Lupin the Third: Part 5
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Lupin the Third: Part 5 ?
There might not be much to say about this episode of Lupin the Third: Part 5. It's yet another callback to a past series—Part 2 this time, as indicated by Lupin's red jacket. Part 2 is most familiar for how much it solidified the series' aesthetic and a lot of its familiar tropes, so it doesn't stand out as much as the more screwball pink-jacket episode. More interestingly, since Lupin III Part II aired from 1977-1980, this episode is littered with references to that era.
The most obvious reference is right there in its main plot, which involves stealing a supposed collection of riches from a deceased South American drug lord. We only know him as "Pablo," so he's likely a reference to the infamous Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, head of the Medellin Cartel. Escobar saw his rise to power around this time, and he was known among other things for the extravagant luxuries he purchased, including a sprawling estate with a private zoo. To get an idea of just how "sprawling" we're talking about, the abandonment of the zoo after Escobar's death in 1993 led to an overpopulation of hippos in the Colombian countryside near his home. (Here are two very entertaining articles about that.) That makes his anime expy's estate and its riches a prime target for Lupin and his gang.
However, it turns out that the goods—which include a vintage car collection—aren't quite as impressive or valuable as Lupin and his gang thought, which leads to a very '70s-action-movie car chase. Part 5 has used a similar soundtrack to Part 4, including familiar cues like the muted brass we get while Lupin, Jigen and Goemon are shooting the breeze in France at the beginning. But the car chase specifically recalls the soundtracks of 1970s action films, especially the funky tunes from Blaxploitation films like Shaft. This isn't the first anime to invoke that genre—Cowboy Bebop memorably devoted a whole episode to it, "Mushroom Samba"—but in this case, it seems designed specifically as a throwback to Lupin Part 2's era. Gritty action movies of this era often had plots related to the drug industry, with the hero as some private investigator or even an "honorable" kingpin.
The throwbacks to older Lupin in this episode mostly arise from aesthetic changes. Like the Part 3 riff, this episode tries to modify Part 5's design to fit with the aesthetics of the Part 2 character designs. Characters look a little rounder, the colors are a little brighter compared to other Part 5 episodes, including the "present day" framing device at the beginning. There's a clear aesthetic shift to show that we're going into flashback mode, along with a handful of jokes about character remembering things differently from how they might have happened. The only place where this episode's "Part 2" portion looked more muted was during the car chase, where Lupin races the famous Pablo before it's revealed that both cars are rusted out and there's nothing left of Pablo but his skeleton.
The other aspect of this episode that's more explicitly 1970s Lupin is the sense of humor. Lupin gets to be goofier and randier than he tends to be in the post-Sayo Yamamoto versions of his character. The "gotta pee" gag near the end felt like an affectionate throwback to when Lupin was more of a Saturday morning cartoon in style. Less comfortable were the persistent gags about him perving on Fujiko. Every variety of Lupin loves Fujiko and enjoys being distracted by her beauty, but this episode takes things a little over the top as he grabs at her even while driving through the jungle. Fujiko doesn't seem too fazed by this, and it's played off like their standard war of flirtation, but this stuff obviously feels different in 2018 than it did in 1978. In the era of #MeToo—which is also making inroads in Japan—these kinds of gags are lame at best and uncomfortable at worst.
Both of these elements stand out because they show how the series has changed over the decades. The episodic series from the '70s and '80s was closer to American animation in its tropes and humor, seeming more cartoonish and crass in its entertainment ambitions compared to modern Lupin stories. Anime's intended audience, has drastically changed since the '70s, and it's interesting to observe these shifts in such an immediate way. So it's really cool that Part 5 is so interested in engaging with that history.
The wacky pink jacket one-off didn't have much to do with the series' continuity, but this one seems to be different. For one thing, the framing device of Lupin, Jigen and Goemon sitting around reminiscing clearly puts it into some sort of timeline. Is Part 5 trying to imply that the green, red, and pink jacket versions were all the same Lupin at earlier times in his life (give or take some cartoon logic of everyone being the same age for half a century)? More interestingly, the red jacket returns next week in a Goemon-focused episode, which is clearly set in present-day France. I'm excited to see where this series is going in its character-focus episodes, which have the potential to be some of Lupin's best. Part 5 was already pretty great when it began, but it keeps getting better and better.
Lupin the Third: Part 5 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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