Lupin the Third: The Lady Referred to as Fujiko Mine was the perfect anime reboot

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Sayo Yamamoto had no real interest in directing one other typical Lupin the Third story.

It was mid-to-late 2009 and she or he was a couple of months faraway from Michiko and Hatchin, her debut as a collection director. The magical woman challenge she was creating as her follow-up was sadly turned down. A director with no challenge, she was contacted by producer Yu Kiyozono, who supplied her the possibility to direct the primary Lupin tv collection in over 25 years.

With little motive to not settle for, particularly as soon as she was promised full artistic management of each story and workers, Yamamoto set to work on how she may draft a model of Lupin that may make her within the iconic gentleman thief, and the way to make her model stand out from the numerous present collection, films, OVAs, and TV specials. The thought wouldn’t come shortly, however as soon as it did, Yamamoto’s imaginative and prescient would start a course of that may purge every little thing audiences had come to anticipate from the decades-old franchise, and in simply 13 episodes ship its darkest, sexiest, and strongest installment in years.

Yamamoto’s Lupin the Third: The Lady Referred to as Fujiko Mine, made to have a good time the fortieth anniversary of the primary Lupin anime (and the manga’s forty fifth), was the primary collection to be led by a feminine director, a feminine author, and to have a narrative targeted on the collection’ iconic femme fatale. Whereas there had been stand-alone Fujiko-centric tales instructed by way of the years, her position within the franchise had principally been as a wild card, an untrustworthy confederate who would gladly help Lupin in his grand schemes simply in order that she may make off with the loot, leaving her gentleman suitor with nothing however maybe a blown kiss and a few charming phrases of affection till their subsequent journey.

The collection tells the story of how Fujiko first meets Lupin the Third and the remainder of the principle solid: Daisuke Jigen, Goemon Ishikawa XIII, and Inspector Zenigata. As every of them crosses paths with this mysterious, masochistic lady, they’re left questioning why this bewitching vixen continually places herself in hurt’s manner. Is it only for the joys of the heist, or is there one thing she’s operating away from? As they arrive nearer to forming the long-lasting quintet anime followers know and love, Lupin works to uncover every little thing he can about his attractive new rival, the investigation main him to a sinister group which has been performing psychological experiments on younger ladies. The 2 grasp thieves ultimately confront the top of the group, somebody who could also be extra obsessive about Fujiko than even Lupin is.

Picture: TMS/Po10tial

The collection can be the primary to not characteristic Lupin because the protagonist, but it surely wasn’t the primary time a Lupin origin story had been completed (that was 2002’s Episode 0: The First Contact). Nonetheless, Yamamoto’s imaginative and prescient would enterprise into extra radical territory. As a substitute being of a stand-alone collection not tied all the way down to any continuity, TWCFM would function a direct prequel to the unique 1971 anime, with the general temper extra in step with the grounded Masaaki Ōsumi-directed episodes moderately than the lighter ones directed by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. The anime would hearken again to its supply materials by having the story aimed toward a strictly mature viewers, in addition to ditching the The Fortress of Cagliostro designs that generations had turn out to be accustomed to in favor for one which extra intently resembled creator Monkey Punch’s paintings. And the collection’ rating wouldn’t embrace a single observe of Yuji Ohno’s snappy jazz soundtrack, together with the timeless opening theme. Yamamoto’s grand scheme of shaking up every little thing individuals knew of Lupin was excessive, but it surely ended up giving the legacy franchise one thing it had been severely missing within the years earlier than its launch: a contemporary path.

Because the Lupin franchise was getting into its fourth decade, it appeared just like the icon’s greatest days have been behind him: There hadn’t been a brand new TV collection since 1984’s Half III, and the final theatrical movie was 1996’s Lifeless or Alive. Since 1989, Lupin and firm primarily appeared in yearly made-for-TV specials. The standard of those specials would range from yr to yr; nearly all of them have been merely ample 90-or-so-minutes of consolation meals.

However by the top of the 2000s there had been quite a lot of fruitless makes an attempt to replace the method for contemporary audiences. Storylines included Lupin and his crew touring 5,000 years into the previous, coming into contact with a “genie” that had the power to wipe away reminiscences, and even a timid, gimmicky crossover with the extra fashionable Detective Conan. By the point Yamamoto started creating what would turn out to be TWCFM, the franchise was primarily recognized for its complacency, an journey collection that was too conservative in its concepts and presentation. It was in determined want of somebody to throw out the previous, dusty playbook and take an opportunity, to ship one thing surprising. That’s precisely what Yamamoto had in thoughts, however like Lupin himself, she couldn’t pull off her grasp plan with out some assist from very expert associates.

To assist Yamamoto obtain her dramatic reimagning of Lupin the Third, Mari Okada (Destiny/keep Night time, Toradora), was introduced in to put in writing the collection composition, making her Lupin’s first feminine head author. Cowboy Bebop creator Shinichiro Watanabe was positioned accountable for the collection’ soundtrack, and in flip introduced in producer and musician Naruyoshi Kikuchi to compose the collection’ rating: a slick, flavorful, and electrical jazz soundtrack impressed by Roman Polanski’s Repulsion and Alan Rensais’ Final Days at Marienbad, a pair of Nineteen Sixties British psychological thrillers that cope with feminine sexual abuse (a core theme of the collection). And to meet her plans to reintroduce audiences to the designs discovered within the authentic manga, Yamamoto, realizing of his appreciation for The Fortress of Cagliostro, employed legendary animator Takeshi Koike (Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Yasuke), who had simply completed a seven-year odyssey directing his debut characteristic Redline and was looking for a contemporary begin. For the subsequent few years, Yamamoto and firm would break each rule positioned on this franchise over the previous 40 years to ship a collection that may shake Lupin all the way down to its core.

A cartoonish Fujiko Mine from Lupin the III Part 3

Picture: Tokyo Film Shinsha

Fujiko Mine in a still from The Woman Called Fujiko Mine looking shocked at something

Picture: TMS/Po10tial

A cartoonish Inspector Zenigata hangs out of a helicopter in Lupin the III part 3

Picture: Tokyo Film Shinsha

Inspector Zenigata standing next to a blonde man in a still from The Woman Called Fujiko Mine

Picture: TMS/Po10tial

Fujiko (high row) and Zenigata (backside row) in The Lady Referred to as Fujiko Mine and their extra cartoonish Half 3 counterparts.

Extra so than another Lupin manufacturing, The Lady Referred to as Fujiko Mine is a character-driven collection that not solely reintroduces these iconic figures in a darker, extra mature setting, however gives the facet characters who’ve been a part of this franchise from the very starting a stage of depth not allotted to them in earlier installments. On this collection — greater than another earlier than or since — Fujiko, Jigen, and Goemon all come throughout as totally fleshed out characters, moderately than mere equipment to Lupin’s schemes.

They’re all additionally given a a lot sharper, post-modern edge due to Okada’s script and Koike’s trademark thick-lined, comic-book-inspired designs, which strike the proper stability between the manga and the Inexperienced Jacket collection. Whereas being a shade or two darker, the characters’ personalities are kind of the identical, apart from Inspector Zenigata. He’s not the bumbling but lovable “Pops’’ determine; in TWCFM he’s a hard-nosed, brazenly corrupt and misogynistic cop. In what is probably probably the most surprising second within the collection, he makes a cope with Fujiko: freedom from custody in change for intercourse. Even after they’ve completed the deed, he informs her that he nonetheless received’t let her go except she assists him in luring Lupin out into the open as he plans to steal the bejeweled masks of a well-known opera singer.

Whereas the intercourse scene will not be overtly express, it’s emblematic of the arc’s frequent use of nudity. Fujiko seems bare all through the opening sequence, a fantastic voyage impressed by Eiichi Yamamoto (no relation), and in nearly each episode. In lots of circumstances, having the collection protagonist disrobe can be nothing greater than a gimmick used to sucker in a couple of additional viewers and promote somewhat extra merchandise. However the nudity in TWCFM has a objective, even when it’s exterior the franchise’s traditional consolation zone. To Fujiko, her physique is simply as lethal a weapon as Goemon’s trademark sword Zantetsuken, and the handguns Lupin, Jigen, and Zenigata carry round. It permits her to get what she desires, go the place she desires, and, if it comes all the way down to it, escape from hazard or sure loss of life.

Fujiko pulling a robe around her while Lupin stands behind her smirking and averting his eyes

Picture: TMS/Po10tial

Fujiko weaponizing her sexuality has at all times been a part of her character. However in TWCFM, she will get to flaunt her physique whereas additionally attending to show a stage of callousness and ingenuity hardly ever given to her. When she seduces a guard to flee execution, having the poor soul take her place on the chopping block, the transfer stuns Lupin, who till then solely believed her to be a one-trick pony. Within the uncommon second the place she is crushed at her personal recreation, she shortly turns the scenario again in her favor by way of a mix of fast pondering and taking part in on her sexuality. Not like in so most of the collection’ different installments, Fujiko at all times has the higher hand, is at all times answerable for the scenario, and is given time to show a extra susceptible and emotionally frail facet than we’ve ever seen earlier than — that’s, till Okada’s script shatters our expectations and divulges itself to be the sort of lengthy con solely somebody like Fujiko may pull off.

As Fujiko and crew attempt to resolve the reminiscence flashes she experiences, the present expertly turns into two issues: a compelling thriller, and a meta-narrative on reboot tradition and girls’s tales, nudity and all. With each man round her drawing his personal conclusions about who Fujiko is, there’s a consideration of her very nature as a fantasy. By the top, the query stays: what’s the thriller behind Fujiko Mine? The reality behind her is that there’s no thriller in any respect. Fujiko will not be the product of a tormented childhood or abusive relationship; she lies, steals, manipulates, and seduces as a result of that’s who she is. She isn’t a very good lady gone unhealthy, she’s a legal and a rattling good one. That’s what makes her so fascinating to Yamamoto, Okada, and (particularly on this collection) to Lupin the Third. He falls for Fujiko for who she is, and nothing extra. In maybe the largest twist of all of them, TWCFM offers us a model of a personality who has been a male energy fantasy since 1967 who’s a real gentleman thief.

Whereas not an enormous hit in comparison with different collection that have been launched that season (Kuroko no Basket and the second season of Destiny/Zero), the collection has gained a cult following, particularly amongst feminine viewers. The arc would additionally mark the start of a triumphant decade for the Lupin franchise on tv. Two extra collection would comply with after TWCFM: 2015’s Half IV: The Italian Journey and 2018’s Half V: Misadventures in Paris, each persevering with to deliver Lupin into the trendy age. Half IV was a captivating and entertaining return to traditional Lupin the Third adventures and hijinks, with refreshing new characters and storylines, and designs that regarded like traditional Lupin however nonetheless tilted extra towards Koike than Miyazaki. Half V would break additional floor by having these very old-school crooks come into battle with, and later embrace, modern-day know-how (social media, the darkish internet, privateness, and cryptocurrency). The collection would additionally distinguish itself from each different Lupin collection by splitting up the episodes into separate arcs, with distinctive stand-alone episodes mimicking the tone and artwork kinds of earlier collection, paying ample tribute to the characters’ lengthy historical past on TV.

A samurai standing on a plane with another plane behind it

Picture: TMS/Po10tial

Lupin standing and looking at someone with swords in the foreground

Picture: TMS/Po10tial

Fujiko looking up at a wall of symbols

Picture: TMS/Po10tial

And as Lupin continued to excel, Yamamoto moved on to one thing extra personally resonant. Throughout manufacturing of TWCFM, her psychological well being had deteriorated as a result of 3/11 Tohohku earthquake and the lack of a relative a short while later. Each incidents led her right into a deep despair that left the formidable creator unable to focus lengthy sufficient to attract a storyboard. As work on TWCFM was coming to a detailed, Yamamoto did some reflecting, vowing that her subsequent challenge can be targeted on one thing she actually cherished — determine skating — one thing she started to achieve curiosity in throughout her time engaged on the collection (Oscar’s outfits have been impressed by determine skater turned commentator Johnny Weir). The results of that vow would come 5 years later within the type of Yuri!!! on Ice, a groundbreaking sports activities collection championed for its mature and non-exploitative imaginative and prescient of homosexual love; it could turn out to be a worldwide sensation and stands as her most profitable collection thus far. For the final six years she has been devoted to ending the subsequent chapter, Yuri on Ice the Film: Ice Adolescence.

By delivering Lupin’s most visually distinctive, attractive, and now most underrated installment, Yamamoto and her crew helped breathe new life into what was changing into a franchise tormented by formulaic plots and drained chemistry. The Lady Referred to as Fujiko Mine lastly put the highlight on somebody apart from Lupin, giving us a much-needed look into certainly one of anime’s most iconic feminine characters. Now previous its fiftieth yr in anime and just lately wrapping up its seventh TV collection, the Lupin the Third franchise is as robust as ever, due to a girl who had no real interest in it in any respect.

Lupin the Third: The Lady Referred to as Fujiko Mine is at the moment obtainable to stream on PlutoTV.

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