Lupin The Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine (Japan 2012)

Rating: **
Review Date: 5/13/15

Contains 13 episodes

Fujiko Mine has always been a bit of an enigma in the Lupin universe. She's Lupin's mysterious rival in both love and life, and her elusive charms confound and befuddle him. He delights in the chaotic thrill of the chase, while she delights in setting him up and watching him fall. Their relationship is built on an complex cycle of tease and denial, adorned with bullets and betrayal. This show is about how they first met, and provides some insight into the woman called Fujiko Mine. Sort of.

A secret pharmaceutical company is manufacturing a hallucinogenic drug called "dizzy", which turns people into owls after prolonged exposure. Um, okay... These owl people are also conducting cruel mind-altering experiments on kidnapped girls, which offers a hint to Fujiko's past. She and Lupin run into each other while trying to uncover the truth about dizzy, and Lupin is immediately taken by her beauty and strong-willed defiance. They continue to cross paths throughout the series, and they also run into Jigan and Goeman for the first time. A surprisingly bad-ass Inspector Zenigata and his misogynistic, homosexual, cross-dressing lieutenant, Oscar, relentlessly pursue Lupin, and have no problems using Fujiko as bait (as well as for other things). In Fujiko's darkest hour, Lupin comes through for her and saves the day, only to be jilted once again.

Unfortunately, the series isn't what I was expecting or hoping for, and is a disappointment at every turn. Fujiko is presented as a broken and deeply troubled woman, and disrespectfully treated as a tool and a vulgar sex object. Zenigata even forcefully beds her as part of an interrogation, while Oscar disdainfully refers to her as a spittoon - a vile receptacle for male filth. Interestingly, Lupin seems to be the only person that Fujiko withholds her pleasures from, which just fuels his obsession and lust. The entire tone of the show is crude, distasteful, and misogynistic, and Fujiko is never shown in a positive light. And for a show that's supposedly about her, she's given surprisingly little screen time and is treated as a supporting character. The animation and character design is good, but the sketchy shading style is a constant irritant. The action is disappointingly sparse and sloppy, and Fujiko is more often a passive observer than an active participant. She tends to prefer deception and sexual persuasion over direct action, and she amuses herself by manipulating others into doing her dirty work. The one scene that shows off her talents as a quick and clever thief of Lupin's caliber happens in the very first episode, when she uses her bra to slide down a zip line during a daring escape.

The episodic structure basically boils down to botched capers involving various combinations of the main characters getting in each others way. Only during the last several episodes does some sort of story arc emerge, but the narrative is so disjointed and confusing that it's hard to make sense of anything. The role of hallucinogens in the story certainly doesn't help. In typical Lupin fashion, there's an outrageous twist at the end that invalidates everything leading up to that point, and the resolution solves nothing. The time period of the show is purposely vague, with the exception of one very strange episode that takes place in 1962 with an odd retelling of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In it, we learn that Fujiko is Fidel Castro's lover and Goeman is responsible for averting World War III. It's a radical departure from an already loosely structured series, and the show suffers from it. Overall, the series might be worth checking out if you're a die-hard Lupin fan, but if you're looking for the enigmatic Fujiko to be in the spotlight and taking charge, you're bound to be disappointed.