Original Fujiko Voice Actress From ‘Lupin III’ Passes Away

Original Fujiko Voice Actress From ‘Lupin III’ Passes Away

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Masuyama Eiko next to her character of Fujiko from Lupin III.
Masuyama Eiko, 88, has passed away. As Fujiko in Lupin III, she voiced one of the most recognizable female anime characters in history.

As the original anime femme fatale, there have been few more legendary characters in the history of Japanese animation than Mine Fujiko. The sometimes adversary, sometimes lover of master thief Arsène Lupin III, Fujiko has been an enduring presence in Japanese pop culture since her debut in the late 1960s. Now, the voice actress who lent Fujiko her iconic, sultry voice for most of the character’s history had passed away. Masuyama Eiko, an icon of Japanese-language voice acting, was 88. Her death was announced via the official Lupin III Twitter account.

Masuyama originated the voice of Fujiko back in 1969, voicing the character in the first Lupin III TV pilot, an adaptation of the action manga by author Monkey Punch. While another actress was chosen for the role when the pilot went to series in 1971, Masuyama returned as Fujiko in the 2nd (and arguably most iconic) Lupin series, airing from 1977–78. She continued to voice the character for another 33 years, including in the 3rd Lupin series (’84-’85) and nearly 30 theatrical and TV anime films. Among these is 1979’s beloved Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro, the theatrical directorial debut of master animator Miyazaki Hayao. Masuyama retired from playing Fujiko in 2010, with Sawashiro Miyuki taking over the role.

Fujiko wasn’t the only iconic character originated by Masuyama. The voice actress was also the first to play the transforming heroine Cutie Honey in the original 1973 series of the same name, based on the manga by prolific creator Nagai Gō.

Masuyama alongside Lupin VA Yamada Yasuo, 1979. Yamada passed away in 1995.

A Storied Career

Masuyama Eiko was born in Tokyo in 1936. Growing up during the war years, she had a slow manner of speech as a child. A frustrated teacher made the blunt critique: “Can’t you speak correctly?” The words shocked her, and Masuyama developed an inferiority complex. But she found her confidence after joining a children’s acting company, where voice actress Aso Miyoko mentored her. (Aso herself would go on to originate the character of Fune on the long-running, mega-popular Sazae-san series.)

One day, Aso took Masuyama to a play being put on by another children’s theater company. These, she witnessed a young man playing the role of a prince. She was stunned by his acting prowess, and later remembered thinking “Someday, I want to stand on the same stage as him.” The youth was none other than Naya Gorō, who would go on to voice Inspector Zenigata, Lupin III’s archnemesis, for decades alongside Masuyama.

Masuyama began taking on stage, voice acting, dubbing, and radio roles from the age of 15. Soon, she’d decided to focus on voice acting; while she loved acting on stage and in front of the camera, voice acting would give her more time to raise a family. She joined the major talent agency Aoni Production in the 1960s.

Early roles included those in the original Astro Boy series (1963) and Kimba the White Lion (1965). She worked steadily in a wide variety of series and movies over the decades.


The Road to Fujiko

Masuyama successfully portrayed Fujiko in her first appearances in the Lupin III pilots. Initially, she was slated to continue with the role when the series was picked up. However, she was suddenly taken off the role and replaced with Nikaido Yukiko. Ōsumi Masaaki, the initial series director, later recalled why this had occurred. He claimed Masuyama had difficulty with the more sexually charged scenes between Lupin and Fujiko, a major part of the characters’ dynamic. Masuyama was let go, but did return for a single episode as a one-off character, even exchanging dialogue with her replacement, Nikaido.

Beset with poor ratings, the first Lupin series was canceled after airing only 23 episodes. Years of reruns followed, with the show’s popularity increasing in syndication. TV Tokyo decided to have a second go at the franchise. This time, the producers requested a new voice actress to portray Fujiko. The role ended up going to an actress that wasn’t quite brand new to playing Fujiko, with Masuyama auditioning and securing the role fairly easily. She’d found herself thinking of Fujiko over the years, and had wanted another chance with the character.

Fans initially balked at the recast. Angry letters flooded the TV Tokyo offices, demanding Nikaido return. Masuyama recalled thinking “I won’t be able to morph into Nikaido-san, no matter how I try. So, I just have to play the character in my own distinct way.” Her version would become so popular that, as late as 2012, a fan poll listed her Fujiko among the top “Characters Who Should Never Change Voice Actors.”

Fujiko and Lupin in Lupin III Part 2. Episode 27. 1978.

Farwell, Masuyama Eiko

Masuyama Eiko was the final surviving member of the original cast of Lupin III. Sadly, with her passing, none of those most associated with the characters in the 20th century remain. Kobayashi Kiyoshi, who portrayed Lupin’s gunman partner Jigen Daisuke, with whom Fujiko shared an acrimonious relationship, passed away in 2022. He’d continued playing Jigen up until the year before he died, well into his late 80s.

In her later years, Masuyama received various awards for her storied voice-acting career. These included the Meritorious Service Award at the Tokyo Anime Award Festival in 2017; she also received the Merit Award at the 15th Annual Seiyū Awards three years ago, in 2021.

Kurita Kanichi, the current voice of Lupin, took to Twitter to reflect upon his relationship with Masuyama. “To me, she was always the elegant, admirable Fujiko-chan. The lone flower amongst those men. When I couldn’t tell my right from left, she would gently tell me about the old days with Yamada Yasuo leading the troupe [as the original Lupin]. She’d say, ‘Yasu-be would’ve done it like this…’ She welcomed me into the Lupin family.”

Masuyama passed away on May 20th, 2024. Her reported cause of death was pneumonia. She is survived by her daughter.


Oricon News. (6/3/2024). 日テレ『金曜ロードショー』峰不二子役を追悼 増山江威子さん死去で「カッコいい女性、私たちに届けてくださいました」. Yahoo! Japan News.

Loo, Egan. (2024-06-03.) Lupin III’s 1st Fujiko Voice Actress Eiko Masuyama Dies at 89. Anime News Network.

増山江威子. フリー百科事典『ウィキペディア』. (n.d.). 

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Noah Oskow

Serving as current UJ Editor-in-Chief, Noah Oskow is a professional Japanese translator and interpreter who holds a BA in East Asian Languages and Cultures. He has lived, studied, and worked in Japan for nearly seven years, including two years studying at Sophia University in Tokyo and four years teaching English on the JET Program in rural Fukushima Prefecture. His experiences with language learning and historical and cultural studies as well as his extensive experience in world travel have led to appearances at speaking events, popular podcasts, and in the mass media. Noah most recently completed his Master's Degree in Global Studies at the University of Vienna in Austria.

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