‘Great artists and thieves are similar. They both know how to steal your soul.’ Lupin III
Lupin the 3rd is getting married? Yes, you read that right! And his bride is the young, beautiful, thrill-seeking and wealthy Rebecca Rossellini. But will the marriage last? And who’s taking whom for a ride? Or could there be genuine feelings on both sides? Italy, the land of love, is the setting and all the usual suspects are there: Daisuke Jigen, Lupin’s faithful sidekick and partner in crime; red-haired, seductive Fujiko Mine; Goemon, the stoical samurai – and, in pursuit as always, Inspector Zenigata of Interpol, more determined than ever to get his man.
A luxurious Mediterranean setting, glamorous women with dubious reputations, car chases, daring heists, priceless jewels… No it’s not The Pink Panther, it’s Lupin III, grandson (surely great-grandson?) of the mysterious gentleman thief Arsène Lupin created by Maurice Leblanc back in 1905. Our Lupin was brought to life in Monkey Punch’s long-running manga that began in 1967.
I first encountered the wiry, wily ‘gentleman’ thief Lupin III in Miyazaki’s now-classic anime film The Castle of Cagliostro (1979) which perfectly encapsulates everything one could wish for in a film of this genre: a fast-paced, witty and stylish crime caper, hearkening back to an earlier age of cinematic glamour with a European setting. At the time, the TV series based around the adventures of Lupin and his partners in crime, were not available in the West. But after a gap of many years (okay, there was A Woman Called Fujiko Mine, but that’s …very different) along came a new Lupin TV series in 2015 (Part IV), the first since 1984, and as I write, Part V (2018) is streaming on Crunchyroll. So how does Part IV measure up to its predecessors? Is the crime caper still going strong – and is it still entertaining in the 21st century? Or has its time passed? It’s worth noting that Part IV first aired in Italy (where the action is set) before being broadcast in Japan; this, is partly, I guess due to the Italians’ appreciation of classic anime.
Always entertaining and inventive, Lupin the 3rd Part IV is a blast – although it’s probably best enjoyed an episode or two at a time, as a lot is packed into each one. Overspilling with visual gags and breath-stopping chases, it’s all done with a polish and style reminiscent of an earlier age although some plotlines might stretch the credulity of the modern viewer a little far. Most of the episodes are individual stories, including some in which each of the regulars get an episode to themselves (even Inspector Zenigata!), interspersed with Lupin-centric tales in which his on – but mostly off – relationship with Rebecca provides a tenuous linking thread: we get a haunted hotel, a priceless historic necklace, the Mona Lisa, a rare wine with aphrodisiac qualities and much more… Then a few hints referring to ‘The Dream of Italy’ lead us into that moment we’ve been waiting for: the revelation that there is an underlying plot and there may be more to Rebecca than the wealthy, self-indulgent young woman we’ve seen so far. And the Mona Lisa? Well, there’s a link there that will delight any fans of a certain Italian renaissance genius. The British agents of MI6 don’t come too well out of this plotline (hey, looks like we’re the bad guys this time around!) although agent Nyx (Nix in the subtitles) makes an intriguing addition to the Lupin cast and is as different from the Bond stereotype as one could wish.
Colourful backgrounds depicting locations throughout Italy, San Marino (and Paris) create a pleasingly Mediterranean atmosphere with more than a whiff of a vintage travelogue (much pizza and wine is consumed) – although everyone speaks Japanese. And the colours sing in this Blu-ray edition, the animation is of a consistently high standard, with cleverly framed shots and evocative Italian backgrounds.
There are no on-disc extras, but the two OVAs are added to the sequence of episodes, rather than being tacked on at the end.
The vintage feel is greatly enhanced by veteran composer Yuji Ohno’s wonderful retro jazzy score and songs; his original Lupin theme reappears in various forms throughout (Ohno has been composing for the franchise since the start). Even the eye catches (especially the two for the first thirteen episodes) have a 60s cartoon feel both in looks, animation and vocal backing. And the ED “Chanto Iwanakya Ai Sanai”, sung by enka singer Sayuri Ishikawa to some very classy animation, only serves to reinforce the atmosphere. The OP, “U belong to me” by Meg, uses Lupin’s theme and introduces all the main players – and starts with Lupin putting on his new signature blue jacket.
This four-disc Blu-ray set features the original Japanese voice cast with English or French subtitles. It’s a pleasure to hear the actors, some of whom have been playing these roles for many years, especially Kanichi Kurita as Lupin the 3rd, having fun with the script. One of the best episodes pits Lupin against Zenigata in an even more intense battle of wits than usual and Kouichi Yamadera and Kanichi Kurata deliver the lines with great relish. It’s a small point but the subtitles are small, white and are often difficult if not impossible to read whenever they’re set against a pale background. And there are more than a couple of errors in the text which will annoy the purists. However, if you’re interested in acquiring the US dub (and it’s an attractive cast line-up) there are details from Anime Limited below as to how you’ll be able to add this to your collection.
The Anime Limited Blu-ray Limited Collector’s Edition comes ‘packed in a rigid case with a digipak to hold the four Blu-ray discs. Also included is a 60-page art book that looks at characters from the series, props (i.e. gadgets, vehicles and more), backgrounds and concept art. The rigid case will come with an o-card (aka slipcover) around it too.’
Lupin the 3rd Part IV makes a very welcome addition to Anime Limited’s growing list of high quality anime; if you’re in need of a pick-me-up, this is the ideal watch, with thrills, spills and a truly classy soundtrack from a master film composer.
You wanted the English dub? All the Anime have details here.