How Lupin the Third Stole My Heart After All These Years

There are numerous moments throughout the history of Japan’s expansive pop culture industry that have largely gone on to define global perceptions of this small island nation. In 1963 we saw the birth of modern anime through the eyes of Mighty Atom, perhaps best known internationally as our little robot friend Astro Boy. In the 1980s through until the late 1990s we witnessed what would be defined as the “Golden Age” of anime internationally, birthing numerous series and films such as Akira, Cowboy Bebop, Dragon Ball, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Sailor Moon. But tossed somewhere between those two major moments in the history of anime was the release of a series that predates most modern anime fans, all whilst playing an integral role in the lives of so many here in Japan. I’m talking of course, about Lupin the Third.

Passed through the hands of so many, Lupin the Third was a series originally created by mangaka Monkey Punch in the August of 1967. Shortly after in 1971 we would see the airing of the acclaimed Lupin the Third: Part I, which would evidently become the basis for an entire animated universe; one which would be directed by the likes of creatives such as Hayao Miyazaki (Yes, the very same one from Studio Ghibli), Sayo Yamamoto (Again, the very same one who brought us the likes of Yuri!!! on ICE and so much more), as well as a wide variety of other talent throughout it’s extensive lifespan. 

Let’s put everything I just mentioned aside, all facts that I have known for a considerable amount of time, and ponder this simple question — why did it take me so long to start watching Lupin the Third? It’s not an understatement to suggest that over the course of my life I’ve probably listened to the musical works of series composer Yuji Ohno a hundred times or more. It would actually be his approach to jazz and works with the Lupin series that would finally drive me to pick it up, but why it took so long remains a long pondered internal mystery to myself. That little question aside however, let’s talk about Lupin the Third.

If there was ever a time to talk about Lupin the Third in a modern setting, the time is most definitely now. Perhaps now more than ever, anime fans are given the unique opportunity to jump into a series with over 50 years of history in the industry. With Funimation beginning the streaming of their official English dub for the recent fourth entry into the series, aptly titled Lupin the Third: Part IV, there’s been a notable fresh influx of both new and returning fans of the series. Though it’s not necessary at all, I myself have opted to begin from the original Part I and work my way through. Like many anime of its time, the structure of Lupin the Third doesn’t follow the standard continually flowing story format; rather, it instead opts to largely allow each episode to be its own self-contained story, with very few details carrying between episodes. 

The story pits a diverse and likable gang of master thieves in an avalanche of varying situations that wrap themselves in a thick veil of comedy and action. It’s incredibly easy to find yourself completely lost in the adventures contained within Lupin the Third, with every episode feeling as humorous as the last. It’s an anime that has aged extremely well, especially compared to similar anime of its time, and that’s why it’s so exciting to see that there is still such prominent support for it within the industry. The 2015 Lupin the Third: Part IV is widely considered by many to be one of the best installments into the series of them all, and alongside Sayo Yamamoto’s Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, has gone on to define many modern audiences understandings of the series.

We haven’t even scratched the surface of the films, both animated and live-action, that exist within the Lupin the Third universe, and I truly feel like they could be discussed forever. There’s a million and one entries into the world of Lupin, but don’t let that scare you in the slightest. The very thought of not knowing where to start, let alone what to watch, was what held me back from this series for so long, only for me to realize that it absolutely doesn’t matter. If you’re a fan of gorgeous ’70s animation-style with the signature flare of Hayao Miyazaki, by all means start with either Lupin the Third: Part I or Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro​, his entry into the Lupin film universe. Otherwise, don’t shy away from simply jumping into Lupin the Third: Part IV, as well as Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. 

In sharing this with you all, I simply hope that I can spread the joy that Lupin the Third has brought to me with everyone else, especially as it continues to rise as a personal favorite for so many reasons. If you’re interested in checking out any of the televised anime entries into the series, the best place to start would be Crunchyroll’s massive collection, which can be found here

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