Thursday, 5 April 2012

Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna - Episode 1

A couple of points to kick off my coverage of this particular series - firstly, I've never watched any of Lupin III's previous outings before, and secondly I wasn't planning on watching this one until more details began to emerge about the staff working upon it came to light, in turn sending the hype machine into overdrive.

Even for newcomers to the franchise, it takes very little time to become accustomed to the lay of the land here, as we're quickly introduced to our titular master thief Arsene Lupin III himself, as well as the subtitular femme fatale Fujiko Mine, as they come into contact with one another  in the midst of a religious community in a beautiful place out in the... ocean.  The object of both party's interest is a rather particular narcotic, in the possession of the "priest" of this cult and the source of his power over his subjects.

Of course, these two thieves have very different ways of going about their criminal business - Fujiko has a body to die for and knows it, and her powers of seduction know no bounds, whereas Lupin's own abilities are no less subtle but a little less direct in their approach.  Nonetheless, neither individual is to be reckoned with, and thus we spend this opening episode watching both Lupin and Fujiko try to outsmart their cultist hosts as well as one another to find and retrieve the valuable drug at the heart of their efforts.  Before we know it, we're watching lipstick bullets flying around while a rocket-powered Buddha offers up a perfect escape plan.  But can either party succeed in their gambit?  Either way, it seems that Lupin's next target is a decidedly more personal one that, it seems, is going to take quite some stealing.

Right from the off, Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna (I don't know why I'm sticking with the Japanese title, but hey) screams "watch me" with his highly stylised and often incredibly striking animation style which carries a retro vibe which fits perfectly with the character designs, music and general feel of this first episode - it's good old-fashioned fun as we watch our two main characters face off against one another in ever more inventive ways to make for a perfect pair of anti-heroes.  In fact, so compelling is the ride this opener invites us aboard that the only real criticism I'd have is that on occasion the art style tries too hard to make an impact - there's a point where "heavily stylised" turns into "a mess"; a couple of scenes look like they've been interfered with by a small child bearing a black crayon, which in turn jars to the point of breaking you out of the mood of the piece, if only briefly.  Putting that to one side however, this first episode of Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna is a real triumph - it's smart, sexy and satisfying to watch.  Now, our next question is whether it can keep this level of quality moving forward throughout the series - based on this outing however, my hopes are high that it can continue in a similar vein.

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