If you were to ask me if I was a Lupin the Third fan a few years ago, I would have said “no”. Hell, even when it eventually cracked into my top 50, I never felt confident in declaring undying love for the thing. I had only seen one or two episodes of the second series on Adult Swim way back in my Detective Conan days and whilst I loved Castle of Cagliostro and the The Woman Named Fujiko Mine upon being introduced to them by a friend, I wasn’t ready to shower extreme praise on everything that makes up Lupin just based on those. I needed to see more. The other movies. The specials. Those really old, really long TV series.
Now I’m sure most people are aware of the quality regarding those specials – how there were some decent ones in the past, but they’ve been pretty crap in the last few years. Movie-wise, it’s pretty much all downhill from Miyazaki’s version, but they’re still pretty decent, with the Babylon film being widely regarded as one of the best entries for good. Nothing to really fanboy over though.
Then I finally gained the time and motivation to watch Lupin’s series.
Let me say right now that whilst I loved the first series, it’s more for what it represents than what it actually is. Whilst seeing Lupin slowly go from a darker tone more in line with the manga (although it never got that dark from what I recall) to the more popular goofy version most audiences with baseline knowledge of him are familiar with is cool on a conceptual level, there’s a lot of outdated things going on within the Green Jacket saga (Lupin wears a different colored jacket depending on the iteration, and he wears a green one in the first series, hence the fan nickname) that don’t quite jive with me. The animation, the actual stories being told, the inconsistent quality of said stories…it’s basically like most first seasons or iterations of long-running products where they’re busy setting things up and experimenting with what works and what doesn’t, so whilst the future can kick ass, the present journey will be quite rough. Still fun overall, and I’d recommend anyone who wants to get into Lupin watch it.
Me personally, it wasn’t until I watched the second series (Red Jacket) that I could finally call myself a true Lupin fan.
I still haven’t finished the second series as of this writing – it has more episodes than the original number of Pokemon after all – but considering the nature of these old anime, you don’t need to watch more than a few episodes to get a good feel of the thing. And I don’t need to finish it to know I absolutely adore both it and what Lupin represents as a whole.
What appeals to me the most about Lupin is how much of a relatable superman he is. One thing that’s always bothered me about present-day anime is how they seem to think relatable characters equals Raku from Nisekoi, Yuuta from Omamori Himari, or other blatant self-inserts. There’s nothing wrong with not being able to relate to your main hero or being a high school kid or whatever, but these dudes feel like they were just made out of the superficial elements that make up the protagonist with none of the actual justification required to be in the main role. Not to mention, saying Raku is me is an even bigger insult to my face than Michael Bay thinking Shia LeButtFuck represents my teenage self in those Transformers films.
Lupin is someone I can relate to because of how he’s the embodiment of everything I desire to be, with a free-spirited look on life and the actual superhuman abilities required to live his lifestyle that I lack. He pulls off the whole wish-fulfillment thing with a good amount of charm and has to actually work for his achievements, even if he makes it look easy. The guy gets away with his thefts and steals girls’ hearts with fratboy behavior thankfully not included. He’s a man who earns his name in the title, let alone the main character role. Having an awesome supporting cast on the level of Spike Spiegel’s crew helps too.
It wasn’t the fact that the second series was f*cking awesome that made me a real Lupin fan. The whole thing is really nothing more than Lupin and his crew going on 155 short episodic adventures with no overlying story or real defining moments. Lupin had always been great, and it was my continued exposure to his adventures that made me realize this. There are obviously moments where the writing lets him down, but for the most part, his presence and actions are all you need to create entertainment. That’s the sign of a great character right there.
I also took a look at the third series – which I haven’t finished either – and whilst it took some time to get used to the style it was going for, I absolutely adored it. Probably more than most Lupin fans, based on MAL. It’s definitely a downgrade style-wise – and the subs I downloaded were shittier than the script for the Endless Love remake – but the third season ups the creativity of the episodic stories beyond Lupin just stealing shit. He still does that in practically every episode, but the bigger picture levels up so we get things like the gang participating in a warzone (complete with Lupin driving a tank). They’re still not strong enough to individually define Lupin’s career the same way “uguu” defined Kanon, but what can you do?
Yeah, Lupin the Third is awesome stuff. When I get around to re-assessing my top anime list, I think the franchise will be somewhere within my top ten.
PS: I also started delving more into the James Bond movie franchise recently, which Lupin takes inspiration from. Not quite as big into it, but Goldfinger was pretty awesome.