Since 1967 Lupin III has starred in dozens of manga volumes, hundreds of anime tv episodes, five theatrical anime movies, five straight to video films, two live actions movies from both Japan and France, and 22 tv movies. Making him possibly the most enduring character in Japanese media today and as beloved over there as James Bond is to us Westerners.
Originally written (without permission) to be the grandson of Arsene Lupin, the gentleman thief from Maurice Leblanc’s novels, the globe-spanning adventures of Lupin III and his band of thieves has entertained and enthralled readers and viewers from around the World for decades now (Spielberg himself is a big fan) and despite his most recent tv movie being named ‘The Last Job’ – shows no evidence of slowing down.
Yet I can’t help but notice how underground his following remains in the west and I felt as an avid Lupin III addict it was only right that I raised a little more awareness to this charming debutante. But with so much material – where to possibly start? Particularly since there is, to be honest, a lot of dross in his back catalogue. Well I’ve been kind enough to sit through all of the movies, tv specials, and straight-to-dvd episodes and below I’ve compiled a great list of his finest heists, in order of course.
So it’s with great glee that I give you my 10 reasons to love . . . Lupin III
(Apologies that many of these links are to AMVs or are in various languages – but it was impossible to find links to many of the official trailers.)
01 Castle of Cagliostro (Theatrical Film 1979)
Before Hayao Miyazaki founded Ghibli and directed his first IP Nausicaa – he directed Lupin’s second theatrical outing. Coming off the back of writing and directing numerous episodes of his tv series, Miyazaki created a masterpiece and arguably his most fun film to date. Sure, the character isn’t quite as zany and oddball as Lupin is in the manga, but it’s a wonderfully enjoyable film with stunning animation, a classic storyline and real heart. Steven Spielberg was quoted as saying that Cagliostro features his favourite car chase in cinema history. So there.
02 Green vs. Red (OVA 2008)
Lupin’s most recent (and possibly final) OVA absolutely blew me away. Easily the most stylishly animated (save for Cagliostro of course) – it features a mind-boggling plot that hints at Lupin’s death or retirement as hundreds of Lupin copycats swarm the country. It’s an incredibly confusing and clever little film and ends on a twist that doesn’t really help clarify things – leaving the internet fans abuzz with conjecture over what it all means and which character was the real Lupin. Certainly not one to watch until you’re very well versed in all things Lupin, but it’s a brilliant film. It celebrates 40 years of Lupin material.
03 The Fuma Conspiracy (OVA 1987)
The first OVA for Lupin III and it’s a doozy. With a gorgeous style and sporting Lupin in his classic green jacket – this flick gets personal as Goemon’s bride is kidnapped in the opening scene and an ancient family treasure comes into play in typical Lupin fashion. Top marks.
04 Farewell To Nostradamus (Theatrical Film 1995)
One of the rare cinema-outings for Lupin III, Nostradamus is a fun packed thrill ride with plenty of classic Lupin crew shenanigans. The animation is a little ropey compared to most anime theatrical movies but it’s still one of the teams finest moments.
05 Episode 0 : First Contact (TV Special 2002)
A critical and fan favourite – Episode 0 is a prequel that tells the story of how the team came together. It’s a great flick and highly enjoyably made but personally I find it to be slightly overrated. This film celebrated the Lupin anime’s 30th anniversary and is best appreciated once you have already become a fan.
06 Alcatraz Connection (TV Special 2001)
This isn’t most Lupin fans favourite film but personally I loved it. Partly due to the slick animation style and kick-ass opening which really showcases why this series is so enjoyable with a fast paced montage of action, deception, comedy, double-crossing, sexy outfits and frantic gunplay.
07 The Secret Of Mamo (Theatrical Film 1978)
The first theatrical outing for Lupin is goofy, loose and completely mad. It’s pure looney toons lunacy throughout with a fantastic 70′s animation style that can’t help but make you grin. Hardly his best film but a true classic and regarded by fans as the most authentic to the manga. It also has more English dubs than any other anime title in history.
09 Dead or Alive (Theatrical Film 1996)
Surprisingly the last theatrical outing for the Lupin III – Dead or Alive was the only one to feature Monkey Punch himself (creator of the original manga) in the directors chair. Obviously it makes for one of the most authentic Lupin experiences and is a fun film.
08 Operation : Return the Treasure!! (TV Special 2003)
After the fan favourite Episode 0 came this TV Special. It’s not as good but the creative storyline which sees Lupin and co having to replace six phoney treasures with the originals within seven days makes for an exciting set up.
10 Return of the Magician (OVA 2002)
A ballsy move this seeing the return of Pycal who also starred in an early OVA Magician in the Shadows which is widely regarded by fans as Lupin’s worst film. Thanks to slick animation and a fun storyline that even parallels many moments from the original, Pycal’s return succeeds and is an enjoyable entry to the Lupin canon.