Pop culture does something with showing the life of a criminal that makes it look so appealing. Whenever we’re shown a character who lives a life of crime, they’re always very good at it: They never get caught, they’re always on the move and any time they’re in danger they always find a way out of it. Why is it that we’re constantly confronted with such romantic views of felonious lifestyles? Is it so we’re conditioned not to fear that which we should fear? No. Probably not.
I think that maybe experiencing stories about semi-kindhearted badguys is a lot more enjoyable than watching another movie about a knight in shining armour. At least, that’s the conclusion I came to after watching the critically acclaimed Anime series from 2012; “Lupin The Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine”, which has been recently released in Australia as a complete collection thanks to Hanabee Entertainment.
“Lupin The Third” has been around longer than many people can even remember but it is “The Woman Called Fujiko Mine” that has brought this almost age-old tale into the new generation and hopefully this review will show you just why it is that we needed that and just why it is that “Lupin The Third” will never die.
The world’s greatest thief, Lupin the Third, has set his sights on the world’s deadliest femme fatale, Fujiko Mine. After crossing paths on the same job, Lupin is enthralled with the mysterious beauty but such an attachment may come at a price.
Elusive and manipulative, little is known about Fujiko as she holds her hand close to her chest. A thief? A killer? She’s whatever you need her to be so she can get the job done. As Lupin and his crew fall deeper into the mystery will they learn the answer to the question that plagues their thoughts.
Just who is Fujiko Mine? – Hanabee
“The Woman Called Fujiko Mine” has possibly the oddest but most exciting story progression in a contemporary Anime that I’ve seen for quite some time. What starts off as an “exploit of the week” type of Anime series quickly becomes a psychological and frankly horrific thriller about a woman and her long for a higher level of existence. What I love about “The Woman Called Fujiko Mine”, apart from the incredible cast of likeable characters, is the way that it takes you by surprise.
The Anime you’re watching in the last episode is nothing like the Anime you watched in the first episode but somehow the events in between are strung together so seamlessly that you almost don’t notice it. The series doesn’t feature a huge cast, in fact, there are only about six characters you’re meant to care about and each of them is developed enough for you to like without thinking twice about why.
What’s odd but delightful is that, despite the short episode count, each of these characters’ personalities and reasons for pursuing Fujiko Mine are all quite polished and made very obvious so you’re never truly left in the dark. What’s an even greater feat is that the reason why each of these men are after Mine really tells you a a lot about their personality. I’ve yet to see an Anime series outline characters better than this in such a short time and, honestly, I’m not sure I’ll be seeing something like it anytime soon.
Fujiko Mine herself is most likely the best character of the series. It’s not just because she’s the titular character and it’s also not just because she gets naked every episode, well…that actually may be why. Fujiko Mine uses her sex appeal as a weapon but is also written in a way where she retains her dignity as a woman.
Fujiko Mine is the truest example of a strong, sexy woman that knows what she wants and takes what she wants with not a shred of shame regarding the job she’s doing nor the means of which she needs to complete it. She’s seen as ruthless and cunning which is true but, as you get further into the story, you’re shown a different side of Fujiko Mine that shows she, much like the rest of us, is fragile. The only difference is she knows how to hide it better.
“The Woman Called Fujiko Mine” played host to a strange visual style that, while well-animated, resembled that of an older Anime series. This was obviously done on purpose to emulate that of the original Anime series which it did well despite how different the two look. All of the line-work was done in a way that made it look as though the animators had used charcoal and a great deal of the shadowing was thick, heavy, and continued the rustic line-work look.
As far as colours though, a lot of what was used was quite dull, once again, to give off the impression that this is an older series. A great deal of the visual work was done for that reason but when the time came for it you were truly shown just how progressive “The Woman Called Fujiko Mine” is. All the characters were clearly designed without boundaries with most being comedically disproportionate.
This, once again, only added to it’s visual superiority. “The Woman Called Fujiko Mine” can really only be described as having a “gritty flow” with most scenes being wonderfully-animated but also featuring quite a rough artistic style. This level of visual conflict is not often pulled off well but the team behind the series seem to have mastered this style of Anime-making because it looked down right brilliant.
Just another good reason to watch “The Woman Called Fujiko Mine” is the soundtrack featured throughout the series. Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, the actual soundtrack and not the Anime itself, you’re almost guaranteed to have some incredibly fitting jazz tunes to keep you both upbeat and sombre during specific scenes.
While Watanabe didn’t exactly play all the instruments or even compose the songs, you still have to commend him for pushing the score in the direction it went. Each of the character had their own signature song which played host to different sub-genres of jazz or jazz fusion, and for someone like me who loves that kind of music it was a real treat. Being backed up by the well-composed soundtrack is that of the actual English dub of which I’ll choose to focus on because, let’s be honest; Japanese dubs are always right on point and it’s the localisation wherein which things get lost in translation.
Featuring a couple of very talented voice actors like Sonny Strait and Christopher Sabat who lend their talents to two of the main characters, it’s very hard NOT to like the English dub of “The Woman Called Fujiko Mine”. Each choice for an English performer is very fitting and there isn’t a great deal that gets lost in the translation period so what you’re left with is a dub that both sounds good and stays true to the original script. Something a seasoned Anime fan like myself can very much appreciate.
Hanabee Entertainment, who have just re-released this series is a special edition box set, have done a brilliant job bringing “The Woman Called Fujiko Mine” back into mainstream circulation by compiling each of the episodes into a four disc release that features both the standard DVD and Blu-Ray versions.
While the on-disc extras or somewhat disappointing though they’re not missed for long and that’s because the physical extras are enough to blow any Anime fan away. You’re given two hardcover booklets; one for the first part of the series and another for the second part of the series.
These books feature a whole bunch of official artwork from “Lupin The Third”, some information on the characters shown, detailed descriptions of the episodes featured on the disc the book represents and even some pages with pop-up images that took me right back to my childhood days. Hanabee have, without a doubt, made “The Woman Called Fujiko Mine” all the more attractive as a purchase…not that it wasn’t already so before this.
“Lupin The Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine” is just what this generation of Anime-watcher needs to see. Even without having lived through the release of the original Anime and Manga, it’s easy to see after watching “The Woman Called Fujiko Mine” just why it is that this series is so revered throughout recent history.
Despite how dark the short series becomes by the end, you’re still left with the odd feeling of joy after watching an episode, almost like Anime is something you’ve never seen before. Like you’re experiencing it for the first time.
I was talking with fellow writer Luke Halliday just the other day and what we spoke of how one would choose their all time favorite song. We came to the conclusion that your favorite song is one that always sounds new and exciting no matter how many times you’ve listened to it. THIS is why “The Woman Called Fujiko Mine” stands above the rest as one of the greatest Anime series’ of all time.