Culture

Lupin in The Modern Era

Lupin The Third Part Two: The Monkey Faced Thief In The Modern Era

Hello again to my readers! Nephrite returns once again to continue my history of the world famous and yet mysterious Arsène Lupin III! To see the beginnings and my explanation of this character and their many friends and adventures see my first article – Lupin The Third: The Playful Thief Who Stole The World.It is highly recommended you read this first before continuing with this article. Although please keep in mind as I discuss these different Jacket Eras of Lupin or Part numbers that there is no direct canon with one minor exception regarding a Blue Jacket.

When I last left off we had approached the mid 1980s and Lupin’s divisive Pink Jacket era. However more happened to the Lupin Gang in the 1980s. Something that was the beginnings of a trend that would last on and off until the modern day and become as ubiquitous with the Lupin name as the famous Lupin The Third or Lupin III Part 2 (Red Jacket) TV series.

Part Seven: The Lupin III TV Specials, Modern Films and OVAs(1987 – ????), Successors And Friendship

In the late 1980s it was decided to give Lupin which was still a well loved name in Japan thanks to the many releases in recent memory and the (surprisingly successful given its reputation nowadays) Pink Jacket TV Series. This first TV Special (and to be honest the majority of them) have many names across different territories so as a result any I name directly will be given the name I am most familiar with. The first TV special is Bye-Bye Lady Liberty (1989) and proved to be the first of many. As well as the first Lupin media to be released officially in the UK on VHS many moons ago under the alternative title of Goodbye Lady Liberty.

The Lupin III TV Specials became a yearly tradition in Japan with one releasing every year from 1989 until 2013 and then becoming occasional releases with one in 2016 and two in 2019. As the TV specials became so ubiquitous, the already loved Lupin name became as well known in Japan as James Bond in the UK or any superhero you care to name in America. This led to the TV Specials being occasionally joined by film releases or OVAs – Original Video Animations (think higher budget TV Special) in the same year such as the OVA The Fuma Conspiracy (1987) which technically predates this trend and which I mentioned last time or the film release Lupin III: Dead or Alive(1996).

Something saddening and special happened to the Lupin franchise in the 1990s however. Prior to this, the voice of Lupin Yasuo Yamada had been introduced to a skilled impressionist and comedian named Kanichi Kurita who was able to impress Yamada with a well done impression of Yamada’s Lupin voice. The two men became close friends and golfing buddies with one story claiming that Kurita once left a voice mail in his Lupin voice. Yamada then answered back, repeating the entire message in his original Lupin voice, only adding at the end “You idiot! I’m Lupin!”

Several years later, Yamada was aware he wouldn’t be around forever and so named Kuritaas his successor both unofficially between the two of them as friends and formally in his last will. In circumstances I won’t go into here for reasons of taste, Kurita succeeded Yamada officially from the film Farewell to Nostradamus (1995) after Yamada’s passing. Although he did have to be persuaded by Kobayashi the voice of Jigen. Kurita himself has stated in interviews he has never tried to replace Yamada but simply carry on what Yamada started or – as your author would phrase it – carry on the torch until it’s his turn to pass it to someone else.

In more recent years several of the original voice actors retired resulting in Fujiko, Goemon and Zenigata all carrying new current voices from the excellent TV special Blood Seal of the Eternal Mermaid (2011): Miyuki Sawashiro, Daisuke Namikawa and Kōichi Yamadera respectively. Now let’s move to the subject of dubbing and adapting Lupin into other languages and the chaos that brings!

Part Eight: Lupin Outside Of Japan, Pioneer, A Certain Estate And Rupan

When it comes to adapting Lupin for release outside of Japan, the estate of Maurice Leblanc and the character of Arséne Lupin certainly did their best to make things awkward. For example in Arséne’s home country of France, Lupin was transformed into Edgar de la Cambriole(Literally Edgar of Burglary) due to longer European copyright laws or alternately ‘Wolf’ a literal translation of the meaning of the Lupin name or ‘Rupan’ based on the Japanese pronunciation of the Lupin name. Finally in 2012 the character of Arséne Lupin I fell into the public domain and there have been no legal issues with using the Lupin The Third name globally ever since however in France’s case they still keep the Edgar de la Cambriole name around for rereleases of older media.

France was not the only country to have legal hoops to jump through however. In Germany he was apparently renamed to ‘Hardyman’ of all things while the US and UK both imitated France with the use of the ‘Wolf’ name (which is the name used in the most widely available English dub of The Castle Of Cagliostro from the early 1990s by a company called Streamline who also dubbed some other Lupin movies and TV episodes.) and of ‘Rupan’ (used in a early 2000s dub of 1987’s The Fuma Conspiracy by Animeigo.)If Lupin was ever referenced as a name in these English dubs it was explicitly stated to be an alias among many.

The US however had one seeming exception to this: The English dub of Lupin the Third Part 2 the TV series I mentioned in the first article.There was an English dub produced for the first 79 episodes of that series (basically the first half) by a company called Pioneer. This dub added in plenty of pop culture jokes from the period – 2002 to 2003 – and became a cult favourite among Lupin fans (especially in the modern era of internet memes with many compilation videos out there) as well as blessing us with the iconic English voices for the gang. Tony Oliver for Lupin, Richard Epcar for Jigen, Lex Lang for Goemon, Michelle Ruff for Fujikoand Dan Lorgefor Zenigata.

These actors are so beloved in English that there are calls to get them to dub or redub as many of the Lupin movies and TV Specials as possible while they are still active (Dan Lorge however has been replaced by Doug Erholtz since 2017) and despite Tony Oliver having mostly having gone behind the camera onto the production side of things, he still comes in front of the mic to play Lupin in modern dubs (Side note: THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU FOR THIS! Your dubs brought me back into the Lupin fold and I can hardly wait to see you ride in the Fiat 500 once again) including the most recent 2019 movie I will discuss later. However there is one country I have notably left out of the discussion so far. L’erroresaràcorretto.

Part Nine: Lupin The Third’s Fame in Italy, Blue Jacket Lupin(2012 – 2018), Modern Renaissance

The one country I had not discussed is by far Lupin’s number one home outside of Japan, Italy. When I say Lupin is popular in Italy I’m NOT kidding. Italy is either one of or the only country (sources differ) to get a dub of 1971’s Lupin The Third Part 1, the Fiat 500 is often referred to offhandedly as ‘the Lupin car’, smoking in a particular fashion is referred to as ‘Jigen Style’, there are articles all over the internet about Italian Lupin graffiti art and pop up shops and there is even a particular Italian joke that states Lupin would be a better Prime Minister than the one Italy had at the time because at least Lupin was a competent thief! Mind you being one of the few countries to avoid legal trouble with the Leblanc estate probably helped! On top of this there have been world premieres of Lupin films in Italy and Italy has their own completely official Italian Lupin mangas (including one with contributions by Monkey Punch) as well as the fourth Lupin TV series (2012 and the first in 27 years!) taking place in Italy and San Marino and officially being called Lupin III: The Italian Adventure in some places (although most fans and companies just call it Lupin III: Part IV or Blue Jacket to keep up the naming schemes). There are also claims – since verified by friends of mine – that Part 4 only got finished because TMS had announced it but ran out of money or had financial difficulties during production and then the Italians – presumably the government through certain intermediaries – gave them a substantial cash investment which allowed them to finish production on Lupin III: Part IV which is also why the vast majority of that series takes place in various places throughout Italy and San Marino. Thanks Italy!

Lupin the Third: Part 4 or Lupin III: Part IV or however you want to name it is famous for one other thing: Popularising our monkey thief! This series – coming out as it did in 2012 – was the first Lupin series to come out in the modern era of anime series being available on streaming sites and apps such as Crunchyroll, Funimationand in certain cases Netflix and Amazon Prime Video which led to it creating a small eruption of new Lupin fans who got curious about this thief and his friends (and brought back certain lapsed fans like myself through its English dub) which has in turn led to a miniature renaissance for Lupin the Third in terms of popularity outside of Japan and Italy which I will discuss in a future section with regards to UK availability.

Blue Jacket Lupin is also known for being the time period which brought back in a moderate fashion the fact that Lupin and company are meant to be thieves, something some of the TV specials seemed to forget along with the fact that Lupin and the others aren’t meant to be completely likeable people in most cases. However Lupin’s sojourn to Italy wasn’t his only worldly detour in a blue jacket.

In 2018 Lupin The Third: Part V was released and set mostly in Paris so you could see it as our part-French, part-Japanese and in some circles part-Italian thief returning home! Part V Is the second Blue Jacket series and follows on from the ending of Part IV making those two the only Lupin TV instalments to have any direct continuity or follow on from each other. It also marks probably the heaviest use of modern technology such as smartphones, social media and facial recognition software in a Lupin project as well as the heaviest use of a overarching series long arc.

There are also however numerous references to Lupin’s past history up to and including single episode homages to previous Lupin Parts that come complete with Lupin wearing the relevant jacket colour and the characters’ personalities in general matching those eras of the series. These are definitely greatly appreciated by long time fans. Part V is a series that can be considered divisive depending on your personal opinion and tastes but for different reasons than Part III which are mostly things which are more noticeable by long term fans than people just getting into the series. I do recommend the Blue Jacket era to newcomers but Part IV far more so than Part V. Now let’s bring this history up to date.

Part Ten: Lupin CGI, Availability In The UK, The 50TH Anniversary And The Return Of Green Jacket

In 2019 many Lupin projects were released. First of all came two Lupin III TV specials named Prisoner Of The Past and Goodbye Partner. One of these was reasonably well regarded while the other was…less so. But the main excitement in 2019 came from the first ever – and to date only – Lupin the Third CGI film titled Lupin III: The First which released in late 2019 in Japan and quite frankly swarmed the internet (even in non Lupin circles) with images, clips and memes (including the return of handsome Jigen) due to how well the character designs transferred to 3D animation and just how much they caught people’s attention. Despite the releases outside of Japan coming in the midst of – ‘current events’ – thanks to the power of the modern Lupin fandom, availability on certain streaming platforms in various countries and global DVD and Blu-ray releases Lupin III: The First has been one of the most successful Lupin films and general Lupin media in years! Something people like myself are VERY happy to see.

In 2021 Lupin The Third’s anime projects are celebrating their 50th anniversary which has led to a selection of things ranging from rereleases of popular Lupin books and films in Japan, one night showings of Lupin films in select theatres around the world, more of an effort to make Lupin available on home media in general and most exciting of all the official reveal of Lupin the Third: Part VI or Part 6 which will be taking place in London and according to certain teaser images may have some involvement from a Mr HerlockSholmes as well as the return of the retro green jacket for the anniversary. Who knows what chaos Lupin might get up to in England? Or if he might make a detour to Scotland? The gang already encountered Nessie after all! Who will be up to join me and the gang?

As for availability of Lupin in the UK and Scotland in particular? Things are a bit chaotic but they are getting much better than before. There were UK DVDs for The Secret Of Mamo(1978), the first Lupin film and a pair of 1990s TV specials although these are now long out of print although you can easily access the world famous The Castle Of Cagliostro(1979) on DVD and Blu-ray with minimal effort.

What is good though is there is a company in Glasgow called Anime Limited who seem to specialise in DVD and Blu-ray releases of famous but hard to find series such as Lupin or Mobile Suit Gundam or some of the series or films ignored by other companies. This company also helps support a anime based Glasgow charity so I buy from them a lot. Anime Limited has released and announced plans to release a growing selection of Lupin series including Lupin III: Part IV, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine spin off series (dark even by Lupin standards so DON’T go in blind) and a release in August of Lupin III: The First and a planned release of Lupin III: Part V I am looking forward to immensely! Let’s hope they’ll announce more soon!Other DVDs and Blu-rays are available by a company called Discotek Media if your machine can play American discs (Discotek’s Lupin DVDs should be safe in the UK however if you can hunt them down no matter what. But I didn’t tell you that. Wink wink.)

In terms of streaming? Lupin is spread out across numerous services. The Castle Of Cagliostro – both sub and the older 1992 English dub – is available on both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Also on Amazon Prime are the English dubs for Lupin The Third: Parts II/2 and V/5 and the subs and dubs for the Takeshi Koikè films (set in the same universe as The Woman Called Fujiko Mine so go in forewarned) and Lupin The Third: Goodbye Partner while the subs for Lupin The Third: Parts IV/4 and V/5 are available on the anime streaming service Crunchyroll. Part IV’s English Dub is available on Funimation’s own service but it has no companions there. Unfortunately in Amazon’s case with the exception of Part 2’s English Dub which is available with your subscription you must pay for any other Lupin content on Amazon to have access to it on your account. Hopefully this helps some of you who I may have interested when you go searching for Lupin!

 Now I’m almost done! All that’s left is to give you some of Nephrite’s personal recommendations for beginners and the more adventurous.

  1. The Castle of Cagliostro. It’s iconic for a reason. Also my personal entry point.
  2. Lupin The Third: Part II (English Dub). It is crazy and silly but it makes you love these characters if you can tolerate older animation.
  3. Lupin The Third: The First. Another excellent introduction to the characters with a masterful transition to 3D.
  4. Lupin The Third: Part IV. The true beginning of Lupin’s modern era and where I first reencountered the gentleman thief’s grandson.
  5. Lupin The Third: The Fuma Conspiracy. A fan favourite in the west that’s got an interesting history. A must watch for Goemon fans. Japanese version highly recommended.
  6. Lupin The Third: Tokyo Crisis. A personal favourite with Zenigata at his most badass. Japanese version highly recommended.
  7. Lupin The Third: Return The Treasure. Another favourite with plenty of slapstick and an outright Buster Keaton reference. No dub available.
  8. Lupin The Third: Blood Seal Of The Eternal Mermaid. One of the best TV specials in recent memory. Plenty to recommend it to first time viewers and long time fans.

In conclusion I really hope I’ve made it clear across these articles why I love this series. Be it a comedic instalment, something more family friendly (ish), or an outright dark character piece, Lupin is something that can be for anyone. In his own way Arséne Lupin III has proved an inspiration in recent times and I hope some of you will get curious and investigate the Japanese grandson of the French gentleman thief. Keep an eye out for a yellow Fiat 500 and a man with a tendency to wear many jackets! Hopefully you’ll hear from me again soon but for now…

Sayonara!

Nephrite (with assistance from NaokoUedaand my Italian fact checkers Asso, Burla and Nihil. Thanks again everyone!)

Addendum: Since this article’s initial release the English dub for Lupin III Part 2 or the Red Jacket series has been removed from Amazon Prime. There are legal means to purchase it online for those who search hard enough and I hope you enjoy it if you find it! Hopefully it will return someday. Possibly in time for Part 6’s release. Have fun searching for our beloved thief!

See also: Lupin The Third: The Playful Icon Who Stole The World

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