics, obsession, sex and brain washing. The first episode sees Lupin and Fujiko at odds with each other as they both try to steal the source of a psychotropic drug called Fraulein Eule from the leader of a religious cult. This is the most familiar territory for the story, with a fast pace and plenty of action. But the material quickly turns to darker matters when Daisuke Jigen is introduced in a story heavy with film noir references, and featuring a femme fatale to rival Fujiko herself.

There is betrayal, deception and murder, all delivered with a cool detachment - and nudity galore. Fujiko seems to have an almost compulsive aversion to keeping her clothes on, and is frequently shown in the nude. Sex is a major theme and, while the series never becomes overtly explicit, it is all too apparent that the leading lady is not shy about using sex to manipulate both men and women for her own ends.

Some of the middle episodes are poorly conceived - there is particularly weak storyline that is essentially a knock-off of The Phantom Of The Opera, although in this case, it seems to be the only production of Tosca in the entire world in which the actors speak instead of singing. An episode set mainly on a train is nearly derailed by a major plot hole - someone kills the engineer and the locomotive becomes a runaway train constantly gaining speed. But it's a steam locomotive, so with no one to feed the boiler, it would soon slow down as the engine runs out of steam.

The final story arc delves into Fujiko's strange past, which is a twisted and tangled one. It requires a hefty load of exposition, which Lupin is on hand to supply, to pull all the strands together. Pay close attention, because there will be a test.

The artwork brings to mind the penmanship of Monkey Punch's original manga with heavy use of cross-shading and strong, thick lines. Compared to the brightness and visual energy of previous Lupin outings, this one has a darker palette to match the tone of the material. The soundtrack is full of lounge music and jazz, hardly a surprise, given the fact that Shinichiro Watanabe, of Cowboy Bebop and Kids On The Slope fame, was music producer on the series.

While still firmly rooted in escapism, this is a darker, meaner adjunct to the Lupin franchise. Fujiko has always been portrayed as flirtatious and desirable, but in this telling, she is a ruthless manipulator always ready to use sex and violence to reach her objectives. Director Yamamoto delivers intrigue, action and excitement, but has lost Lupin's spirit of fun.
SCORE: 3/5
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