Friday, April 6, 2012

First Impressions – Lupin the Third: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna

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That was altogether different from any other premiere this season, that’s for sure.

OP: "New Wuthering Heights" by Naruyoshi Kikuchi
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I don’t have a lot of baggage with the “Lupin” franchise one way or the other, so I think I go into this updating with a pretty open mind.  I’ve nothing against the character and enjoy his persona, but I’m not a fan or an expert.  Perhaps the most interesting element going in was the fact that Okada Mari is writing (with Satou Dai assisting), and Michiko to Hatchin director Yamamoto Sayo is in the big chair – the first woman ever to direct a Lupin series.  So this figured to to oversexed and somewhat more female-centered than earlier incarnations – and it doesn’t disappoint there.  But happily, based on the premiere it seems as if Okada’s very particular writing style was a good match for the premise.

Indeed, based on that premiere and on the OP and ED, it looks as if it’s Fujiko Mine (Sawashiro Miyuki, a long, long way from Tegami Bachi here) is the main character.  She’s a thief who has her sights set on the secret formula being used by the leader of the Fraulein Hoyle cult (Cho) to keep his followers hypnotized and happy.  Her plan – as indeed all her plans seem to – revolves around seduction, and she differs from Lupin in her easy way with killing and her disdain for this signature “calling cards”.  The cult leader is a little cleverer than Mine expects, and the arrival of Lupin (Kurita Kanichi, a Lupin veteran) on the scene in search for the same prize complicates her life further.  Having been tipped off in advance (as usual) by Lupin, Inspector Zenigata (Yamadera Kouichi) and his assistant Oscar (yes, Kaji Yuuki) arrive on the scene to clean up the mess the thieves leave behind.

Given that the premise behind the first episode is outlandish to the point of parody (it’s Lupin) the success or failure of the ep was always going to come down to style and execution.  Fortunately, it’s a big hit in that respect.  This is about as sharp and stylish as I remember any Lupin – with it’s abundance of T & A, double entendes and jazzy soundtrack, it reminds me more than anything of a British caper comedy-thriller from the 60’s (I was half-expecting Peter Sellers to turn up any time).  Make no mistake, this is sexy with a capital “S” – Mine is a shameless seductress and not afraid of flashing what she has and using her assets in whatever means necessary to win, and the hilarious antics of the ecchi cult leader are over the top goodness.  It’s too funny to be really racy, but there’s an undeniable sensuality to it – a credit to Yamamoto-sensei’s direction.

I have to give credit to Okada – whose writing I have a love-hate relationship with – for a lot of the success of the premiere.  She has a good feel for the verbal tennis match between Mine and Lupin, and does a good job of capturing that indefinable something that makes Lupin himself a memorable character.  He’s a supporting player here but clearly one step ahead of Mine, determining to steal her – and even leaving a calling card on her thigh – in order to relieve his boredom (the point of all he does).  They’re a fun pair to watch (and not the only one in the ep).  The series looks great, too – suddenly very busy TMS Entertainment has hit two visual home runs with Lupin and Zetman.  In this case it’s an almost Hirschfeld-style series of connected sketch work, obviously hand-drawn, loyal to the roots of the franchise but pleasingly updated.  The OP and ED animations are simple but elegant, modern and retro at the same time.  In short, this is good stuff – whether the combustible mix of talent involved will be able to maintain it, we’ll have to wait and see.

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ED: "Duty Friend" By NIKIIE
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10 comments:

  1. (Sawashiro Miyuki, a long, long way from Tegami Bachi here)

    You hear Sawashiro's voice, and the first thing you think of is Tegami Bachi!?

    Especially considering she's playing a large-breasted oversexed woman who spends most of the episode naked?

    The Ryouko/Fine joke basically writes itself!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, but that would hardly have called attention to her versatility, would it? Which was the point.

      Delete
    2. I'm fond of trotting out Puchiko for that.

      Delete
    3. But she voiced Puchiko when she was 14. Her voice has probably grown since then

      Delete
  2. Told you it'd be good! ;) Like I said, this TV series focuses on the origins and development of Lupin and Fujiko's relationship- and if there's anything Okada's good at, it's relationships and emotions; she's a natural empath.

    I actually watched the latest Lupin TV special right before I watched this; atmospherically they're like night and day. Where the TV special focused on making a traditional, quirky Lupin adventure, this episode focused on character development, with the self-contained short story serving as more of a backdrop than anything else. The thoughts and emotions of Lupin and Fujiko were central to this episode, whereas in the TV special emotional scenes like the ones about Lupin's grandfather were short and relatively unimportant. Oh, and production values for this episode are some of the best that I've seen for a Lupin show in a long time...and really, nothing more needs to be said about the cool new art style.


    Having said all that, intertwining heavy character development with the traditional quirkiness that is an important part of Lupin's identity is no easy task; I think they've done a good job with this first episode, but I wonder if they'll be able to keep it up. Should they fail, we'll most probably end up with one of two things: A show marred by a disconnect of comedy and drama due to poor proportioning and weak genre melding, or a great drama that's so divergent from Lupin's historical identity that diehard fans'll cry foul like they did in that recent Syndicate-into-FPS fiasco. Of course, I'd prefer that they get it right and make a show that both channels the spirit of Lupin, and is a great drama, but then again, I really wouldn't object at all to them discarding the traditional Lupin identity if it means that we'll get an amazing drama...

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  3. I loved the fact that the creepy cult leader has the same voice as the creepy mafia guy from Redline. (Redline's director is Character Designer & Animation director here)

    I was expecting a bit more "sexy" in my Lupin for this go around, but I wasn't quite ready for this. Especially since most of my Lupin watching was based around seeing Miyazaki's work in the universe. Kind of a huge contrast. Especially with a beheading or two.

    There is risks for this blowing up horribly, but so far, it looks really, really good. The art direction was quite the surprise, but I think it'll work. And Koike is probably the only person that can really pull it off (which is likely why he was brought in). I look forward to watching this week over week. I could see this being a pretty big hit among the Otakus and probably selling well over here. (Maybe)

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  4. I'm a little scared of this tbh.

    I'm a huge Lupin fan and when I heard a new TV series is to be made I was hyped. But this is.. hmm, it looks a lot darker than the usual Lupin (art wise, tho it also feels familiar enough to be Lupin) and I'm not particularly fond of Fujiko. She always messes so much with poor Lupin... ;__;

    I'm still very intrigued in this but I'm certainly not sure if it will give me the same almost soothing while entertaining feel all of the movies gave me... I haven't seen much of the tv series, tho I do have all episodes here, but after falling very hard for Kurita's version of Lupin I just can't really get into Yamada's voice acting as much anymore.. something about Kurita's voice and his way of talking just completely clicks with me. I've been watching the Lupin movies for a couple of years from my laptop in bed and there's barely anything else that calms me as much so I fall asleep easily.. tho none of them is boring in any way at all or anything, I usually laugh a lot.. and then I instantly doze off. 8)

    If just for Kurita's voice I'll definitely watch this at some point. :>

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  5. I could never get into the older Lupin III, I don't know why. I love the series, the actors, and the quirkiness. I think this is a great start to a refreshing take on the classic. Can't wait to see more of the episodes, I think they could do without the nudity though. Loved that OP feel though, wicked cool.

    Can't wait to see more!

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  6. More so than Okada (even if that intro monologue and the anime original assistant character voiced by Yuuki Kaji are okada-ish) this just really felt like a Yamamoto anime.

    After watching Michiko to Hatchin I figured if someone could put Okada's crazy antics to good use it'd be her,these two girls must be BFFs, they both seem to complement each other in a nice way

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  7. Gotta agree with Totoum. The show just screams Yamamoto to me, and that's a good thing as Okada hasn't made a single anime I end up not forgetting.

    ReplyDelete