Lupin the 3rd: the woman called Fujiko Mine

Rating: 4

(aside: it's pronounced "Mee-neh", not "mine")

It took twenty-seven years, but we finally have a new Lupin series. Only, this time he's just a co-star: the spotlight is firmly on his lover / accomplice / adversary, Fujiko, showing even more agency and determination than usual. And that's no small feat.

For those of you who did not grow up watching anime in the Eighties, a small history lesson is probably in order. Arsène Lupin III was created by mangaka Monkey Punch (KATOU Kazuhiko, 加藤 一彦) in 1967, as the grandson of the original gentleman thief, Arsène Lupin, written at the beginning of the 20th century by Maurice Leblanc. His adventures have been serialised in manga (nearly 70 volumes) and anime ever since, with a mostly fixed cast of characters: in addition to the titular thief, we have Jigen, Goemon, Fujiko, and Inspector Zenigata.

Lupin the Third is much less of a gentleman than his literary grandfather, always romancing all the women he gets close to (with rather limited success, though), but sharing the tendency to do what's right even when it's going to cost him the loot. Jigen Daisuke is a great marksman, the quickest and deadliest shooter with any firearm. Ishikawa Goemon is a master swordsman, affecting the look and behaviour of an ascetic samurai; his sword can cut through anything with supernatural speed and precision. Mine Fuijko is a beautiful woman who uses her assets to lure and manipulate others to do her bidding, and she's often in competition with Lupin and the others. Zenigata Koichi is a police officer who's made it his life mission to capture Lupin, developing a friend / enemy relationship with him through the years (just as Lupin is the grandson of a fictional thief, so Zenigata is the grandson of the great fictional Japanese detective Zenigata Heiji).

Since their first appearance on TV in 1971, they have starred in four series ('71-'72, '77-'80, '84-'85, and this one from 2012), seven movies (the most famous one, at least outside of Japan, is surely Castle of Cagliostro, directed by Miyazaki Hayao in 1979), three OVAs, and 24 yearly TV specials since 1989. They are often faced with insurmountable odds against apparently supernatural enemies, but they always get away thanks to their talents and a large helping of luck.

With this much material already published, you'd think there would be very little new to say about these characters, but this new series proves that they can still surprise us.

This series is a first in many ways: not only it's a Lupin story where Lupin is not the main character, it's also set before the '71 series, and it's written and directed by women. Director YAMAMOTO Sayo (山本沙 代, Michiko and Hatchin, Redline) and writer Okada Mari (岡田 麿里, Black Butler, Toradora, Vampire Knight, Fractale) explore the character of Fujiko and her first meeting with each other member of the regular cast, showing us that she is her own woman and in control of her own story, even when up against crafty manipulators and international intrigue. And when she occasionally needs rescuing, she's quick to repay her debts and set out on her way, as free as she needs to be. Sure, she's often naked and she uses her sensuality to get what she wants, but it's always on her terms, and in the end no-one can shackle her for long.

Another very interesting character in this story is Oscar, a policeman helping Zenigata chase Fujiko and Lupin. I'm still not sure if Oscar is a gay man or a trans woman in denial, but what is clear from the start is that they're in love with Zenigata, and the contrast between Oscar's and Fujiko's way of dealing with desire and relationships is probably the one aspect most worthy of attention and analysis in the whole series.

In conclusion, this long-awaited fourth series gives us a new look at beloved characters, and reflections on sex, power, agency, and gender. It also works as an introduction to Lupin's world for a new generation. I recommend it heartily to everyone.

DatesCreated: 2014-03-19 12:04:09 Last modification: 2023-02-10 12:45:24