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Lupin III – The Woman Called Fujiko Mine Complete Collection Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Fujiko MineWhen Fujiko discovers that there’s a lot more to her life than she suspected, running into people like Lupin, Jigen and Goemon may just be a blessing in disguise.

What They Say:
She’s a thief. A killer. A saint and a scandal. She’s whatever you need her to be to get the job done. After sizing you up with one sinful glance, she disarms you with a touch. You’re powerless to resist. She’s walking seduction, with an insatiable itch for the priceless and a fetish for mischief. She takes your breath away to get what she wants. She takes everything else just because she can. It’s all in a night’s work for the woman called Fujiko Mine. She’s the slinky, sultry thread that holds Lupin III’s crew together – and this is the heist that started it all.

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is quite good as we get the original Japanese language in stereo and the new English language dub with plenty of familiar voices in a 5.1 mix. The series is one that uses music and ambient sounds and incidental effects to good use here as there’s almost always something going on, which is made better by the overall score for the series and the fun opening and closing sequences that add even more warmth and richness. The core of the series with the actors in both languages definitely works well though and shines the best when you get down to it as they have fun with the roles and it comes across with the lossless encodings that we get here. The show works well with the depth and placement that’s used regularly throughout to set various scenes and moods and that adds to the overall atmosphere in a great way. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2012, the transfer for this thirteen episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second as well as most of the extras on the second. The series, animated by TMS Entertainment, is unlike most shows that have been airing and even unlike most Lupin releases before as it looks like full color manga pages come to life. It’s a dark looking series for the most part with some moody areas along the way but it’s filled with a lot of dark colors, heavy black lines and intriguing styles of detail, all of which just looks fantastic here during regular playback. The series definitely stands out as being very different and the transfer captures it with nothing in the way of significant or noticeable flaws such as line noise or cross coloration. Since it has a lot of still scenes and then big movement scenes, the bitrates are all over the map, but when the show gets very fluid, the bit rate keeps up and spikes high to deal with all the changes and fast motion without any problems.

The packaging for the limited edition version of this release brings us a really nice heavy chipboard box with a colorful wraparound that really pleased me. The front of the box brings in the core cast of characters together with a good look at the design of the characters with a lot of color and a sense of style that’s really appealing. The back cover goes for a larger headshot of just Fujiko as the background and arrays the main male cast in front of her in full length view that’s smaller but shows the roughness and rawness of it off well. Inside the box we get two Blu-ray cases but they contents are not separated by format, so the first case has the the first DVD and Blu-ray disc while the second case has the second for each as well. The cases are really appealing in a dark way as each of them has a shot of Fujiko and Lupin together in different outfits on the front while each wraps around to the back and has the supporting cast in some interesting ways. Each cover is also reversible where it has a black and white background with the episodes by number and title along the left as well as extras while the right side features more character artwork inf ull color, making for some welcome reversible covers. No show related inserts are included in the release.

The menu design for this left me feeling a bit wanting unfortunately, which has been a bit of a trend with recent FUNimation menus. The main design here is across two thirds of it where we get a purple hued pieces of character artwork with lots of black throughout it that moves to the left and cycles back, which is the extent of it. Considering the characters, designs and animation, and the logo itself, it’s just weak. the lower portion has the navigation menu which also houses the logo in a nice script along the left while the right side allows for standard submenu access that moves quickly and easily. The colors are a bit off where it’s like a gray on a sand colored tan background, but it’s mostly readable on a larger screen and comes across clean enough. Languages can be changed on the fly and subtitles are not locked to a particular language.

The extras for this release are quite good, especially for fans of the dub cast that we get here. First, there’s two commentary tracks on the first volume that lets the cast and production team go on about the show, the characters and the fun of playing them. The show also gets a twenty-six minute video piece that reunites the voice cast from the English side to talk about their experiences on the show in a more informal setting which is fun to watch as they all have such varied and interesting histories with the characters. We also get a five minute piece with Michelle Ruff in the booth recording for Fujiko which is fun to watch in action. The rest of the extras are familiar in that we get the clean opening and closing sequence as well as the FUNimation produced trailer.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The spring 2012 season was one that I still think was a real treasure trove of excellent shows, so many that I couldn’t keep up with them and this series was one of them. Other than watching the first episode, I ended up not seeing it until I got this set in and marathoned it from start to finish. Lupin the 3rd was one of those shows that I saw very early in my anime experience in the mid 1980’s and it left a profound impact on me. While the property is pretty accessible in general, it’s not one that’s heavy on continuity, it does have its own lore to it and even through a few variants, there’s always been certain things that just plain stick. This series feels like it exists outside of all the other properties, which is a good thing, and it also changes the perspective in a huge way as it truly does let Fujiko become the lead character for all of it, thougrh not always on screen.

The series contains an overall storyline to it that really only becomes clear in the final couple of episodes, but there’s more than enough nods and nudges along the way that it does work as a complete story. What we get here is a story where none of the principal characters have met as we see how Fujiko is working an angle of her own, initially dealing with getting close to a sect group that has possession of a drug called Dizzy that’s pretty dangerous. This opening episode showcases the style of the series really well as she uses both mind and body in order to gain the upper hand with the cult that basically exists here. It’s very sexual, lots of nudity and a great sense of style about it that really sells it as a pretty intriguing and unique work. What the episode also does is set the introductions of those that are familiar as we see Lupin working a scheme here as well, but it’s the first time the two have met. That gets him all interested in Fujiko as one would expect, and that lustful and hopeful relationship from his perspective permeates the series.

Similar to previous Lupin series, we get a good series of standalone episodes here that involve Fujiko and her capers that come up, some where there’s a personal reason for doing it and others where it’s more about acquiring what she needs, and it’s just a lot of fun to see it play through. The first few episodes keep things largely with Fujiko in the main, and we get her interacting with Jigen and Goemon as she ends up on jobs where they’re involved. There are some basic commonalities to previous incarnations that are fun to watch here, but what the series does over the course of it is to avoid making it a comfortable working relationship, the fine oiled machine, that has dominated for years. Here, there’s distrust in general and uncertainty of each other when they do come across each other and even when they do work together, it’s more by chance at times than anything else. This gives it a much more raw feeling that adds some great tension and a whole lot of uncertainty to the various encounters that go on as you can’t be exactly sure how they’ll react to each other.
Not to be missed out on here, Zenigata has a pretty good role as well as he continues to hunt up Lupin and at times has something of a working relationship with Fujiko. One of the fun aspects is that we do learn that the two of them slept together and she uses that against Lupin at times which is really cute to see. Zenigata also changes things up a bit here with an assistant named Oscar who is very intently working alongside him. Oscar has a lot of disdain for Fujiko since he has an admiration of Zenigata and just sees her as a bad influence to say the least. What also makes Oscar interesting is that coming off of watching The Rose of Versailles, there’s some possible nods towards Oscar Jarjayes with how he looks and acts, reminding me of that Oscar in a lot of ways. The police aspect of the series isn’t hugely strong, but it usually isn’t in a Lupin series, but it’s well played and has its role here that makes sense.

Story wise, the series presents an engaging work that does build well, though I did find the final episode a bit lackluster with the direction it took with things being a bit psychedelic and drug induced. There’s a sense here that the show is trying to be more mature and working sex and sexuality into it in the right way, though of course there’s some gratuitous moments. I enjoyed the story a good deal, but what helps sell it all the more is the visual approach. While I grew up with some of the movies and then got into the TV series incarnations when they were licensed, the one that really won me over was when I was first exposed to the original manga from the late 60’s. The series here looks so much like it and picks up some homage moments that are just gorgeous to look at that every new twist hooked me more. The nature of the character designs, the heavy line work and the way the characters move just sets it apart from most everything out there and fits perfectly with the kind of story and style that’s used here.

In Summary:
For obvious reasons, Fujiko Mine has long been a favorite of mine from this property, and even more so after seeing how Monkey Punch originally wrote her in the manga. This series is part of the embarrassment of riches that came in the spring season of 2012 and getting my hands on it now just reinforces how strong the show is. With a rich and engaging visual design, a solid story that expands more and more as it goes on and a new way at looking at the core cast of characters that helps to keep it fresh and interesting. The action is well choreographed throughout, the sexuality when used is definitely appropriate and it also has some great sensuality as well. But it also gives us a new way at looking at how the group could have formed with Fujiko more as the bonding point. I’ve known these characters for years now and this just felt so fresh and fun that I wanted to watch it again, but it also feels very accessible to anyone who hasn’t seen a Lupin property before.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary for Episodes 6 & 9, Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine Cast Reunion, Fujiko Mine at OkraTron 5000, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song, U.S. Trailer

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: A-

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: August 20th, 2013
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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