Arsene Lupin III is the greatest thief the world has ever known. He and his crew–the gunslinger Daisuke Jigen and the samurai Goemon Ishikawa XIII–are constantly pursued by Inspector Zenigata all over the world. There’s a fifth player in that game, though–the woman called Fujiko Mine, and this is her story. More specifically, this is the story of how she met these four and established herself as one of the greatest femmes fatales in all of fiction. These meetings didn’t happen by chance, though. Some sinister force seems to be watching Fujiko, and it wants to control her. It’s going to learn that that’s easier said than done.
I’m sure my introduction to the Lupin III franchise is similar to many anime fans my age: I caught the episodes of Part II that aired on Adult Swim. I really didn’t know what I was in store for. A group of globe-trotting thieves being chased by a supremely determined detective. It sounds basic, but there’s something to Lupin that’s allowed the series to survive for almost 50 years. Oh, wow. I just realized it turns 50 next year. That’s staying power. Anyway, the main five are such likable characters, it’s hard for me to choose a favorite. If push came to shove, though, I’d probably say Goemon just because of how overpowered he is. But I, like probably many fans who are attracted to women, love whenever Fujiko shows up, so I’ve been meaning to check this one out for a while. I love origin stories, and I love this cast. How could I not? Let’s just ignore the fact I’ve owned the blu-ray set for a hot minute and only now got to them. I procrastinate. These things happen.
First off, this is not for kids. Granted, not many versions of Lupin are (The Castle of Cagliostro is the only one that immediately comes to mind), but this one definitely isn’t. How sexual/sensual Fujiko is is on full display here. There’s not an episode goes by where she isn’t topless at some point. I mean, the OP is her delivering a cool monologue while she’s naked in weird and artsy scenes. But, like with New Cutey Honey, I don’t see it as fanservice. Fujiko is the femme fatale. She uses whatever and whoever she can to do whatever she wants. Now, that did lead to a weird scene in episode four where she and Zenigata bumped uglies so she can get out of prison, and this is the one time I can’t get over it. That’s like if Jim Gordon and Catwoman had sex. It’s just wrong. Other than that, though, Fujiko’s tactics just feel natural. That’s who she is.
The other characters act mostly how I’d suspect them to as well. Lupin wants Fujiko, Goemon’s wary of her, Jigen deosn’t trust her, and Zenigata wants to use her to catch Lupin. It’s essentially the relationships they always have. Like I said, though, this is a more adult Lupin series. It’s nowhere near as comedic as the series I was introduced to, but I’ve read this one’s more in line with Monkey Punch’s original manga with how dark and violent it is. And boy, this series gets dark. The mystery behind Fujiko’s past leads down some alleys you just don’t want to venture into.
I haven’t talked about voice casts for these anime yet. Mainly because I rarely discuss what I watch subtitled since I trust the creators have a better idea of who the original characters are, and the only one of note from Honey was Jessica Calvello knocking it out of the park as the titular character. I gotta talk about the dub for Fujiko Mine, though. Michelle Ruff is the perfect Fujiko. I’m so glad they brought her back for this. She’s so fantastic and sensual (Senstastic? Fantensual?) as Fujiko. Also, my favorite seiyu, Sawashiro Miyuki, is the new voice of Fujiko in Japan, and I had to listen to that, too. Best thing ever.
I had a couple problems with the other characters, though. First and foremost, Richard Epcar as Zenigata. I like Epcar, and this is not a knock against him in the slightest. It’s just that he’s the voice of Jigen to me since I started with Part II all those years ago. It was jarring hearing him as the man hunting Lupin instead of the man who will become Lupin’s best bro. He was great as Zenigata; it was just odd. I know Christopher Sabat voices Jigen in other things (and he did great here, too), but Epcar’s my Jigen. Also, I don’t know how I feel about Sonny Strait as Lupin. He was mostly good, but something always felt off. Maybe he just wasn’t all that Lupin-y. I dunno. It’s not something I can really put my finger on.
Before I close this out, I want to mention the look of the show since I assume this is one of the more divisive elements of this entry. I love it. The sketchy, pencil shading style along with the color palette was beautiful. I know it’s not some people’s cup o’ tea, but the show looks amazing to me. It really feels like a colored manga at times. The style alone makes me really want to check out the sequel movie Daisuke Jigen’s Gravestone.
So much for making these posts shorter! Oh well. I’m giving The Woman Called Fujiko Mine a solid 8 out of 10. The voice cast is mostly great, it’s wonderful to look at, the heists are usually interesting, and these characters are enough to draw me into anything. Give it a shot if you’re looking for a more adult-oriented anime. Hell, check it out even if you’re not.