image from moarpower.com
Director: Sayo Yamamoto
American Distributer: Funimation
Voice Actors: Michelle Ruff, Sonny Strait, Christopher Sabat, Mike McFarland and Richard Epcar
There have been several franchises that have heavily influenced Japanese manga and anime, one that maybe hasn’t gotten the love that it deserves is Lupin the 3rd. Created by writer and artist Monkey Punch in 1967, Lupin was a serialized series about master thief, Arsène Lupin III, and his top notch crew. Following him on his travels are gunslinger, Daisuke Jigen, femme fetal, Fujiko Mine, and ronin samurai Goemon Ishikawa as they escape the clutches of local authorities, and determined Detective Koichi Zenigata. For the most part, Lupin has been the protagonist that the story revolves around, but with this new series, Fujiko takes the spotlight.
Set up as an origin story, “The Woman Called Fujiko Mine” tells how the iconic gang met for the first time, where Fujiko is the main star. While conning and stealing, she meets each member on her travels and along the way, discovers more about her dark, forgotten past which involves a mysterious group in owl masks.
Image from funimation.com
From the very second, Fujiko gains your attention stating “Cease what you are doing and gaze at me. Stop everything safe for the throwing of your heart.” What follows is a hypnotic title intro straight from a James Bond film. Fujiko speaks her manifesto of her love of theft saying that it’s her greatest carnal pleasure and something she will gladly risk her life for. The title sequence also sets the tone that this is going to be a very different Lupin.
“Fujiko Mine” still has the goofier moments that the franchise is known for, but when the story goes in to who Fujiko is, seeing vision of scientific experiments at the hands of these owl men, it gets pretty creepy. The music and visual style also changes with screeching and popping while the colors become diluted. For a series not known for that kind of tone, it does it remarkably well.
Also, the rest of the gang is still the characters I loved in the original stories. Lupin is still a goofy thief, Jigen is the straight man Lupin’s antics and Goemon is the stoic samurai. One character though that is very different from his original counterpart is Detective Zenigata. In the original, he’s a bumbling, good hearted, straight laced cop who stops at nothing to apprehend Lupin, but this version isn’t that. He’s still a good cop, but some of his actions, like sleeping with Fujiko in exchange for information, really made me unsure if I was going to continue. Along with this, they cut out the buffoonery of his characters, making him more of a hard boiled detective but despite these changes, he’s still that character that badass cop that I loved originally.
image from orendsrange.comBesides the characters, the biggest departure to the show is the animation. The characters designs are still there, but the look is very reminiscent of the manga’s heavy pencils lines. The color palette is full of bright characters, but there all shaded to give it this classic age to it that fits the retro time period perfectly. Also, the music by Naruyoshi Kikuchi is fantastic that ranges from jazzy bebop, classic orchestral, to weird Philip Glass-like songs.
The biggest shame of this show that there isn’t much at only thirteen episodes in its run. This was a great restart to a classic franchise that served classic fans, but also did a lot of things that I think can gain new audience. If this is the only thing this team does with Lupin, at least it was wonderful while it lasted.