Thanks to its position as sort of a prequel series, the first thing you might notice about The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is how it features character designs hearkening back to the manga (and the 1971 Lupin too), something I really enjoyed.
Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine (Rupan za Saado ~Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna) 2012
The design (and pretty much everything else in this series) is a little grungier, perhaps, thanks not just to the ace visual style – but also smaller things like visible body hair on legs and wrists/knuckles. And also, of course, the storylines themselves.
If you haven’t come across The Woman Called Fujiko Mine before, it basically explores how ‘the gang’ first meet.
Well, a little more specifically, it’s focused mostly on Fujiko and Lupin as they uncover the truth about her past.
There’s a complex undercurrent of unease and unhappy secrets that link the episodic aspects, and it all comes together in a pretty satisfying way, but I think what was of most interest to me was the fascinating glimpse of ‘before’ all the main characters meet.
I won’t spoil those moments, but a few stand out – especially a particular ‘Goemon episode’.
Another aspect that sticks in my mind whenever I think about this series, is the menace to the owls – maybe I could say it hearkens back to the motif of birds from stuff like Pyscho at a stretch perhaps, but the use of the Owls definitely has a few layers, wisdom, secrets, silence, unblinking villains; it’s all good.
But to jump back to the visuals for a moment, I think if you like the original Lupin or perhaps just the 1960s and 1970s in general, then you’ll enjoy just about everything about what Sayo Yamamoto and Takeshi Koike have done here, as it’s very evocative of the era.
I also tend to enjoy the heavy hatching look too. (Actually, on that note – if you don’t like much about anything I’ve mentioned so far, then The Woman Called Fujiko Mine might seem relentlessly dark).
There’s also a lot of fan-service, some of which you could call stylish. I’d also say that it’s less of the male-gaze variety (though that’s incidentally present), after reading this quote from director Sayo Yamamoto:
Because if the character of Lupin is going to be the protagonist, you would get a better product by having it directed by someone who is more attached to Lupin than me (laughs). And well, I also wasn’t very interested in creating 12 episodes of that. My favorite Lupin character is Fujiko Mine. To the point that when I was little I basically used to watch Lupin just to see Fujiko’s sexy scenes (laughs). I thought that if the theme is “I want to look at Fujiko for the whole time”, then I would be able to create that. (Interview here)
Despite what that quote might suggest, the story is just as focused on Fujiko’s character.
Writers Mari Okada and Dai Satō (among others), spend plenty of time giving the audience a chance to see and wonder about exactly what makes Fujiko tick.
The rest of the gang aren’t ignored either, but sometimes it’s a sub-character that makes a big impact – one of which is Lieutenant Oscar. There’s some stuff going on with this guy, too much for me to even try to go over in one review. Or even understand, I think. (I remember being left with conflicting emotions about poor, broken, evil Oscar too).
It’s been a long time since I finished the anime now, and so I wonder if I should attempt a re-watch one day, because I’m sure I missed important details here and there.
Above all, I think The Woman Called Fujiko Mine would still have things to offer me if I did watch it again, and so I’m sure I will.
(Images sourced from google)