Lupin has been going strong since 1967. To me, they can do no wrong. That said, as a fan I definitely want the creators to stick to the material that works, which is usually Lupin outsmarting someone or dealing with something supernatural and/or ancient. Watch any Lupin series or movie and you’ll find that they are timeless; clothing styles are pretty generic with a 70s feel, Lupin’s tricks are low tech, and the way the world is nonspecific to any set timeframe. The creators tried to change this formula with the Pink jacket series (heavy 80s feel) as well as the Green vs. Red OVA
movie (heavy on tech; suddenly Jigen is a tech expert?). The only time this change really worked was when the dubbed version of the Red Jacket series dumped a TON of pop culture references that just worked. The change from Japanese jokes to subtle American flavor worked so well that the producers brought in the same voice acting crew for Lupin Part 4. The point behind that background is: Part 5 dives into technology and tries to right all the wrongs of Green vs. Red. It not only nods to long time fans, it bows low.
SETTING: Lupin heads to France, much like the last series was set in Italy. Timeframe is a huge aspect of setting, and in this series the creators tackle technology improvements and how our gang would handle them. Realistically, they would be on top of tech changes, right? Probably have a cut above? Lupin would have insanely advanced tech, because he’s always been great with gadgets. Jigen would still have his Magnum, Goemon never changes, Zenigata would rely on his classic skills + some tech as needed, and Fujiko would simply use whatever fits her needs the best. And that is pretty much what happens in this series. It is set in a vague near-future, established by characters commenting on Lupin’s old, gas powered car (and not understanding what the smell of gasoline was). Characters also heavily use tech for the “Lupin Game” (which I thought was very clever, a tongue in cheek way to address the former lack of tech in the franchise). Lupin and other characters (especially the early Damsel in Distress of the series) rely on tech that is definitely futuristic, but reasonable.
ART: I feel like the producers have been trying to edge away from the dark, sketchy style of the Fujiko series. This series keeps a similar style while returning to typical Lupin looks. In an early episode after the first arc, there is an episode pulled straight from the Pink Jacket series: looks the same, complete with 80s designs all over the place, along with a story that could have been lifted straight from the random Pink series.
SOUND: I miss Zenigata’s original voice actor, but the sound here is still great. Lupin’s vocal nuances are always fantastic. The rivalry/best friendship between Jigen and Lupin seems palpable thanks to the voice actors. Thankfully, the music is the same jazzy Yuji Ohno that we love, with a taste of stereotypical France background sounds. Another nod to long time fans, the Damsel makes a comment on the Zenigata/Lupin pairing that people have speculated about for years (especially since Zenigata stated vaguely that he loved Lupin in the Lupin vs. Conan movie). It’s executed absolutely hilariously.
STORY: It’s great! I usually have a few laughs and a few cringes when watching Lupin. The first episode pulls in long time fans with heavy handed Easter Eggs, while managing to give new viewers a quick, updated background (including Rebecca, who I guess is part of the gang now?). Lupin also states that he’s been done with one of the other characters for years, which has to be some sort of foreshadowing of a long con. From there we get some classic Lupin antics, which sets us up to accept his use of new tech. The series shows instead of tells, which is a nice change of pace. Additionally, every Lupin series or movie or OVA seems to have a Damsel in Distress (originally the manga had a different girl every issue until Fujiko just stuck), and the first episode almost breaks the 4th wall in addressing this, which was nice.
Overall, it’s a really nice addition to the Lupin’s franchise! I can’t wait to see how it’s dubbed. In Japan, the Lupin marketing team has tried some really interesting things, like a Robo Zenigata pachinko parlor (seriously. Google it.) I think they’ve opened up a neat option here with the Lupin Game. What if we turn it into a Pokémon Go style AR experience? So many options when introducing Lupin to technology...
This franchise is easily (In my Opinion), the most fascinating franchise in all of anime. From a Meta standpoint that is. If only because this is probably the biggest example of a franchise evolving over time that I can think of. With the original series being mostly comedy, the series slowly etched over into a heist drama, and now a crime drama. For an american reference point, that would be like if Scooby Doo eventually started solving murder and rape cases in its most recent series. (Also, see scoobynatural if you haven't already).
What this does is show how the series has grown with its
audience a bit. The kids who used to watch the original series of Lupin III now having grown up and have started making the show. Of course I would argue that the series' new grittier tone has everything to do with the financial success of "The Woman Called Fujiko Mine", its sequel "Daisuke Jigen's Gravestone" and likewise the more recent Goemon movie achieving similar success. However none of that would have happened, if the audience that grew up with the series weren't interested or hungry for more adult oriented stories with these characters. And that isn't at all a criticism of this new direction, far from it. But I do think that it distinguishes Lupin III as one of those very rare cases of a franchise growing with its audience, while still maintaining, if not improving, its overall level of quality. In he states recently I would argue that the closest thing we've had to that is the Netflix Voltron series, though that certainly doesn't even come near the mature themes set in this most recent Lupin installments.
To get to the point, this show is good. Damn good. In fact I would say that this show (so far) has proven to be my favorite of this season (Spring 2018). Something that is certainly no small feat given its competition. But week after week I tune in to watch the show and delight in its subtle character moments, intriguing mysteries, layered characters, and silly humor that the series has become known for. With the only exception being what I assume is the Golden Week episode where the series returns to its more child friendly and less realistic tone for just that one episode. Id recommend skipping it if at all possible. I'm surprised it wasn't an OVA.
Now given I am a bit of a Lupin fanboy, that doesn't change the fact that I have been known to turn away from the franchise from time to time when I feel the narratives either bore me, or try too hard to be edgy. I wont lie and say it doesn't skirt the latter quite a bit sometimes, but it certainly isnt do the former for me. And the single arc side characters introduced arent always the best or most interesting at first, Lupin and his gang are still made the stars of the show enough to where I dont mind it much.
TL;DR: Lupin sure has aged weird in the best possible way, and this latest installment shows it. 9/10 just skip episode 6
In these opening weeks of the Spring 2018 anime season, Steins;Gate 0 starts off as the by far highest rated anime, although Megalo Box is the new heavy hitter if we look past sequels. This and more in the opening edition of The Seasonal Quarterly.