The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is a spin-off series based on the Lupin the Third franchise, which has being going strong since the late sixties when it started life as a manga comic book. The vastly popular Lupin saga, which stars the grandson of a famous French gentleman thief, has been adapted into various animes and a number of animated movies (such as The Castle of Cagliostro, directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki.) As the title suggests, this Manga Entertainment release focuses on Lupin’s love interest Fujiko Mine, the seductive lady looter who isn’t shy about using her feminine wiles to profit from heists.
In a manner of speaking this thirteen episode series is a prequel given how it chronicles Fujiko’s first meeting with Lupin along with other notable characters such as Goemon Ishikawa and Daisuke Jigen. The first episode for example deals with how Lupin and Fujiko began their friendly rivalry, as they compete against each other to nab narcotics stored on an island belonging to a religious cult. In case you’re wondering, Fujiko’s inaugural encounter with the sharpshooter Daisuke happens when she is forced to pilfer his handgun after losing a bet to a casino owner. Goemon the samurai on the other hand first bumps into Fujiko, who is masquerading as a teacher, when he boards a train during an assassination mission.
From what I understand the vintage Lupin shows were light-hearted affairs, but in the case of Fujiko Mine the tone has shifted to something darker. The two-disc set I am reviewing includes tales that involve drug use, slavery, murder, the indoctrination of minors and plenty of fornication (nothing explicit though as the series carries a fifteen age rating.) Some fans may not care for this change in direction, which at first glance may seem like turning something dark because that is what is considered cool these days, but from what I understand the show’s style is more consistent with the original source material (that was later kiddie-fied when turned into a cartoon.)
Most of the episodes are one off episodic affairs were Fujiko is engaged in thievery. Some notable examples include a tale that draws inspiration from The Phantom of the Opera, an Indiana Jones style treasure hunt within the confines of a pyramid and a story loosely based on the Cuban missile crisis. The early episodes were amongst my favourites, as I didn’t care for the twist that happens later on, culminating in a bizarre finale that delves into Fujiko’s origins. Any discontent I may have were however quelled by decent action scenes and the main character’s bouts of stripping. If cartoon nipples are your thing this is the show for you.
Overall I would give The Woman Called Fujiko Mine a rating of four stars (that’s the series not the female lol.) It was an entertaining show, although I cannot help but wonder if the creators would have been better served by delivering a regular Lupin series. Fujiko may be easy on the eyes, but as a protagonist she isn’t as likable as Lupin. Sure Lupin is a thief, but at least he has a code of honour, takes down crooks and seems to partake in robberies mainly as a means of testing his skills. Fujiko’s motives on the other hand are rooted in greed. When in danger she has no qualms about killing and she isn’t exactly the classiest of dames, given how she uses sex as a weapon irrespective of her target’s gender or age.
In terms of presentation the series is blessed with a stylish look that uses chalk lines, mimicking the sketchy shading you would find in classic mangas. Audio wise I thought the English dub was solid. The jazzy soundtrack comes courtesy of Cowboy Bebop’s Shinichiro Watanabe, although the show itself doesn’t have an opening theme. Instead they opted to go with some narration playing over clips of Fujiko prancing about in the buff. If they ever make another series I hope Fujiko decides to rob a new bra for herself. The excessive shots of areolas tested even my high tolerance for fan service.