Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine (Rupan za Saado ~Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna)

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.

5 Stars

(Images sourced from google)

The Book of Bantorra (Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra)

Book of Bantorra is definitely more than its fan service – though if you need some, then the costumes for Noloty and Chesty La Rue Hamyuts Meseta will have you ‘covered’.

And even, to a far lesser extent, Matt or Enlike.

The Book of Bantorra (Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra) 2009

But beyond the window-dressing, there’s a high concept fantasy/action story split into fairly strongly connected, non-linear narratives, full of mysteries and hidden motives.

And it has a stellar opening theme song:

So, what’s the plot?

In a world where dead people turn into books and are stored in the Bantorra Library (where anyone who reads a book can learn their past), Armed Librarians who wield psychic powers defend the Library from their enemy: a religious society known as Sindeki Kyoudan. (Adapted from MAL).

In summary, it sounds a little silly, but I came to accept the premise of the world soon enough.

And there is a neat and clear reason for all of what seems so bizarre on the surface of the world too, but the series does a nice job of keeping the truth if not hidden, at least obscured for a good long while, and then explaining a lot of the mysteries too.

With the unique premise and fascinating world in place, and mysteries abound, the strength of Book of Bantorra I thought still rested with the range of characters. For the most part, they all get time to have some back story and depth in the present, with small arcs or important roles to play, and occasional quirks too.

In fact, the story of Shiron and her trials with the Shindeki Church could have been an entire season for me – and I actually thought, early on, they were going to dominate the series but as I mentioned above, there are a lot of connected plot lines from up to a dozen viewpoints, so be prepared for many threads coming together by the end.

(Having said the above, I could see that if you weren’t hooked on the characters or world-building pretty quickly, then this anime could very well feel frustrating and muddled).

In terms of aspects I personally didn’t enjoy as much, I felt that the soliloquising and/or grandstanding from some of the antagonists was pretty tedious – one of my pet peeves, perhaps.

The ultimate villain was a little underwhelming too, and while Hamyuts’ bra-size seems like obvious pandering, she did have an actual arc and voice actress Romi Park was pretty convincing re: creating the sense of Hamyuts as untrustworthy.  

I’m glad Book of Bantorra was from an era where it wasn’t unusual for an anime to run for 25+ episodes, as this story needed to be that long in order to wrap things up.

In terms of a recommendation, well I think if you like action, fantasy and as I mentioned/warned early in the post, if you like multiple, interconnected narratives too, then there’s a chance you’ll enjoy this anime.

I’m glad I stumbled across it, as I’ve rarely seen it mentioned.

4 Stars

Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai)

Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai) 2011

One day I’ll run out of shows I’ve seen and then I’ll have to focus more on new stuff – but until that moment, here’s another ‘older’ series. And for a change, I’ll try and keep this review succinct!

Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day is a definition tearjerker, so if that’s not your thing steer clear perhaps. Otherwise, if you’ve never seen this one get ready for a fairly full-on drama that follows young adults as they struggle to come to terms with the death of a childhood friend from their past, Menma. On the surface it sounds like a straight forward drama but there’s a few supernatural aspects, since Menma is kinda haunting the main character of Jinta in the present-day.

Of course, she generally does it in a cute way – except for in the first episode. I nearly gave the show a miss because for some reason she’s shown grinding on Jinta over breakfast? That bizarre attempt at fan-service(?) aside, the story is a good mix between mystery and character, with some truly antagonistic friends coming together to try and figure out the right thing to do. And yeah, as expected, super-bittersweet ending – even melodramatic, but still overall a good series.  

Clannad is mentioned a lot in terms of a general comparison to Anohana, so that might be another marker to help decide whether to watch. As I’ve said many times about most modern productions, visually everything is bright and clear and the character designs are distinctive enough, which is always welcome.

But the real highlight is probably the charactarisation for me.

4 Stars