illegenes: It’s easy to see that in an anime season, the most consistent pieces of work that show up are usually either adaptations of a manga, or original series. Spring season this year had the unique trump card in sort of mixing the two by creating an installment to a very old franchise, but still an original work on its own: Mine Fujiko. While I only have watched bits and pieces of the original Lupin the Third, I can say that overall, the show does live up to its high standards. Lupin the Third is a classic series, and Mine Fujiko is overall a worthy title to be added to that franchise despite having some flaws here and there.
Mine Fujiko focuses on the female star of the classic Lupin series herself: the femme fatale, none other than Mine Fujiko. The story devotes itself to fleshing out her origins as well as her interactions with some of the original characters from the series. For fans of the original Lupin, you’ll be happy to hear that characters like Lupin, Goemon, Zenigata and Jigen Daisuke all play pivotal roles in the series, though not at first. In that way, Fujiko is both an episodic series- each episode as a separate adventure- but also a sort of bridging arc about Fujiko’s past, as tiny parts of it are revealed within each episode. This mixture creates a fun and interesting atmosphere that’s even more enjoyable if you’ve watched the past series (and even if you haven’t, it’s still great to watch!). Do take note though; this series is still overall much darker and serious than its predecessor. Whereas the elements of Lupin the Third are still here and there, the show primarily takes a more mature take on Fujiko and her traumatized past, to the point where it can get triggery: the show heavily implies rape, sexual abuse, and features a lot of nudity. It’s not in any condescending or flashy way though- Mine Fujiko presents Fujiko’s past and her nature just as it is, if not in a positive light. She is the woman who gets what she wants because of her sexuality and the show does not shy away from sex scenes though they are not graphic in any way.
Fujiko herself is enticing, alluring to the eye with the beautiful art and unique animation the show has; sort of reminiscent of charcoal with chalky lines for shadow here and there and a great use of color (especially for the past scenes, which are a dazzling display of bizarre colors- aqua green mixed with magenta pink with cyan blue). Equally as great is how varied the soundtrack and background music. The guy who is in charge is no other than Shinichiro Watanabe himself, who worked on Cowboy Bebop so you do see heavy elements of jazz here. One of my favorite character tracks is Goemon’s which is unusually Japanese samurai-ish, along with the Detective Zenigata, which is a cool, slow blues/jazz mix. The voice actors, which surprising to say, as I was concerned that I wouldn’t adapt to them, were excellently chosen. I fell in love with them and even Lupin’s VA was natural and very reminiscent of his character to me.
The first 12 episodes are nothing short of stunning, varied in their approach to how Fujiko lives her life and the issues that come with it. Thematically speaking, the show does a great job with literary allusions and creating the image of Mine Fujiko in a dynamic way; Fujiko is obviously a woman with certain codes and the show doesn’t hesitate to show that. The story focuses on her and her only, so while on the surface we have an adventurous show, underneath are currents of identity arcs and Fujiko trying to find out more about herself and why she is the way she is. The problem then, is the finale. I’ve stated in my review for that episode that it was a clash of the themes Mine Fujiko had been exploring and that’s the exact reason why this show falls short of a solid 9/10 for me. It had everything going, but the finale was like watching the train take a U turn and head straight for the walls. And it’s because the other 90% of this show was so great that the finale just feels all the messier and disappointing.
Don’t be shyed away from the ending though; Mine Fujiko is still a great watch. If I had to choose, I would pick Fujiko Mine as my favorite show of the season despite such a lazy ending. Fun, artistic, mature and breathtaking in visuals, this show is bound to have you hooked till the very end.
gallifreyians: Let’s go all the way back to episode one, “Master Thief vs Lady Looter”. I hadn’t (and still haven’t) seen any of the original Lupin the Third episodes, so Mine Fujiko was something brand new to me that I didn’t even expect I would like much. Capers? Ehh, I don’t care for capers much, I thought. Then premiere blew me away.
Despite Lupin’s point of view being dominant, Fujiko was undoubtedly at the heart of the episode. She posed as the bride of a deranged cult leader, subdued him, fought off his men, manipulated her way out of jail, then broke back into the island in order to compete with Lupin in a contest for them to see who was the better thief. Fujiko was fearless and unrelenting in her pursuit of the drug formula, and she was willing to do anything if it meant that she could win. Fujiko was more than a match for Lupin (who, in my opinion, only won because of his dirty tricks and inside information à la Armeid), which was something refreshing to see in anime.
Mine Fujiko was alluring and entrancing not just because of her physical beauty or because of her antics, but also because of her agency and the complexity of her character. The perfection of her construction is rare across all fiction, Eastern and Western. Not only is Fujiko the focal character of her show, she is the driving force in the plot and her narrative; painted in a grey morality and fleshed out by her background while retaining her signature mysterious air, Fujiko is all I’ve ever wanted in a female heroine. And considering how her arc, the development of her as a character and her journey of self-discovery across the series, is the central plot of Mine Fujiko, I have to say that the plot was one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.
Unfortunately the finale seems to sour those two amazing aspects of the show by completely explaining away what makes them complex and unique. Lupin himself steals away the spotlight and Fujiko’s agency; no longer does Fujiko push the show forward, that role is instead given to Lupin, who prompts every action of the rest of the cast. Actions that reveal Fujiko’s past and identity to be hallow, rendering Fujiko’s arc in the series thusfar to be meaningless, her actions coming from places one might even consider to be normal.
I explicitly remember that my wish for this show was that it would be the development of Fujiko and Lupin as equalled rivals turned part-time lovers, and while that wish wasn’t granted and we did not see the give and take in Fujiko and Lupin’s relationship outside of the premiere, the twelve episodes that we have devoted to Mine Fujiko’s search for identity are a spectacular ride. Don’t let the finale put you off from starting this show however, because the journey is the important part.