First Look: Lupin III (2015)

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Alternative titles: Lupin Sansei, Lupin III: L’avventura italianaLupin the Third Part IV
Anime Original by TMS Entertainment
Simulcast Pending

Premise

The fourth anime series in the franchise is set in Italy and Marino, and follows titular thief Lupin III (now clad in a blue coat) and the rest of the gang as they continue their adventures in crime.

Artemis’ verdict: Needs More Oomph

I’m fond of this franchise, or at least what I’ve seen of it thus far. It’s a classic which has had a pervasive presence in pop culture since its beginnings in the 60s, yet has easily kept hold of its cool factor even after all these years and various incarnations.

The good news is that this should make a fine introduction for those viewers not particularly familiar with the franchise. You don’t need any backstory to be able to enjoy the comic adventures of a gang of professional-yet-idiotic crooks, and the show’s fairly light-heated and episodic nature means that it’s very easy to watch on a once-weekly basis.

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On the surface of it, that’s all you really need in a Lupin series. Neither the story nor its characters are especially complex, so chasing them around as they steal priceless artifacts and attempt to double-cross one another in the process is usually entertaining enough on its own, without the need for anything deeper. And judging by the first episode, that’s exactly what we get here, so I can’t really say that I’ve been let down.

… And yet, I do feel slightly let down, because I was honestly expecting something with a little more pizzazz. The opening was incredibly stylish, in a way that put me in mind a little of Cowboy Bebop – it was fun and jazzy and retro and practically oozed cool – but I felt it promised something that the rest of the episode never quite delivered on. It’s not that the episode was bad in any way, and it delivered on the fun retro part at least, but it just didn’t have that panache I’d been anticipating. It was enjoyable, but at the same time oddly underwhelming.

At 24 episodes there’s still plenty of time for it to find its feet of course, and even if it doesn’t I daresay Lupin is still going to be charming enough to keep people watching, but it’s not as great a start as I had hoped.

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Aqua’s verdict: Molto Bene

Lupin III is such a big deal in Italy that the shrewd phantom thief and his compatriots are featured on Milan’s trams and you can buy special Lupin-branded cars. No wonder then that the first proper Lupin III show since the 1980’s — discounting 2012’s stylish and surprisingly dark spin-off, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine — is set and premiered in Italy, so if anything, this new caper comedy adventure already has the gorgeous setting down. Luckily, TMS Entertainment decided against pulling a Toei and put considerable effort into every aspect of this revival. From the colourful animation to the striking character designs, this new series looks exactly like what a Lupin III series in the year 2015 should look like.

Story-wise, the pilot episode of this new series has made the wise decision to play things relatively safely. There’s no large plot dumps, ham-fisted exposition or awkward character reintroductions; instead, Lupin’s Italian adventure welcomes new viewers with a relatively prototypical caper. This gives the cast a natural opportunity to do what they do best without alienating anyone. If you’re an experienced Lupin fan, this might seem like an underwhelming waste of time, but to new viewers, it makes for a smashing introduction without any patronizing. The result is a vastly enjoyable adventure, with all the backstabbing and cartoonish slapstick you’d expect from a Lupin III series. Meanwhile, the addition of Rebecca pumps some welcome adrenaline into tried-and-true formula and provides exactly the kind of continuity you’d want in an episodic series such as Lupin III.

All in all, as a relative newcomer to the franchise, I thoroughly enjoyed this new series of Lupin III. It looks and sounds stylish as heck, it’s funny, accessible and nostalgic even to those with no nostalgia for the franchise. If the writers dare to adventure a bit off the beaten path, we’re on track for a fun little romp.

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Gee’s verdict: Big Shoes to Fill

The great thing about the Lupin franchise is that it’s been around so long, it can be so many things. It can be grimier capers of the TV series. It can be the lighthearted gentleman thief adventures of the Cagliostro film. It can be the stylish and gritty pulp adventures found in the Takeshi Koike directed Fujiko Mine TV series and Jigen Daisuke OVA. Which is what makes it feel so odd to say that the new TV series feels…standard. Not bad of course. There’s plenty of energy to be found here, but it all feels very safe. Sure, not every experiment in the Lupin franchise works out (see: Red vs. Green, the Fujiko Mine TV series), but I can appreciate the various things people have tried with it.

In many ways though, it’s understandable. This is the first “normal” Lupin TV series to air in quite literally decades. Perhaps something familiar and safe is what we need to ease us back into things. With a solid aesthetic, decent animation, and good physical comedy, the new Lupin already has plenty of things in its favor. Now if we start to see some of that subversiveness found in Koike’s Lupin, we might just have a new classic on our hands.

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One thought on “First Look: Lupin III (2015)

  1. I really enjoyed the first ep. Stylish and funny. What I expect from Lupin. I am not an expert but I have dabbled in the franchise. I really enjoyed rebecca and the artistry was sublime. Looking forward to this 2015 Lupin series

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