Alluring, intoxicating, hypnotic, and quite possibly fatal, Fujiko Mine is a woman who defies definition and explanation. This makes it doubly important to experience her “story” outside of the constraints of the main Lupin series, where her place and purpose are determined by those around her rather than by any tale of her own. The masterful storytelling is propped up by a precise, yet rough, art style, as well as by the jazz music that pulses through your veins from start to finish. Everything about The Woman Called Fujiko Mine exudes a cool style that perfectly presents us its namesake.
My experience with Fujiko and Lupin the Third began not so long ago with the 2017 theater re-release of Ghibli’s film Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro. I was so enchanted with the world of thieves and snark, I jumped straight into the first series I could find, which turned out to be The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. For many die hard Lupin followers, this might disqualify me as a true fan, since both of these works stand outside the long-running television series.
For me, there was no better place to start. Cagliostro and Fujiko Mine presented a Lupin and Fujiko full of complex character and story rather than simply as players in a game of cops and robbers. Their actions made sense in light of surrounding events and interactions, and therefore carried more weight and meaning.
One of the first things you will notice upon starting Fujiko’s story is the opening theme, “New Wuthering Heights,” which presents her in full nudity, breasts pointed proudly forward. Even as a woman, I was shocked. The Fujiko I met in Cagliostro was certainly proud and effortlessly irresistible, but I would not have gone so far as to describe her portrayal as sexually explicit. Here, not a single episode goes by where we don’t see her naked, always beginning with the opening visuals. While Fujiko shows no hesitation in baring her body, the same cannot be said of her true intentions outside of theft. She trusts herself to everyone and no one, using her sexuality as necessary or desired, then moving on to the next objective. Those her meet her are just as easily killed by her.
By placing Fujiko Mine at the heart of the narrative rather than at Lupin’s peripheral, we get a sense of who she is as an individual rather than as an accessory to others. This does not mean that familiar faces like Arsene Lupin III, Daisuke Jigen, Goemon Ishikawa XIII, and Inspector Koichi Zenigata fade into the shadows; the exact opposite is true. They’re present in vivid ways, but only after introductions are made by Fujiko. Since I have not seen any of the main series other than the currently airing Part 5, I don’t know if Daisuke and Goemon’s origin stories match those told here. What I’ve seen indicates they came together in a whirlwind dance with Fujiko at the center.
Whether or not this is “true” does not change their fascination and frustrations with the female thief. Their views of her in this series each represent a stereotype: those who distrust women, those who place them on a pedestal as something pure to be protected, and those who—without trust nor respect—expect gratification. Then there’s Lieutenant Oscar, who loathes and envies Fujiko Mine at the same time due to the attentions she receives from the Inspector. Each of these characters tells a different story, yet their universal attitude of dismissal towards Fujiko is the same.
The one exception is Lupin. In the beginning, he acts much as expected—he gazes at her through binoculars and appreciates her physical makeup. He spends the rest of the series “chasing” after Fujiko, who he repeatedly dubs a “fine woman.” Despite his claim to obtain, he never actually makes a move on her, and of all the other characters we encounter in her story, Lupin seems to be the only one she trusts (even if she tries to kill him from time to time). Their respect is mutual, and their playfulness as fun as it is dangerous.
As we draw closer to the end of the series, the flashbacks and snapshots from previous episodes begin to make sense as a combined effort to draw Fujiko and the rest of the main cast together for a final climax that mirrors the events of the very first episode. While some of the mysteries are laid bare before us, the greatest one of all remains in the dark, that of Fujiko Mine. There’s no backstory. The one clear change is her claim to no longer kill going forward. In a character-driven story as involved and addictive as this one is, it’s uncommon to not experience more apparent growth. Fujiko’s declaration that who we see now and who she was before are one and the same again throws expectations back into our faces. And that’s fine in my book. I’m willing to accept her as an enigma whose heart we’ll never steal but who has already taken mine.
Rating: 2 dango
- “Who is the Woman Called Fujiko Mine? Part One” by Caitlin
- “[Perspectives] The People’s Hero (Some People Not Included): The exclusion of queer viewers in LUPIN THE 3RD PART 5” by Vrai Kaiser
- “Chatty AF 45: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine Retrospective”
- 0 dango – average and forgettable.
- 1 dango – very good in its category.
- 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
- 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.