Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Friday, April 25, 2014

Anime Review: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine

Note: 2015 Update
Okay it's kind of starting to bug me that this version is picking up in traffic when like 2 days later I changed my mind and wrote another much more comprehensive review

You know when we start talking old school anime (let's say Pre-Dragon Ball) my standard isn't Gundam. It isn't Astro Boy. It isn't Slayers or Kimba the White Lion It's.

That's not to say I'm a Lupin The Third expert or aficionado but I recognize that anime as a medium has evolved. Everything produced even outside of Anime is a product of its time and environment and that requires certain considerations when watching older shows as trends, tastes and techniques changed, despite that Lupin The Third holds up really really well. If it's a lazy Saturday and I need to kill a half hour there you go.

It is the epitome of retrocool.

Enter The Woman Called Fujiko Mine

The show is a perspective flip on the traditional Lupin formula by telling the origin of Fujiko and Lupin's "relationship"..."rivalry"... thing from her perspective rather the obvious.  In most of the old shows Fujiko was a bit of a spanner. Everybody knows she was going to betray them but Lupin was so attracted to her that he doesn't care, trying to outwit her and maybe in the process impress her enough to get his mac on with sweet sweet Fujiko Mine, while his buddies are pissed he let her do it to him, no them, again.

Sometimes it worked sometimes it didn't both the outwitting and macking. But regardless it's an interesting character dynamic. Lupin wanting to flirt but also devoting half an episode to a Fujiko contingency plan.

But here is the thing we always see the Lupin/Fujiko thing through the perspective of Lupin. Remember in every interaction they have Fujiko is trying to use the fact that he digs her to play him. So we've never really gotten to see how she feels, gotten inside her head. And that's what this show is about. Revealing how her interactions with the cast play out from her side.

One thing from the get I'm not so keen on however is that every dude in the show is now attracted to her which somewhat dimishes the usual interactions between all of them. Again the usual rub is that Goemon and Jigen desperately try to convince Lupin that eventually Fujiko will screw them with Lupin grinning in that way he does and saying he hopes she does. "Damn it, Lupin pay attention! This is serious! If she... and we... and the mark... then we end up with bupkis!" How's my Jigen?

The first couple of episodes take us back to before the crew ever teamed up, back when they were all doing their own thing and it really does show how much they all need each other. This is Jigen and Goeomon alright, but before they mellowed, back when they were just sell-swords. Hell in just about any adaptation they're about three times quicker than Lupin to take off the gloves and get serious.
But here there is none of that humor and camaraderie between them because it doesn't exist yet.

It has a weird style that makes it feel more like a 1960's French avant-garde piece than a normal anime, which makes sense.

The original was basically a reworking of Lupin's granddad's french adventures for a 1960's audience. Part of it is the  animation that gives it an art deco vibe and the jazz soundtrack which is glorious. Despite its more stylized animation it also seems to be less cartoony than the old shows, trying to play the gentleman thief thing straight or at least straighter than the old show.

In addition there is no way anybody is going to confuse this thing for a kids show so the violence, Fujiko's sex appeal, and Lupin's attraction to her is way more blatant than I've ever seen it. Let's just say Lupin gets a little gropy. Heck everybody is that way and it can be distracting.  I know they want to make this a darker Lupin but having all of that does lower everybody's likability when we're in a world of supposedly charming rogues.

Then again perhaps that was the point. This is a darker, more sexualized show than usual. Lupin is horndog. He always has been but depicting that has always been difficult in the show which let's face it was marketed towards kids. You got some cat and mouse flirting and maybe some fan service but nothing much more than that. Here things get a little rapey.

And that's before Fujiko learns to use her sex appeal after which, things can get weird and uncomfortable and since it's dabbled through out the show it's really hard to ignore in favor for the usual charm of the set up. It might be trying to say something about the franchises usual sexual politics and I'll get to that later.

Anyway like most Lupin media this show is episodic, at least for the first half, each show being self contained and character development showing up slowly as each version of the characters you see is subtlety different. That's interesting as the biggest complaint I have about the old show is how everything felt the same. You seen one episode you've seen them all.

On the other hand the individual plots themselves seem to be all over the place as what it is Fujiko is actually after is only explained in the last couple of minutes of each one.  Because of that nothing she does makes sense as your watching it and because of all the sex, as stated some of which is uncomfortable you lose the point of the narrative.

I'd just wish more often they'd tell you what the score was. Not the plan mind you but the take just so I'd better understand as things were unraveling what everything had to do with everything else.

That's all, for the relatively normal first half that is, the verdict is that  it isn't unfaithful enough to be called a betrayal and isn't uninteresting or unoriginal enough to invalidate it's own existence. If you are a Lupin the Third fan you should watch it, BUT there is so much Lupin the Third media out there, so much BETTER Lupin the Third media out there.  If you just want to get your fix go somewhere else.

Now for the mind fuckery of the second half.

Lupin the Third has always been about the status quo. Sure Jigen, Geomon, Lupin and Fujiko have back-stories but that was never the point of the show or even really the movies. The last 4 or so episodes try to give Fujiko a backstory and Lord Jesus is it trippy.  Okay I have to talk about this.

It changes everything so run now.

You heard me run!


Fujiko who's been a mainstay of the franchise since the 1960's, who is and has been the love interest of the eponymous character, is a product of brainwashing experiments, oh and not like someone captured her did that crap for an episode or two. This shit is now retconned cannon, and has been going down for YEARS.  No, her entire existence is a lie.

If the show had something meaningful to say about her character, gender roles, the nature of long running fiction or anything, maybe I could roll with it, but the plot seems smaller than that., more like a quick one off movie than a game changer.

This revelation brings the sexy femme fatale Fujiko into question if she wasn't doing all that stuff of her own volition.  And the audiences view of the character and their relationship to her needs to change accordingly.

It's the type of thing that makes you view every other appearance of the character into question. It something that the show needs to address.  It does but how much you're willing to roll with is going to be a thing.

To me "I'm me and always have been speech" she gives seems in a few ways like a cop out. They built this plot up, without the presence of Fujiko mind you (she's the last person in the main cast to get the memo), and that bugs the hell out of me, but they built it up damn it.

Again if sexy fan service "Pussy Galore" Fujiko is a victim of brainwashing it also means that the audience has retroactively been eye groping a rape victim. Don't set that up unless you're willing to actually do something with it, especially when the show is so sexually charged. We have been a bit voyeuristic with the entire franchise's 1960's Bond girl view of her.

Apart from that there is another character who is giving of a transgendered vibe. I don't like the character. Not because of that, though he does give out Lambs vibes at times but because said character adds very little to the normal character dynamic, if anything he makes Zenigata boring, as rather than do his normal impassioned Javert shtick he's in a bland mentor role.

Pops is many things but he ain't boring.

In this show Zenigata shows signs of competence and that and that's always interesting the futile but impassioned chase of that damned Lupin or in this case Fujiko, but the show keeps going to this other character who just seems out of place. Mostly its just that I don't care about anything surrounding him and when a plot has to involve him or a scene I want things to get back to the good bits.

For instance the 5th episode which is as close to classic Lupin as this thing gets. That one actually holds up. You got Fujiko tricking everybody into stealing a Macguffin. You got Lupin working with while trading barbs with Jigen in a death trap. If the show was that I would be on board, though in the end I guess I know where to get that.

Note: 2015 Update
Okay it's kind of starting to bug me that this version is picking up in traffic when like 2 days later I changed my mind and wrote another much more comprehensive review.

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