Takeshi Koike continues to churn out stylish, high-quality Lupin flicks. The recent main-line seasons (Part 4 and 5) have been chugging along at the higher end of mediocre, so Koike's intermittent additions to the franchise at the very least provide a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, the new film loses the perfect simplicity of its predecessor (Goemon's Blood Spray) and regresses back to everything that was wrong with Jigen's Gravestone. That is, an overly-convoluted plot and obnoxious rape fetishism.
The Koike film series prioritizes high drama over the usual adventure-comedy tone that Lupin III is typically appreciated for. This works in Goemon's Blood Spray because Koike
managed to craft a gorgeous, hyper-violent action flick; the plot stops mattering when the audience is engrossed in meticulously-animated choreography. Either the budget or the work ethic of the studio took a sharp drop during Fujiko's Lie, because those meticulous scenes are no more. To compensate for the comparative lack of real eye candy, we have Fujiko stripped and assaulted in various ways that apparently aroused the writers if no one else. Needless to say, this is a mark against the film.
The theme of Fujiko's Lie generally works, despite distractions. Fujiko gains the trust of some fellow in order to get at his cash stash, as is typical. However, thrown into the mix is the guy's son. Various challenges occur along the way of Fujiko's quest to bag her cash, and hints of a maternal nature appear in the cold-hearted femme fatale. On the surface, she's just using the boy to get at her treasure, but brief moments of motherly affection and sympathy are depicted quite genuinely (although a bath scene has an unfortunate pedophilic undertone to it). Of course, Fujiko returns to her purely materialist lady-bandit lifestyle after it's all over, but the brief glimpses of something deeper and purer in her character were nicely done.
Whereas Goemon's Blood Spray worked as a stand-alone masterpiece—despite its mystifying plot—Fujiko's Lie begins the attempt to tie the Koike series together. Shocker: the various antagonists of the films are connected by a secret organization. I hate to break it to you writers, but no one is getting excited by this mystery. We saw The Woman Called Fujiko Mine's pay-off after all of its own secret organization build-up. Let's just say, it wasn't exactly satisfying—and I have no hope that these writers (as great as Koike is) will surpass it. Mamo was hinted at in Jigen's Gravestone, but does anyone really want to return to that absurd science-fiction mess?
Now, now, it's still a solid Lupin film. The animation is still high above the main-line seasons and Koike's style remains brilliant. The antagonist's arc may have ended up lame, but his design and supernatural power carried my interest for most of the film. Though Goemon and Zenigata are sorely missed, the characters are all done right—no political screeds got shoehorned into this Lupin flick. While the cliff-hanger leaves me cold, I'm still very excited to see what Koike does next with Lupin and Co.
STORY: Finally! Things are starting to come together! The last few years have seen a series of Lupin movies in the same art style. This was the last one in the "series" as we move on to the finale. I really hope that the next one is Zenigata focused. A fun thing about this story was flipping the typical Lupin story about a young girl, damsel in distress story on it's head with Fujiko working to help a young boy. The story has no morale, nor overly dramatic Hero's Journey type ending. Fujiko isn't Lupin, after all. Fujiko is Fujiko, and will always be Fujiko.
She's the one in the group that will never evolve as a character, and there's nothing wrong with that. She's successful, and stopped being the damsel a LONG time ago. So why change? It's who she is, and this story is true to that.
ART: Absolutely gorgeous animation. A lot of effort put into the animation for sure. Something that was pretty neat was that this was a... no jacket Lupin story. Which makes sense, because it was Fujiko's story, not Lupin's.
ENJOYMENT: Another gem in the Lupin franchise. There's some enjoyment here in a one time watch; not sure it's good enough for a rewatch, but I enjoyed it!
Lupin the IIIrd: Fujiko Mine's Lie is the third entry into Takeshi Koike's series of movies, so needless to say, this review will be for those who have already watched the other two. If you're curious about the others and want to check them out then I wholeheartedly recommend them. For those already invested in the series (the Koike Movies and the franchise in general) it is indeed a worthy entry into the series.
Fujiko Mine's Lie is a bit of a slow burn compared to the other entries, with a greater focus Fujiko herself and Jean, son of an accountant who siphoned off funds from
a shady company in order to pay for his child's heart surgery. Lupin and Jigen are involved in the adventure going forward but they take more of a backseat role this time round. This character focus extends to the the assassin in this movie as well Binkam. I didn't find him as intimidating as the tooled up and tactical Yael Okuzaki or the unstoppable force known as Hawk, but he struk me as the most interesting villain character wise. He additionally serves as a good foil/counterpart to Fujiko just as the other two in the previous movies.
The art and animation still stands as excellent. Character designs always look good (with my favorite being the henchman Carla), and the action scenes are fluid and fun in that characteristic Lupin way. You also get to see Fujiko more involved in the action, with some wonderfully choreographed hand to hand scenes that also make use of her distinct charm. The setting has been moved to a city within an arid desert. Background art is still great in both the city and desert environment, but there are some low texture CG model citizens walking the street in the city area. Its a minor nitpick though since it isn't too distracting when they're in your periphery, but its a bit jarring when you notice that the bustle of the city is made out of them.
All in all, Fujiko Mine's Lie works well on its own merits and within the continuity of these movies. Its a bit headier and character focused, but its a treat if you particularly like Fujiko's character and her conniving ways.