An anime that has Takeshi Koike involved, the guy responsible for the characters and animation in both Dead Leaves and Redline? You mean to say that we're going to mix Lupin the Third with ounces of style? Yeah, so this happened. It's been quite a while since Lupin had a whole series, and it was hard not to get excited for this one when the details started reaching the public.
The Castle of Cagliostro is a fantastic film, but I was pretty let down when I soon after watched the original anime series. It hadn't really aged well, and disregarding the last few episodes, it seemed to just drag on. Fusing the Redline style with the goofiness of the Lupin the Third characters seemed like it would be a perfect fit.
But was it? Consider this your spoiler warning!
Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine serves as a prequel to the existing series, showing us how the gang met each other, and what they were all doing beforehand. This includes Lupin, the world's most wanted thief, meeting with the cat-burglar Fujiko and marksman Jigen for the first time, so it was great to finally see the circumstances. With the introduction of Goemon some way into the series, I was slightly worried that it would break canon, but they manage to give reasons behind Lupin and Jigen never meeting him. Very cool stuff.
However, unlike the existing anime, Lupin relinquishes his role as the main character to allow us to learn about Fujiko and her pretty complicated past. Each and every encounter featuring Fujiko is important, with repercussions being seen throughout the rest of the series. There are obvious changes like Lupin and Jigen showing up more often, but then there's the point where the first episode becomes incredibly important, when before it only seemed to exist to show the chance meeting of Lupin and Fujiko. The story of Fujiko Mine is exceedingly well-crafted, and I'm sure both fans and first-timers will be happy with it.
The characters are what make the Lupin franchise what it is, and I'd even risk saying that it is this series that best represents them. I admit, I've only got the original series and the film to base this on, but this is the first time I've seen Lupin as a competent, devious thief, Jigen as a fearsome gunman and Goemon as a badass samurai. Sure, that's exactly what they were meant to be, but this is the only time I've genuinely felt like that is actually true. Perhaps it's the art style helping out in a way, but whatever is doing it, it shouldn't stop.
With all this praise, there can't possibly be any bad points! Not quite. There are two main qualms I have with the show, which I feel leave an unfortunate mark on what could have been a near-perfect series. The first is how it seemingly lost its way around the middle, as while it was giving us important information with regards to the climax, it almost seemed to disregard the need to be gripping itself. I mean, it was okay, but it was a bore in comparison to the episodes either side of it.
The other is how they dealt with Oscar. In my opinion, he was one of the most interesting characters in the entire show, and killing him off towards the end worked tremendously well. Why is he suddenly alive in the last episode, and why have you ended the series without explaining it? Sure, it could be resolved in a sequel, but it most certainly shouldn't have to be. We know he isn't around for any of the other Lupin series, so why bother? He played no role that only he could fulfil in the final episode, so I really don't understand the reason for it. It really is a shame.
Now, I couldn't possibly write about this show without talking about the art, could I? Simply put, it looks absolutely fantastic. The amount of effort that has quite clearly been poured into making this look so visually pleasing is quite apparent, and the new style really lends itself well to the Lupin the Third universe. There were a few issues with the shadows on the 3D models, but really, it's a minor problem at best. There was so much hype about the Redline guy being involved on this project, and it's apparent why! It's noticeably his work, but there are plenty of differences to keep the two projects from looking like cookie cutter efforts.
Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is one of the most memorable action anime from recent years, and one which I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone, regardless of whether you have dabbled with Lupin the Third before. The story, when it is in full force, is fantastic. The art goes above and beyond what you might have ever expected. It may have been let down by a few episodes in the middle of the series, but overall, this show is definitely worth your time.
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