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Melissa Francis on Lupin’s femme fatale Fujiko Mine

Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is the first Lupin series to be released in twenty-seven years. Traditionally branded around the leading man’s tricks and his adventures alongside long-time partners in crime Jigen and Goemon, the Lupin franchise has just got smarter and sexier. Despite the introduction of the decidedly effeminate Zenigata-obsessed Inspector Oscar, in a refreshing new twist the only regular female character of the franchise, Fujiko Mine finally takes centre stage. Previously, a tempting description of Fujiko might have been “femme fatale” due to her unmistakably duplicitous nature. However, whilst this new anime series does emphasise such commonly understood aspects of her persona, it also takes the viewer on a much deeper and darker journey into Fujiko’s past. Until now, Fujiko has been mainly represented in two rather simplistic ways; as Lupin’s ally and sometime lover or as his enemy and downfall. She has been known to assist Lupin only when a promised haul is of significant interest to her.

Being the main female character has previously given Fujiko a lot of attention but in retrospect it seems she has been accepted at a somewhat shallow level. Needless to say, Fujiko’s sizable bust (her very name is a pun on Mount Fuji’s peaks) and feminine wiles have only ever served to improve her chances of success. Such a perception is challenged in The Woman Called Fujiko Mine; Fujiko’s physical appearance, wit and personal history are not only reinstated but also largely redefined on her own terms. The gaze of the lusting male may still be looming, but now Fujiko is in the driver’s seat and steering the story firmly in the direction she wants to take it. Her story is queen, and no-one is dethroning her. While she bribes and manipulates the other gang member to her advantage, the story rather seeks to emphasise her personal plight by employing flashbacks to specific past events that help to build a broader picture of her life, as well as hinting at bisexual tendencies.

Not only has the animation department paid a delectable homage to creator Monkey Punch’s unique manga-drawing style, the maturity of the content also closely resembles the darker atmosphere of the original. Each episode details Fujiko’s first meetings with the other characters before journeying further into her taunting past of neglect and torment. Often, it feels as though the viewer is being taken into some kind of drug-induced hallucination. There’s a particularly disorienting sequence which features a theme park based on Fujiko Mine’s life – just remember the words “Owl Men” and you’ll understand soon enough. It is this psychological terror and sense of confusion which sets The Woman Called Fujiko Mine apart from prior releases such as the more family-friendly The Castle of Cagliostro and what a relief it is to finally see something that is without a doubt far more aesthetically pleasing and true to form.

The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is out now on UK DVD and Blu-ray from Manga Entertainment.

 

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