Day 9! In practical terms, it’s the second Sunday of Advent, and in AniB terms, we’re over 35% into this calendar countdown. Once again, today’s pick veers slightly off the Christmas path in favor of a recent iteration of a classic anime/manga series from Japan- it’s none other than Lupin the 3rd, or Lupin III, or any other variant of that name you can come up with.
Show: Lupin the III, Part IV: Italian Adventure
Studio/years aired: TMS Entertainment, 2015-2016 (JP)
In Italy, there is a rich tradition and connection to the ideas of Christmas. This is probably in no small part due to the location of the Vatican and the heavily majority Roman Catholic population, but also because of numerous saints, popes and iconic churches from over the centuries. However, today’s review is about a very different sort of Italian adventure- that of the master thief Arsene Lupin III and his quest for the greatest treasures of the historical peninsular boot.
Lupin III is actually a famous, older Japanese manga that has had several iterations in anime over the years, and this was until this past year (2018) the most recent foray, until Part 5 came into being. Fortunately for viewers unaware of Lupin’s existence prior to this show, it does not require any sort of background knowledge of prior events or previous tales in the franchise to thoroughly enjoy and follow, which is quite nice- as heavy lore can often bog down long-running or expansive series when it comes to new participants.
In the case of Lupin III’s Italian adventure, it’s a delightful blend of high-stakes missions and chases, unusual twists, some heavy influence from the James Bond franchise, and a number of competing character arcs that all come to a head in an unforeseen way. Through it all, Lupin has trusted right hand Jigen – master marksman- at his side, and is also joined at time by Goemon Ishikawa III, a master swordsman trained in the way of the samurai (and he gets some crazy feats with his blade), as well as Fujiko Mine- Lupin’s on and off again romantic interest and one of his closest associates. That said, Fujiko’s a woman who does things on her own terms, and she’s not afraid to play dirty to get what she wants in terms of the treasure, making her more of a friendly allied party with her own self-interests to Lupin’s usual capers. Of course, no great thief has made it without a worthy adversary- and that role is held by Inspector Zenigata, an Interpol agent whose life’s work is to pursue and capture Lupin, something he carries out with unabated zeal and a surprising amount of humanity.
For me, Lupin III being introduced through this show was a satisfying experience, and the arc itself is a fun adventure, combining both elements of stand-alone episodic pieces and a larger overarching story, narrative and character development. It’s a delightfully refreshing watch as well compared to a great number of other modern anime that exist; it’s not about schools, cute girls, generic shonen battles (though there are some terrific fights), or any of that (which is still great, don’t get me wrong); it’s got a style all its own, and it has fun doing it. And I think most people over the age of 13 would probably have a lot of fun with Lupin’s adventures as I did, and The Italian Adventure is a terrific show to enjoy and perhaps launch into the franchise.
Animation: Modern 2-D anime. That said, Lupin’s got some style that feels almost a bit like Western comics or animation for the most part, but quality, and in a way it just evokes that thriller feeling throughout the show, which is terrific. The colors pop, the character models are distinct and attractive, and the aniamtion here makes a difference in bringing the style of the series to life. 4.75/5 points.
I did cover in brief most of the main cast in my thoughts, but for a bit more detail:
Arsene Lupin III is the descendant of the famed Arsene Lupin of literary fame; like his forefather he’s a master thief who can and will steal any treasure that strikes his fancy. He’s so good that various police and law enforcement agencies the world over have not only failed to stop him, but even trace him for the most part…except Inspector Zenigata. Lupin’s got a keen intellect, a weakness for women, a surprisingly affable nature, and is a pretty good shot himself, despite having Jigen around.
Speaking of which, Daisuke Jigen dresses like a mafia hitman and has the style of one too- he’s a cool customer with a gun, his signature fedora draped over his eyes. Lupin’s main partner in crime, he’s a reliable hand with some more common sense than his friend (though they’re all slightly crazy), has a liking for a smoke and a good drink, and is reliable on big missions.
Goemon as mentioned in my thoughts is a master swordsman. A man of few words who follows his own code, he is a frequent ally of Lupin’s main team and provides some terrifyingly strong combat support to missions. He also brings a bit of traditional Japanese flair to a decidedly non-Japanese anime, which is interesting in itself.
Then there’s Fujiko Mine. In the Italian Adventure, she’s the independent, beautiful and self-interested on and off member of Lupin’s gang, preferring big treasure, the good life, and some excellent scoops of information in the process. (She’s also got a motorcycle, which is pretty darn cool.)
Finally, the usual main cast is rounded out by Inspector Zenigata, a man with a zealous conviction to bring Lupin to justice and the eyebrows to match. Called “Pops” affectionately by his archenemy, this Interpol agent relentlessly pursues the master thief to the ends of the earth, without ever slowing up. Despite this, he’s shown to be a good man with a lot of heart, and some surprising skills, such as cooking.
This arc of Lupin III also has other key characters introduced that are new to this iteration of the franchise, in particular Rebecca Rossellini, a rich young Italian woman who is also quite famous from her modeling, acting and business endeavors in-universe- but who is actually interested in the thrill of the heist; and Nyx, a mysterious special agent who no doubt has inspiration from a certain MI6 agent who’s famous the world over…. The character development is good, the cast is small but adequate and it gets the job done. 4.5/5 points.
Story: Both episodic and overarching in nature, Part IV chronicles Lupin’s unusual adventures and endeavors mostly in Italy, which gets him dragged into a much bigger secret than any one treasure or heist…and it’s pretty crazy. Overall, the story works, even if it does have some flaws, but most will be no doubt entertained, without spoiling anything. 4/5 points.
Themes: This show isn’t really a moral compass for anything so much as it is for pure entertainment. You could argue there’s some stuff in here about what true love actually is vs just the business of convenience, or how one can fulfill one’s life purpose, but this might be the weakest part of the show on some level. It’s odd, considering how engaging the overall product is. 2/5 points.
Don’t Insult The Viewer: Lupin III will probably be best enjoyed by a slightly older audience, but in saying that, it is extremely accessible to pick up and enjoy, with a unique aesthetic that evokes all sorts of thoughts from high-speed police chases to the sort of mental hijinks you find in a great mystery, and even the elements of science fiction and spy flicks come in. Truly a fun watch. 5/5 points.
Overall: 20.25/25 (81%): For fans of old-school heists and hijinks, creative capers and plenty of action, humor, mystery and trickery, Lupin III is a great series to pick up, and this part is a nice starting point and a fun show. Lupin has a way of stealing hearts and treasure, you know….
Like what you see? Want to talk about Lupin III? Leave a comment!