When Lupin heads to the kingdom of Zufu to pilfer its treasure, he incurs the wrath of its psychotic ruler General Headhunter, who places a dead-or-alive bounty on his head that many intend to collect.
Lupin the 3rd, The World's Greatest thief, who's proud of being the grandson of the infamous French thief: Arsene Lupin. Accompanied by his comrades who help him pull off the biggest heists in thievery history, while Inspector Zenigata has vow his life in capturing Lupin. But Lupin isn't you'd average criminal. From the humorous and brilliant mind of Monkey Punch, brings you the first TV series of everyones favorite thief.Written by
On an aesthetic and narrative level, early anime can be divided into two periods: before and after "Space Battleship Yamato" (1974-1975). Although that series did not have the lasting appeal of game changers like Beethoven's third, "Ulysses", or "Citizen Kane", it did initiate the appearance of shows that could be more than "good for its time". Seeing how the first anime adaptation of Lupin III was made in 1971, one can foresee that it does not hold up to modern standards. That leaves the question: Is there still reason to return to the series?
Considering only the first couple of episodes: No.
Yes, Shin'ichirô Watanabe (director of "Cowboy Bebop" and "Samurai Champloo") cited the first eight episodes as a major source of inspiration, and their tone is more serious than the later ones', but in themselves, these episodes are quite awful. The technical quality (animation and sound) is understandably low, but the problems run deeper. The editing and pacing are absolutely atrocious, and attempts at humour never land. The resulting tonal inconsistency wrecks the first half of the series.
"Lupin III" is admittedly tricky material to adapt. The manga by Monkey Punch combined the romantic story of a gentleman-thief with the 1960's camp found in Adam West's Batman show and lesser James Bond films, balancing excitement and charm with more serious adult material. Despite his apparent influentiality, Masaaki Ôsumi, who directed the first eight episodes, fails to translate these elements to the scren. Because of the ill pacing, his attempts to charm the audience falter, leaving a series of stories that are ridiculous but not enjoyably so.
From around the tenth episode onwards, the series becomes increasingly enjoyable, and markedly better paced. It is no surprise then, to find out episodes 8-22 were directed by a duo of young and inspired animators: Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki.
Their work on Lupin III has been criticised for its more family-friendly tone, but is at least consistent -- besides, well, enjoyable. For one, the comedy lands more often. The interplay between goofball Lupin, his snarky helper Jigen and their persistent pursuer inspector Zenigata is very amusing, and a good rationale for the material's lasting popularity, even if it does not yet show the understanding of human nature that made Miyazaki and Takahata the most renowned anime directors of all time.
The action improves as well, especially when vehicles are involved. Planes carry a notable gravitas, and the slowly deteriorating train from episode 21 is drawn with obvious affection: These are Miyazaki's fingerprints.
The cast is the series' only consistently good aspect -- even if the audio recording is not. Yasuo Yama (Lupin), Kiyoshi Kobayashi (Jigen) and Gorô Naya (Zenigata) have become veterans, and reprised their roles until their death (except for Kobayashi, who is still alive and active).
Ultimately, there is indeed still pleasure to be found in "Lupin III", but it should stressed that this remains speaking relatively. The first couple of episodes are a real chore to sit through and the latter have merely praiseworthy aspects. The series can best be compared to the game "Thief: The Dark Project" which was equally influential and is equally grating nowadays. There is, however, a positive side to this comparison: Both were followed by a great work from their original creators, namely "Thief II: The Metal age" and "Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro", which has aged splendidly.
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