Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is a title that has caused me to temporarily shift my review structure simply because there are certain elements to it that really stood out to me aside from the storyline.
Ever since opening their doors a little more than a year ago, Hanabee Entertainment have dabbled in different bonuses to go with some of their more top tier releases ranging from a 2-disc soundtrack CD in their release of Dusk Maiden of Amnesia to a series of art cards for ef. One of their most notable inclusions however were the book-style cover for their releases of Bakemonogatai and Nisemonogatari. They have decided to replicate that cover style for The Woman Called Fujiko Mine with one unique difference…. pop out artwork! Wondering what to expect from something that warranted pop-out artwork, I set out to see what the fuss was about…. and was pleasantly surprised.
Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine was just as much about the experience as the storyline, with each visuals, audio and voice acting all hitting the right notes. The moment you begin the first episode you are greeted with an opening sequence that doubles as a monologue and to some degree an overview of the series, with Michelle Ruff (as Fujiko Mine) talking over an intense instrumental track that is complemented by active monochrome animation that draws in your attention instantly.
As you come out of the opening animation, you are shown that the visuals may not be the most refined but suits the darker and mature intended environment with dull colour tones in addition to a design style that ties in perfectly with the Lupin III franchise’s manga roots back in the 1960′s. Character designs were also very appropriate and suited the many action scenes spread throughout the episodes with fluid animation, while making use of more unique visual features of the series and maintaining the animation style consistently. Do be warned however that nudity can run rampant throughout the episodes, and the MA15+ warning isn’t for show even if the “naughty bits” aren’t the most realistic looking.
While the animation and design left much to rave about, the musical backing is also worth listening to, and should have been a series Hanabee attempted to get a separate bonus soundtrack for. Both the opening and ending themes suited the intended style of the series. The rest of the instrumental backing is varied enough to handle anything the series threw at it, with some really nice jazz pieces throughout, compliments of Naruyoshi Kikuchi who is known for this style of music and has featured in the anime series Trigun previously in a similar capacity.
As a studio Funimation Entertainment have produced some rather average English dubs in their lifetime, but when it comes to more mature series they have shown that their voice talent is up for the task. I will most probably always envision Michelle Ruff’s voice as the sadistic demon girl Etna from the Makai Senki Disgaea franchise, however in this case she adopts a completely different tone that perfectly suits her role as Fujiko Mine. She is joined by Sonny Strait who reprises his role as Arsene Lupin III, Christopher R. Sabat as Daisuke Jigen and Richard Epcar as Inspector Zenigata. Overall, a strong English dub that complemented the intended mood and setting. As this is a hybrid dub release also comes with a relatively strong Japanese dub so you win irrespective of your personal preference. Do note that due to a trend present in both Hanabee Entertainment and Siren Visual releases, the Japanese dub is set to default.
As a publisher with just over a year on the Australian market under their belt, Fujiko Mine is the only Lupin III title that Hanabee have published. Unfortunately this also means that if you want to become acquainted with earlier titles before diving into this one you pretty much have no choice but to import copies from North America. While you may not get the full experience, even if you aren’t familiar with the series like I was, it doesn’t completely lock you out of enjoying this title. However given my lack of experience with the earlier installments, forgive me for the rest of the review being overly simplistic in reference to previous titles.
Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is the latest installment in the Lupin the Third franchise, coming approximately 27 years after the main series ended. Rather than focus on the titular character, this series follows formerly recurring character Fujiko Mine as the protagonist and takes place prior to the events of the first season. It details the moment Lupin III and herself met, then covered a number of incidences herself and at times herself and other main characters were involved in.
Many of the episodes felt episodic in nature and often focused on the thievery element of the storyline but still relied considerably on the use of action scenes and occasionally eroticism to deliver the overall plot. Despite being episodic, each episode delivered a strong plot which accumulated into an overall enjoyable and interesting experience while delivering less predictable plot progression and character personalities than other similar series have in the past. The one thing that the first half of the series doesn’t really touch upon is the promoted “secret from her youth”, evidently something they are keeping until the second half to launch this month in Australia.
Aside from the sexual undertones of the episodes which sees Mine wearing little to nothing much of the time and looking odd when she dresses conservatively, her personality is interesting beyond the degree of fanservice and they slowly take to unravelling the facets of her personality. With many characters of both genders in anime falling into the many cliche personality types, it is always good to see a feature character deliver something different. I look forward to seeing where they take her role and how they develop her in the latter half of the series.
Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is as much an experience as it is a series to be enjoyed for its storyline. While I would have relished the opportunity to have more incite into earlier iterations that have been present in the series’ 40 year history, I thoroughly enjoyed this seven / eight episode collection and am eager to see how it continues on. I mentioned in my review of Princess Knight yesterday that there is or at least needs to be a growing trend in anime publishers to consider the classics as well as the newer titles. Lupin the Third is one of those titles I would like to see released in Australia. Anime publisher Eastern Star released the first TV series last year in North America, meaning that the localization resources do at least exist for this to be a possibility.
Artbook casing with pop-out artwork.
As much about the visual/audio experience as it is the storyline.
Interesting character cast which don't fall into any obvious and frequent cliches.
Standard price of a half-season anime collection, with only seven episodes. Might have been better going with separate DVD and Blu-ray releases rather than full-priced combo pack.
Other Lupin the Third series not available for purchase in Australia.
No other on-disc extra goodies.