If there’s one thing that life often sorely lacks, it’s raw, unrefined energy. The kind of energy that puts every motion, every moment into a succinct beat and rhythm. Living in such a world would prove to be exhausting to some, but in its wild and irregular landscape the brave of us would find our fates loosened and freed by the realization that we could become whatever we wish. And the world would see fit to arrange the necessary factors to make it so. In short, I loathe the fact that we cannot live in the world of Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine.
A review copy was provided by FUNimation Entertainment
Energy is so rare in modern anime. We’ve found comfortable stylistic formulas that show such tremendous lack of imagination on the part of today’s creators. Even if they’re fulfilling a well documented demand, isn’t it a shame that such a large percentage of our yearly anime released fail to push boundaries or challenge our expectations? Here, fearing failure to do the series justice, is MoarPowah’s review of the most recent addition to the Lupin dynasty.
Of course, no sentence spoken about this series’ merits could begin the discussion without examining and celebrating the artistic elements at play. Even at face value, this rendition of Lupin the Third revitalizes an ancient aesthetic with today’s high standard of televised animation. We live in fruitful times, where even the smaller budget series gets impressive motion and visual depth. So good animation is a given, but Lupin the Third manages to dance with what other series merely use.
What we thus have is a lush visual style with all the bounce, exaggeration, emotive posing, and smooth movement that would have been missing had this series been made back when Lupin was a more recognizable name. On top of astounding animation, the colors prove vibrant, the settings are meticulously detailed, and the character design itself is incredibly loyal to its source material, which is to say it’s unlike anything you’ll see today. While I’d never call myself an enemy of the modern, round edges and full eyes, it’s incredibly refreshing to see the flat, long noses and curvy bangs from the past. Filters play a significant role as well, as the overarching aesthetic screams honest pencil-drawn, as shading is achieved through rough horizontal lines and outlines rush towards the loose and wild side of the spectrum.
The atmosphere is an unending source of fantasy and mystique, as the series takes on a voyeuristic approach to character interaction and placement in setting. While it’s true that Fujiko spends nearly half of her screen time in various stages of undress, it has the same sexual class as a Sean Connery James Bond film or Blow Up, not comparable to the more exploitive nudity found in something like Highschool DxD or Ikki Tousen, perhaps the effects of having a female director. Fujiko maintains both her composure and control, using her seductive manner to get what she wants.
Fujiko acts as a perfect counterpart to Lupin, who decidedly takes a support role this time, playing a part but not carrying the bulk of the dramatic weight. His exploits are fantastically fun to follow, however, as his more id-driven, yet still thought out carelessness often acts as the wild card element in each episode that he’s featured. Much like in Desert Punk, their relationship is one tainted by hints of lust, but Lupin is too much of a crowd-pleasing hero to stoop to anything but boyish, Nathan Drake-esque flirting with ulterior purpose.
Other characters are allowed to fit themselves into the overarching narrative as well, from the gunslinger with a dark past to the honor-bound samurai, not to mention the prideful inspector Zenigata and his fabulous lieutenant Oscar. Each character is given some time to shine in episodes that either act self-contained or fit into the greater narrative, and taking the focus away from Fujiko and Lupin was an unexpectedly wise choice. The series benefits from the momentum gained by shifting up the perspective.
The format is recognizable to anyone who’s seen Cowboy Bebop, only with the playful attitude of a heist show rather than that of bounty hunters. Each episode pretends to have completely independent adventures until the end wraps most of them together in a complex and completely bonkers totality. That doesn’t mean that irrational and convoluted plot resolutions aren’t common in this series, they absolutely are, but the ending takes its twists to the nth degree. Now I’m not stating this as a complaint, as it absolutely fits in with the anarchistic tone the entire package employs. But those that really like to deconstruct their story lines will find a few too many lucky coincidences and unexplained accurate realizations by the characters to call this Shakespeare. If you’re in, you’re going to be in for character interaction and style.
Funimation composed a great localization with this one, as the emotional strength of the English voice acting is on a comparable level to the Japanese, sometimes even surpassing it. Michelle Ruff and Sonny Strait definitely give the tone a little more lightheartedness, and this slight shift will be a plus for some and a minus for others. Both tracks are of excellent quality and serve the overall package. The release itself is in line with Funimation’s other recent hardbox releases, and their standard of simple yet elegant is maintained. There are scarce extras or free goodies, but the box is attractive and thoughtful. Unlike some of their releases, the bluray quality is indeed full HD, not merely blown up SD video pretending to be of higher quality (I’m looking at YOU Panty and Stocking).
In the end, you have a work that’s remarkable not just for an anime, but for an animation. It blows conventions in style out of the building with what is nothing short of a hearty feast of visual and auditory decadence. Its characters are enthralling, its plot thoughtful if a little loony, and certainly one of the most unapologetic anarchists to emerge from anime’s recent pickings. Is it worth your money? Yes, absolutely. The better question would be if it’s worth your obsession. And to that, I can only speak from the heart: without a doubt.
–An artist wonderland. The animation, composition, and music makes for a sensory masterpiece.
–Unafraid to be sexy with class, this series refuses to childishly tease.
–Not a single character is unlikeable, nearly everyone gets his or her chance to develop.
–While fitting with the overall tone, the story’s lunacy near the end may have holes and unanswered questions visible to the nitpickers amongst us.
–There’s not more of it.