The Secret Santa of Anime: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine

Yes, I participated in Reverse Thieves’s Secret Santa this year, too, with Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. It is part of the Lupin the Third franchise that is overall quite well-known, although moreso in Japan. The series revolves around Fujiko Mine, Lupin’s fellow thief and love interest, and how she and the other classic Lupin characters first crossed paths. My actual review for this series is on my own personal blog, but if you want a quick review of the show: it has strong characterization, great artistry (directed by Sayo Yamamoto, whose work on Yuri on Ice has set anime fandom on fire), and is overall a fun show, although it is not quite one of my favorites. However, there is a lot of explicit nudity, heavily implied sexual acts, and overall lots of other nasty stuff like violence, drugs, and disturbing acts like torture and human experimentation. Those elements are used to paint the kind of dark, broken world the characters operate in and with, so they at least have some reasonable justification for their place, but many Christian viewers will probably still find it best to avoid this show.

Those who want to avoid this show have no need to avoid this post, though, because I will be keeping things clean as I delve deeper into this show’s main theme. If you are planning to watch it, though, you may want to go watch it now and come back to this post later; this will be one of the uncommon instances of a Secret Stars post having MAJOR SPOILERS. If you wish to avoid those, use the following picture of a guy with an owl head to hit the “Back” button and finish the show. On the other hand, if you are not planning to watch the show at all for conscientious reasons, then there is no harm in continuing, right?

There are enough creepy owls in this show to make a Decidueye panic.

The titular character, Fujiko Mine, is introduced as a thief who loves the pleasure of pulling off a heist. She willingly uses her sexuality to entice others and get what she wants, and has no issues with killing people that get in her way. That does not mean she is completely without a heart, though, as some episodes reveal more human, caring sides to her, though those sides are vastly eclipsed by her love of stealing.

She also uses thievery to distance herself from her past, something that becomes apparent when the other major characters and the viewer starts learning more about what her past might be. “What made Fujiko Mine this way” becomes the burning question as everyone starts getting entangled in a larger conspiracy involving the woman. A so-called “Count Luis” that seemed to originally hold authority over Fujiko as a child starts asking things from Lupin and crew. Clues start filtering in about how Fujiko, as a child, was given up by her parents to Glaucus Pharmaceuticals (ran by said Count Luis) as a subject for human experimentation involving a special drug. The resulting torture seems to have left some kind of imprint on Fujiko, such that even as she has otherwise forgotten her past, certain events seem to trigger an instinctual response to that past. Everything seems to be coming to a climax as Fujiko returns to the Count’s place, followed by Lupin and everyone else trying to learn about her past.

Finally, in the last episode, Lupin, the viewers, and even Fujiko herself discover the truth behind Fujiko’s past… and it is nothing like they expected. The experimentation, the torture, the tyranny of Count Luis… were all part of the past of a completely different girl, Aisha. After Count Luis passed away, Aisha, now physically invalid after all those experiments, decided to continue the Count’s experiments by trying to implant her memories in other girls with the help of the drug. Unfortunately, most of her subjects committed suicide, but one subject, a maid by the name of Fujiko Mine, managed to instead head out to lead a life of thievery, blocking the memories of her past through sheer willpower.

The real kicker, though, is that Fujiko, now with her true memories fully restored, remembers that she was not actually a maid prior to becoming a thief. She had posed as a maid so that she could try to get a hold of the secret drug that was supposedly being tested, and had simply been caught. In other words, nothing about any of this tragic backstory or false memory implantation actually “made” her into a thief; that was just who she was from the start. It is an amusing anti-climax to her story, but hey, at least it provides a good message of “the past does not dictate who you are”…or it would if the featured character was someone more morally upright. My apologies, but “you can be a sexually exploitative thief regardless of your past” is not really the best message to be making.

Perhaps the more interesting “message” here is directed to the whole idea of giving characters some kind of backstory to justify their current actions. Backstory characterization is not always a bad thing, but maybe it is not always necessary. Especially for a franchise like Lupin the Third, which has lived for a long time with just the basic fun of various characters getting involved in complicated heists, it probably is better that Fujiko Mine did not actually have some kind of tragic, complex past that led her to be who she is. Just say she is a thief, was always a thief, and let a rising female anime director play around with funky visuals to create a fun show. Sometimes, giving too much characterization to a well-established character can do more harm than good.

Someone should have told Team Ninja all this before they made Metroid: Other M.

There is also something Christians can take from Fujiko’s story. Oftentimes we talk about the past and how various events in one’s past can lead them to fall to certain sins. However, we must be careful not to give too much credit to the past, as if somehow the past is the only thing responsible for our sins. The truth is, even if we did not go through whatever events of our past led us to certain sins, we would still be sinners. All people are born with a sinful heart. The events that happen to different people as they grow up may affect which particular sins they tend to, but they do not change the basic fact that everyone is a sinner.

Of course, the whole reason Christ came to Earth was to bring salvation to sinners, not just bringing reconciliation between them and God, but also freeing them from sin’s power over them. This is where dealing with the past can help us break free of the power of certain sins. In order for that to work, though, we must first admit that it is not our past that causes us to sin, but our own sinful hearts.

Meanwhile, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is the story of one woman who embraces her sinful heart and indulges in it. Her past ultimately has nothing to do with that; it only gave her some trouble for some time and led her to some people that would keep her company for the rest of her life, for better or for worse. Obviously, as Christians we are called to a holy life that rejects and battles against our sinful hearts, so Fujiko’s story does not serve as a good role model, but it does serve as a reminder of how our past is ultimately not responsible for our sin.

The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is available for streaming on Funimation.

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