Tonight I will take you…Lupin the 3rd
What’s the Story?
Lupin the 3rd, grandson of the famous Phantom Thief and world-renowned master thief in his own right, has an announcement to make, he’s getting married! Wedding bells aren’t the only things calling for Lupin though, with his trusty partners-in-crime Daisuke Jigen and Goemon Ishikawa, he’s got his sights set on many of Italy’s hidden treasures. Whether its palming the Mona Lisa, uncovering the secret plans of MI6 or even entering a battle of wits with the reborn Leonardo da Vinci himself, this time Lupin may have bitten off just a bit more than he can chew. Still, a good thief always has one more trick up their sleeve.
Back at the tail end of 2018 I watched Lupin the 3rd Part 5 and I fell in love (you can check out my review of the series HERE). As I said back in that review, the Lupin franchise has always been one that I’ve been interested in, I just never knew where to start after watching the Castle of Cagliostro. I had thought that Part 5 was the perfect answer to that problem, it was so good and such a perfect introduction/celebration for Lupin and all his gang, I want to recommend it to everyone. However, I have now found a flaw with this plan and that flaw is called Part 4. Now I realise this is purely down to my own stupid fault, but don’t watch Part 4 after Part 5, because you’ll do what I’ve been doing and directly compare them, in which case Part 4 will definitely come off as the lesser season.
It makes sense in a way, there are several parts of Part 4 that feel like a dry run for things in Part 5. The introduction of a new member for the Lupin gang and having them deal with over-arcing plots are probably the most noticeable examples, and the creative forces behind Part 5 clearly learned from the mistakes Part 4 made. It’s not as if Part 4 is a bad season, in fact it’s a lot of fun and I enjoyed it immensely, there’s just a couple of things I want to change. Let’s break this down though, I’ll try to avoid comparisons with Part 5 as best I can, but those thoughts are going to be in the back of head throughout this review and there’s a few things I need to get off of my chest.
Let’s start with our newest member of the Lupin gang, the master thief’s new wife, Rebecca Rosselini. I can certainly see where they were going with Rebecca’s character, but she hits the same stumbling block I’ve seen a lot characters hit when they’re introduced into a long-running franchise, namely she gets bigged up so much she starts to outshine the title character. I’m thinking in particular of the Venice-set episode with this, and I get how it happens. When characters are part of a long-running series it can be hard to find new angles to look at them through, so you introduce a new character who hasn’t been explored so much. The problem, that I’ve noticed, is that writers tend to then get so excited about their new character that they completely fall in love with them and forget about the characters the show is actually about cough Clara in Doctor Who cough (Sorry, got something caught in my throat there). Add on to that the fact that Rebecca is a spoilt rich girl with more money than she knows what to do with and she’s a hard character to invest in.
Having said all that, it’s not that Rebecca is a bad character by herself, it’s just that a lot of the time the show doesn’t know how to use her properly. I found myself enjoying the episodes when she was actually competing side by side with Lupin, like her introductory episode ‘The Wedding of Lupin III’, where she gets to play up her fun-loving thrill-seeker side and she has some good banter with Lupin. Yes she pulls one over on Lupin in the end, but it’s a pretty fair match between the two of them, which, for me at least, is what makes it fun. Then there’s my favourite Rebecca episode, which comes towards the end of the series, ‘I’m Going to Get You Lupin’, which features a fun sequence where Lupin and Rebecca have a conversation by leaving traps and calling cards for another as they break into a series of banks across the city. That’s when Rebecca’s at her best, when she’s challenging Lupin in a fair contest of constant one-upmanship, not when she’s the rich debutante who can do everything she turns her hand to so effortlessly. I come to a Lupin series for Lupin and his gang, Rebecca hasn’t earned her share of the spotlight, yet.
Enough about Rebecca though, she’s a big part of the series, but only appears in about half the episodes. The rest of the series is dedicated to standalone capers and the two over-arcing plots of Part 4. The standalone capers are a lot of fun and exactly what I came to this series for, even if I wished some of them where stretched out across multiple episodes. Some of my favourite episodes have to be ‘Welcome to the Haunted Hotel!’, ‘The End of Lupin III’, ‘Don’t Move the Mona Lisa’ and ‘The Murdering Marionette’ if you want my recommendations for this series.
That brings me to the over-arcing plot episodes and, yeah, I’m not the biggest fan of them either. I expected outlandish hijinks from a Lupin series, but I feel like the plots in Part 4 push things just a little too far. I mean Lupin vs. Leonardo da Vinci sounds like a fantastic idea and it certainly leads to some inventive and trippy imagery as Lupin wonders through other people’s dreamscapes, but, I don’t know, I was just never that invested in the story. Maybe it’s because Rebecca is a big part of the plot and she keeps being pushing into the damsel role, which is another side of her I’m not keen on. Then again we never really got to spend all that much time with da Vinci either, and, yeah, the guy was a genius, but I really doubt he could build, let alone set up all the stuff he needed to set up for the finale in just the couple of months he had. It just stretches my suspension of disbelief just that little too far. Also the less said about this series’ interpretation of MI6, the better.
All that being said, Lupin the 3rd Part 4 isn’t a bad series. A good chunk of it is a lot of fun, I’d definitely recommend all the episodes that I’ve mentioned in this review, but aside from that and a few other episodes, I’d probably just go straight to Part 5. They clearly learnt a lot from this season and implemented the corrections there. If you want to watch every episode of this series, that’s fine too, I’ve got this season on blu-ray and I certainly don’t regret buying it, I’m just likely to watch Part 5 more. Unfortunately Part 4 didn’t quite manage to steal my heart.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.