So I participated in Reverse Thieves’ Secret Santa project this year, and chose to watch a show that was already on my “to-watch” list, albeit rather deep on it: Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. This show is part of the classic Lupin the Third anime/manga series by original creator Monkey Punch, featuring the classy thief Lupin the Third and various folks he associates with, such as his partner-in-crime Daisuke Jigen, his archnemesis Inspector Zenigata who’s hell-bent on arresting him, the wandering samurai Goemon, and his love interest and fellow thief Fujiko Mine. As you can guess from the title, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine focuses on the last of those characters, and looks at how she crossed paths with all of the others. As it is something of a “prequel” to the main Lupin series, though, I was informed that I did not need to watch any of the existing Lupin anime first, which I did not, so I will be approaching this review from that perspective.
One reason I chose Fujiko Mine was because it was directed by Sayo Yamamoto, an up-and-coming female director who is currently trending thanks to the incredibly popular Yuri!!! on ICE. Having watched some of that (though I’m still somewhere around episode 4), I liked what I saw but not really knowing the director’s previous works, I did not really understand too much how her name built up hype for the show, so I figured Fujiko Mine would be a good show to take a look at what her style is.
Certainly, this is a very stylistic show with a very artsy feel to it even in the general setpieces. Of course, once Yamamoto starts throwing in the heavy symbolism, the visuals really get fancy. I wish I could describe the visuals better because they clearly are one of the major draws of the show, but alas, my knowledge of (and skill at) visual art has always been paltry. Just know that this show looks amazing.
That said, I have to put a HUGE warning about this show, both as a Christian anime viewer and one who frequently writes for other Christian anime fans. This show has a lot of sexually-explicit imagery and content. The female body (usually Fujiko’s) is displayed nude (with nips) frequently, and while no sexual acts are explicitly shown, they are definitely implied to have happened multiple times, with some moments being displayed with pretty obvious visual symbolism. I will say that this show uses these explicit displays with purpose other than fanservice, both to show how Fujiko willingly uses her sexuality to get what she wants, and to show outside of herself the kind of broken world she operates in. Whether said explicit content actually helps the show or not is up for debate–for the most part, it just made me look away from the screen most of the time–but this definitely should not be put in the same category as fanservice shows. It still will probably be avoided by many Christian viewers for conscientious reasons, though. On top of the sexual content, there’s also lots of violence, various rather disturbing events like human experimentation on children, and the general fact that these characters are living lives of thieves, which may also be of concern to potential viewers.
The music uses jazzy themes as befitting something of an old-school heist story, and are serviceable without being particularly notable. The Japanese voices are great, especially with the incredible Miyuki Sawashiro as Fujiko, but I did switch to Funimation’s English dub partway through since dubs are easier for me to multitask with (yes, I had things I wanted to multitask while watching this series); the dub itself works, though I am far from qualified to note any points of particular interest or deficiencies.
So how does the story itself hold up? For the first two-thirds of the show or so, the episodes are basically “heist-of-the-week”. The stories are self-contained and generally entertaining enough as simple “can they pull off the heist” plots. They also do a good job at giving characterization to each of the characters. Overall, characterization is a strong point of this anime, as each character has their own motivations while also acting in ways that might betray their general motives but reflect the more complex personalities behind them.
Hints about Fujiko Mine’s past start appearing in episode 8, with the plot really kicking into gear starting at episode 10. At this point, everyone, viewers included, is getting curious about the question of “how did Fujiko Mine become who she is today”, and looking to the past for those answers. However, the show plays with those expectations a bit. I won’t spoil what happens, but it does provide an interesting look at both Fujiko Mine’s character and the whole concept of the show as a look into the past of Lupin characters. It’s also at this point that the plot does admittedly get a bit convoluted, though the payoff is solid.
Overall, I definitely enjoyed The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, and I can definitely see why this show has helped to give Sayo Yamamoto the credentials needed to make Yuri on Ice a massive hype machine. That said, this show is not going to be one of my new favorites or anything. The heavy sexual content alone would more or less discourage that, plus, as much as I enjoyed the characterization of the show, I never could quite actually love any of the characters. It pretty much fits perfectly into my personal B-ranked shows as something I enjoyed and am glad I watched, but didn’t quite fall in love with. Still, to my Secret Santa, many thanks for the recommendation!
For a review score, I would give this a 7/10 for general viewers based on the strong artistry and characterization. If the darker themes and use of sex and sexual imagery are not turn-offs for you, then by all means, check out this show.