Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine (Blu-ray)
FUNimation Entertainment / 2012 / 320 mins / TV-MA
The legacy of master thief Lupin the Third goes much farther back than his first manga appearance in 1967; he is actually the grandson of Maurice Leblanc's gentleman thief Arsène Lupin who appeared in over 20 French novels beginning in 1907. Lupin III continues to be popular to this very day with multiple mangas still hitting newsstands on a regular basis. In the manga, Lupin III is akin to a happy-go-lucky wrong side of the law James Bond. He is acknowledged by pretty much everyone in the world as the greatest thief of all time, brashly announcing to his victims what he will be stealing from them. However, he is also a womanizer, ruthless yet playful, a seeker of justice when things get out of hand (frequently going against other thieves to this end) and a lover of gadgets. While the acclaimed anime series keeps a lot of this intact, they are more often than not extremely diluted to be more kid friendly. The slapstick aspect is played up and the eroticism is toned way down. Scenes from some of Lupin III's animated adventures were even incorporated into the laserdisc video game Cliff Hanger back in 1983.
The latest anime, LUPIN THE THIRD: THE WOMAN CALLED FUJIKO MINE, attempts to return Lupin III and his friends to their manga roots in a very interesting way. This 13 episode series focuses not on Lupin III (voiced by Sonny Strait/Kanichi Kurita), but on the character he most desires: the mysterious and very sexually skewed thief Fujiko Mine (voiced by Michelle Ruff/Miyuki Sawashiro.)
THE WOMAN CALLED FUJIKO MINE gets my vote for one of the most brilliantly structured animes ever, certainly the best anime of this year so far. The closest live action film I can compare it to is PULP FICTION. As we start watching the series, they appear to be stand-alone adventures showing how Fujiko Mine (you must always call her by her full name) first met Lupin III and the various recurring characters of the series. We get adventures set in Egyptian tombs, tales dealing with huge drug cults and fortune tellers who can tell you when you will die, not to mention the requisite all-girls school set story. Then the stories start crossing over. Events are referenced and slowly the pieces start falling into place. The tragic history of Fujiko Mine and how she became the thief that uses her body as her number one weapon comes into focus.
There is nothing about this anime that isn't pitch-perfect. The highly stylized animation with its use of heavy line shadows mixed with the 1960's inspired jazz score gives it a retro yet timeless feel. By toning down the slapstick (it is there still) and amping up the sexuality (which defines Fujiko Mine), THE WOMAN CALLED FUJIKO MINE brings Lupin III to a whole new level of serious anime, ironically by bringing the characters back to their roots.
A five star anime deserves a five star transfer and FUNimation certainly delivers. The anamorphic 1.78 picture is stunning in its clarity and color saturation. The heavily textured backgrounds come through crystal clear and the line definition is razor sharp.
Likewise, the Dolby TrueHD sound mixes (2.0 for the original Japanese language and 5.1 for the English dub) are active, immersive and bombastic. A perfect presentation for this set!
The supplements kick off with a pair of commentaries for episodes 6 (with assistant director Brina Palencia and voice actor Joss Grelle) and 9 (with voice actors Christopher Sabat and Sonny Strait). The Palencia/Grelle track is informative while the Sabat/Strait track is much more party in tone.
"LUPIN THE THIRD: THE WOMAN CALLED FUJIKO MINE Cast Reunion" features the five lead voice actors for the English dub of this series (several of whom had other functions as well): Michelle Ruff, Sonny Strait, Christopher Sabat (Kobayashi), Mike McFarland (Namikawa) and Richard Epcar (Yamadera) chatting candidly about the entire LUPIN III series and what coming to this project meant to them.
"Fujiko Mine at Okratron 5000" is an interview with Ruff from the Okatron 5000 convention.
Textless versions of the opening song ("New Wuthering Heights" by Naruyoshi Kikuchi) and the closing song ("Duty Friend" by NIKIIE) are included.
The US trailer and trailers for other FUNimation titles round out this set.
LUPIN THE THIRD: THE WOMAN CALLED FUJIKO MINE gets my early vote as anime of the year. Highest Recommendation!