June 7, 2022 · 0 comments
By Andrew Osmond.
For anyone who needs reminding who is Lupin the Third, he’s a super-thief, a lanky, loony criminal showman, forever off on adventures involving fast cars, lovely women and crazy stunts. He’s accompanied by a mobster gunman (Jigen) and an old-school samurai (Goemon); he’s frantically pursued by a monomaniac cop, Zenigata; and he’s often tracked by his female rival Fujiko, queen of seduction.
This new series was part of a major Lupin resurgence in the 2010s. The first two Lupin anime series were broadcast in the 1970s (the second ran a whopping 155 episodes), and a third followed in the 1980s. But Lupin the Third Part 5 is much closer to the fourth TV series, which was shown in 2015, and is on Blu-ray from Anime Limited; that one has Lupin running round Italy. You don’t need to see Lupin the Third Part 4 before you see 5, though viewers who have done will cheer the return of one particular character near the end.
Lupin Part 5 sees Lupin in strange territory, the Internet. As a character who was invented decades before cyber-crime, Lupin hasn’t tangled with it much, favouring the analogue thrills of fast cars and RL assignations. One of Lupin’s other new outings, the CG feature film Lupin III: The First, was specifically set in the 1960s. But virtual larceny and real-world stunts go together sometimes. In the opening episode, Lupin dives James Bond-style into a submerged data bank, which is the (physical) home of a reclusive system architect.
She turns out to be a teenage girl, Ami, who’ll be important through much of the series. She’s on the Asperger-autistic spectrum, with the robotic speech of unworldly heroines from Rei in Evangelion to Violet Evergarden. Actually, Ami is voiced in Japanese by the actress Inori Minase and she invites comparison to another Minase character – Rem, the heartbreakingly vulnerable ogre maid in Re:Zero,one of the most fan-beloved anime heroines of the 2010s.
Lasting five episodes, the opening caper involves thinly-disguised versions of real illegal websites like the Silk Road, an online drugs market, and the still more notorious Assassination Marketplace, a crowdfunding site which effectively funded political murders. More humorously, Lupin and his gang are chased around the world by the enthusiastic phone-wielding addicts of a “Lupin game,” with clear nods to the Pokemon Go craze… and the story demonstrates how ephemeral such crazes can be.
This multi-part tale is followed by a ludicrous episode which breaks story and style completely. It’s an homage to the notoriously silly 1980s LupinTV series, as indicated by Lupin sporting a pink jacket. He wears a blue jacket in most of the show’s episodes, which is his “current” colour, but you’ll sometimes find him wearing red or green, signifying a change in tone.
The early Lupinanime tended to be episodic, one-off capers. In the 2010s, the format changed, both with the Italian-set Lupin Part 4 and the more experimental Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. Both series were closer to contemporary American shows. They had capers of the week, but also arc storylines that took over by the end of each series. Part 5 builds on this trend, with both one-off tales and serial stories that last four or five episodes. Once again, multiple arcs converge at the climax, which has a cyber-tycoon who’s not called Elon, but should have been.
In Part 5, you’ll find political storylines about malign American involvement in Asia; remember anime isn’t Hollywood, and many Japanese creators don’t see Americans as the good guys in the world. There’s also a sitcom episode about the Lupin characters being inconvenienced by a blocked toilet. One of the most effective one-off tales (part 19) involves the gunman Jigen in a duel with unusual emotional stakes. It’s written by Keiichi Sigasawa, best-known as the writer of the Kino’s Journey novels.
Another celebrated guest writer on the show is Kazushige Nojima, who writes a light-hearted story centred on a very baffled Goemon (part 12). Nojima is world-famous in gaming, being one of the main scenario writers on Final Fantasy VII and the first Kingdom Hearts.
Most of the series’ multi-part storylines – specifically parts 1 to 5, 13 to 16, and the last four episodes – are written by Ichiro Okouchi. He’s one of the co-creators (with Goro Taniguchi) of the Code Geass franchise, though this seems to be his first entry into the world of Lupin. Okouchi also contributed the stand-alone part 11, about a race in the jungle that takes some very strange turns.
The overall series is directed by Yuichiro Yano, who helmed the preceding Part 4 series and has animation credits going back to the likes of the Lupin film The Fuma Conspiracy in 1987. However, the “extra” video episode, “Is Lupin Still Burning?” has a Chief Director credit for a very special someone – Monkey Punch, Lupin’s original manga creator. It was one of Punch’s last contributions to the franchise before his death in April 2019.
The Punch episode turns out to be a time-travel yarn, stuffed with fan-service references to Lupin’s early adventures. For example, there are multiple call-backs to the very first TV Lupin adventure in 1971, including a violent road race and the return of the story’s villain, Mister X. But one point of clarification… Mister X is helped by another villain called Mamo, but this is not the same Mamo who was in the vintage Secret of Mamo film. Rather, he’s an even older Mamo, who was a time-travelling villain in the first Lupin TV series. After all the thief has made so many enemies in five decades…