The Fall 2021 Preview Guide
Lupin the 3rd Part 6
How would you rate episode 0 of
Lupin the 3rd Part 6 ?
What is this?
After Sherlock's long-time partner Watson was murdered, the top suspect of the murder happens to be the gentleman thief himself Lupin III. In order to prove his innocence, Lupin must hunt down the shadowy organization known as the Raven if he wants to live to steal another day.
How was the first episode?
You know, I've never finished a mainline Lupin III series. I've seen Castle of Cagliostro and a few other movies, plus scattered episodes of part 2 on Adult Swim, and The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is one of my favorite series of all time. Despite all this, I've never actually sat down and watched any of parts 1-5 all the way through. And yet, through the sheer fact of 20 years of anime fandom and their broad natures, I feel like I know Lupin and his cohorts as well as I do any other characters.
They've changed and evolved over the years to match the expectations and styles of dozens of directors and hundreds of animators, from the hardened criminal who didn't shy away from rape or murder that Monkey Punch envisioned to the gentle tricksters of other incarnations. Their world is always evolving, and the characters are always changing along with it. That is the idea that episode 0 of Lupin III: Part 6 examines, along with bidding a sweet farewell to the last remaining member of the original cast, Kiyoshi Kobayashi as Daisuke Jigen.
There's a lot of interesting meta-commentary on the nature of how these characters have evolved to new ages and technologies. Lupin, practically a trickster god, is flexible and adapts easily. As a samurai, Goemon is from a different age to begin with; he doesn't need to change. But where does that leave Jigen, who was current at the outset but falls further and further behind with his refusal to change? He and his trusty Magnum are out of date in a world with AI drones and computerized plastic guns. He can't adapt without changing something fundamental about himself, so he decides to retire.
Outside the meta-commentary, this is a wonderful episode to watch for people who have a history with the Lupin III series. Perhaps there are episodes where the characters just get to sit around and hang out; I haven't seen them if they exist, so it was lovely seeing them sitting around and talking with each other without being embroiled in some kind of caper. They are broad and their relationships well-established over the years, but listening to them chat about the big picture highlighted their dynamics in a way that felt human. Whether you see their relationship as romantic or platonic, Jigen and Lupin have been together so long, they're basically married.
Episode 0 brims with love: both love between the characters and love of the creators for the franchise. There are a lot of cheeky little references, like Lupin pulling out a bottle of whiskey from 1971, the year the first episode of Lupin III aired, but more importantly, warmth and respect for the franchise that has entertained the people now making it since they were small children. We'll miss you, Kobayashi.
Lupin III is a franchise that I'm always kicking myself for not already being an obsessed fan of. I love pretty much everything I've ever seen from Part 4 and Part 5, not to mention some of the older eps and OVAs I've caught over the years; also, Castle of Cagliostro is, hands down, one Miyazaki's all-time best movies. So, I was excited as all get out to dive into the premiere of this year's big 50th Anniversary celebration, Lupin III Part 6, and it didn't disappoint one bit. My only regret is that I probably would have gotten even more out of this “Episode 0” if I was the lifelong Lupin fan that I should be.
I wasn't aware of this going in, but a quick Googling (not to mention all of the rumblings on social media) quickly clued me into the fact that this episode is extra special, because it is the big sendoff for Kiyoshi Kobayashi, the industry legend that has been playing the role of Lupin's gun-toting right-hand man for—let me check my notes here really quicky—over 50 years. As such, Lupin III doesn't even try to hide the fact that “Episode 0” is a thinly-veiled excuse to celebrate Kobayashi and the character he's owned for over half a century. It absolutely rules.
This is the kind of hangout caper that would make Quentin Tarantino proud, which sees Jigen getting one last hurrah with all of the franchise's mainstays. Zenigata gets to do his usual shtick of respecting Jigen and the others just enough to fail miserably at catching the crew for the thousandth time; Goemon and Lupin get to drink some fine liquor and shoot the shit while Jigen does some trick shots and complains about feeling as if modern time has ruined all the fun of their adventures; Fujiko gets the best scene of the bunch, where she and Jigen both acknowledge that they're both pretty much married to Lupin, whether they like it or not.
I loved this episode simply because of the warm fuzzies it threw at me with every passing scene. I'm sure that it all hit even harder for the fans who've been following Lupin, Jigen, Goemon, and Fujiko for their entire lives. As far as capstones to an absolutely legendary career performance go, I think Lupin did alright by Kobayashi, and I hope the man enjoys his well-deserved retirement. It also helps that the role of Jigen is being taken up by Akio Otsuka, another voice-acting titan who is perfectly suited for the job. All in all, it feels like a pretty good time to be a Lupin III fan, and I hope this is the year I can finally add myself to the ranks and take part in all of the fun.
Here's the thing about “Episode 0” of Lupin the 3rd Part 6: thematically speaking, it's not really an episode of Part 6. If the blue coat hasn't already clued you in, this is an episode of Part 5 in all but name. The key concept of that series was Lupin and his gang dealing with advances in technology—from drones to SNS—and how it affects how they do their crimes. This episode, with its non-lethal, AI-controlled drones and plastic guns, is very much in that vein—as is Jigen's decision to retire because he doesn't like this new high-tech world he's being forced to play in.
Of course, that's just the setting. Outside the story itself, “Episode 0” also signals the end of an era. It's the final episode in which Kiyoshi Kobayashi will be voicing Jigen, a role which he has assumed since the original TV series premiered in 1971 (well, except for that one OVA in the 80s we'd all like to forget). This episode serves as a capstone to his time on the series. As such, it centers around Jigen, who he is as a character, how he's changed over time—and how he hasn't.
The episode is structured to allow Jigen to have one-on-one conversations with each of the main characters. With Jigen and Zenigata, we have two extremely talented men that have chosen to tie themselves to Lupin. They could have been more powerful, rich, and famous without him, yet they continue to live in his shadow. Between Jigen and Goemon, we see two men trapped in the past—one of which can't believe that the other would give up their way of life for something as minor as times changing. Finally, with Jigen and Fujiko we have a twisted mirror: just as how Lupin can't let go of Fujiko, Jigen can't let go of Lupin. (It's also great to reaffirm that the two respect each other after all these years—even if they don't particularly like each other.)
What's interesting is that we don't really get a similar one-on-one scene between Jigen and Lupin. Their scene of playfully fighting over a piece of meat is an act more than anything. Lupin is acting unconcerned and Jigen is acting like nothing is bothering him. It's the scene between Lupin and Goemon that shows us how Lupin truly feels about Jigen. Lupin has always been a fluid character across the ages, and the reason he can do this is because Jigen has been such an unchanging presence in his life. If Jigen wants to retire, Lupin would never try to stand in his way—he owes Jigen far too much.
All in all, it's a fantastic look at and a great send-off for the character.
Is it bad to admit I've never finished a regular Lupin series? There's no particular reason for it, and I've sampled a number of different episodes from across its expansive history, but outside of The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, I've never actually completed one. Maybe it's just that the franchise's highly episodic nature means I don't feel compelled to marathon it, but regardless it's always still nice when a new entry shows up and makes some of my Lupin-loving friends happy for a few months.
Though this new Part 6 still hasn't really begun. That'll be next week where the proper episode 01 will actually introduce the new setting – and apparently Sherlock Holmes too. Rather, this episode is all about one man: Kiyoshi Kobayashi. While I'm not a diehard fan of the franchise, I can absolutely understand wanting to honor the man who's been voicing Jigen for over 50 years – literally more than half his life – and that's what this entire thing is about. Like yes, textually it's about Jigen having a crisis of purpose trying to adapt to the new age of technology, and eventually reaffirming that he's still the coolest son of a bitch to ever so much as touch a gun. But every single drop of subtext makes it obvious that this is the Lupin media machine giving a gushing sendoff to one of its most veteran contributors. And in that regard it's a warm-hearted, rousing success.
Though if you're not aware of all that, this probably won't make for a great introduction. Lupin series tend to assume a basic familiarity – you more than probably recognize the characters from at least cultural osmosis, and can grok to “mischievous international thief” real quick – but this episode very much banks on you understanding the sheer scope and length of Kobayashi's tenure. Lupin himself gives a speech almost directly into the camera about how Jigen's the one guy who's stuck by him no matter how much he's changed across the years, and how much that means to him. That's a pretty obvious metaphor, but even without subtext, the line lands if you recognize that these two characters have essentially been married for the past five decades, and while they're going through a rough patch for part of this episode, there's absolutely nothing that will tear them apart for good.
So while this isn't a typical Lupin opener, and decidedly not representative of what this new series will be like, I can certainly appreciate it just on the basis of watching Lupin and Jigen drink their way through a rough patch in their relationship. And next week we'll get to see (and hear) the new Jigen in action alongside the cast, so here's looking forward to that.
Lupin III is back with a brand-new installment that will see the legendary thief pitted against the equally legendary Sherlock Holmes with episode scripts from multiple writers, including Mamoru Oshii. However, that's all set to kick off with the proper beginning of the Part 6 anime next week. What we get with this first 'Episode 0' special is instead a strong, sentimental send-off to Kiyoshi Kobayashi, the original voice of Daisuke Jigen, who will be stepping down from his decade-spanning role after this. As such, this episode sees Lupin still in the blue duds he was sporting in the previous part, acting as kind of a transitional coda for Part 5 before the thief slips back into the green jacket at the end.
Episode 0 is one last chance to reflect on the themes of Part 5, namely the question of how classic characters like Lupin and Jigen adapt to the momentum of the modern world. Jigen has always been an 'old' character within the setting of the series, pointedly less willing to go with the flow of the times than the likes of Lupin. At the end of Part 5, Lupin resolved to continue moving forward regardless of how the world changed around him, but Jigen came off as less convinced. Hence, this episode finds an answer for Jigen in his own way: he isn't old, but a classic, and there's still a place for him to work his simpler brand of effective tactics even against all the fancy remote-controlled drones and futuristic plastic guns the police these days can throw at him.
When this episode isn't working overtime to try and convince us that Daisuke Jigen is the coolest motherfucker alive, it's pulling back and letting this version of the character take all the bows he needs before the hand-off next week. Thus, he gets reflective moments with all the other members of the main cast, Zenigata included. There's an appreciably classy sensibility to the way all these conversations are framed around the characters sitting down for drinks (to say nothing of cheeky references like Lupin pulling out a bottle of booze dated '1971' – the year the first Lupin anime premiered), while the differences between their newer and older styles are hashed out. They visit several layers of subtext and metatext that fans will appreciate, from the obvious meaning of the conflicting question of whether Jigen will come along with the rest of the gang for their next adventure, to Lupin's lovable confession of just how personally important his relationship with Jigen is. As they continually rotate the esoteric symbolism of Jigen's 'partnership' with his magnum as conflated with his 'partnership' with Lupin, the new resolution becomes apparent: Even if Jigen's voice can't remain the same after all these years, the connection between him and Lupin will be stable so long as both characters are around.
Carrying all this is a pointedly modest production that's mostly mimicking the style of Part 5 while obviously conserving its resources for the 'true' premiere next week. It looks solid enough, especially since so much of it involves the characters sitting around talking, but it nails the mood, isn't distracting, and gets to demonstrate just how good Jigen still is. That's all anchored by hearing Kobayashi go out on his own terms, delivering the gruff, gravely voice of Jigen with panache so practiced, it's honestly hard to believe this is a man in his late 80s heading into retirement. It all makes Episode 0 a lovely send-off on its own, and an effective prologue that primes us for the true triumphant return of all-new Lupin stories next week.
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