Lupin the Third: Part 5
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Lupin the Third: Part 5 ?
Character-focus episodes are some of the most fun entries in the Lupin franchise, and Goemon's had some of the best. As probably the grumpiest member of Lupin's entourage, he makes a good straight-man to whatever shenanigans are unfolding around him. At the same time, his sense of honor and duty can make him uniquely vulnerable compared to characters like Jigen and Fujiko who have fewer moral scruples. It's probably the reason that he plays the role of the cavalry most of the time, sweeping in to take out the baddies while remaining less involved in heists otherwise. This episode riffs on all these elements of Goemon's character.
Goemon's traditional samurai costume and ethics stand out in modern-day settings, which has been a running theme throughout these "blue jacket" series set in Western Europe. So it's apt that this Goemon focus episode plops him down in the one place where he might blend in: a cosplay festival! Goemon is assumed to be cosplaying himself, which gives him a good cover for his mission to track down a priceless locket. While he isn't gawked at as much as usual, Goemon still attracts the curiosity of the festival-goers, especially a little boy dressed as a Naruto-style ninja. You can even catch him Naruto-running a few times. I was hoping he would become Goemon's sidekick, but he's just there to find him a room and help him get along with the locals. It was fun to see the way that these nerds reacted to Goemon, taking selfies with him and overall being awed by his eerily accurate "cosplay" and old-fashioned ways. The show got a chance to sneak in some nods to other anime series here, including one guy with a suspicious resemblance to Will Zeppeli from Jojo's Bizarre Adventure.
Chloé turns out to be running the local bistro, which is owned by her family. It doesn't take Goemon long to find her, which is probably why she's also beset by a group of thugs. Chloé's mysterious locket, given to her by a wealthy Belgian friend, houses a priceless jewel with a heavy history. Russian nobles commissioned it in the wake of the Russian Revolution, and now its original owners' descendants want it back. Rather than steal it—the way Goemon and Lupin plan to—they hired mercenaries to "take care of" Chloé by any means necessary. Goemon gets a little too caught up in Chloé's world to see the mission through by the end, which complicates it when he learns that she isn't who she says she is, pitting him against Lupin who seeks to nab the jewel no matter what.
It was a little weird to have Goemon "turn against" Lupin, but it might be a reference to some earlier versions of the series. Goemon is introduced in the manga as Lupin's enemy, and ends up as his adversary at one point in the original "Green Jacket" anime (Lupin the Third: Part I). Plus Goemon doesn't really understand Lupin's obsession with women and becomes frequently annoyed by it, so it makes sense that falling for a girl himself might put him at his wit's end. He also has a thing for wanting to protect and act "honorably" toward women, which crops up in his initial encounters with Fujiko in Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. I figure that Goemon knew Lupin would survive his attacks, and they reconcile at the end when they figure out that the locket is a fake anyway, and Chloé is really named Inés; her mother is the real Chloé, and she (and the fake jewel) are a decoy. I found this twist a little flimsy—the thugs have her mother's photo, so presumably they'd know the daughter isn't the one they're after—but whatever, this show has had sillier twists.
This episode is clearly a one-off, so not much in it affects the series' larger continuity. It also continues showcasing an older version of Lupin's character, complete with red jacket and pervy behavior. (At least the girl he's with this time clearly enjoys his advances.) Despite all this, it seems to be taking place in the present day, not in some distant flashback like last week's episode. This might be a continuation of the "past" shown in the previous episode, but it also clearly takes place in France or Switzerland. (It's a nameless French-speaking small town, intended to be in a mountainous region, and Geneva is referenced as being close by.) Maybe I should stop trying to figure out how continuity works in a Lupin III series and just enjoy it. Watching Goemon interact with Western anime fans justifies itself.
Unlike the previous "Red Jacket" episode, this one fits more with the aesthetics and tone of the other "Blue Jacket" series. It's not just the French setting, but it's also more muted in tone, and the concept of Lupin characters rubbing up against Western otaku also fits with the first arc's theme. That makes sense considering we'll be getting a reintroduction to one of our previous characters next week. The gang is headed to an all-girls' school, which just happens to be the one Ami is attending!
Nevertheless, I've enjoyed these brief forays into episodic hijinks. The last two episodes were highly entertaining. It would be cool if this series bounced around between the various members of Lupin's ensemble, and it could even give new characters Ami and Albert focus episodes too. I hope if we get one for Fujiko that it stars the more modern, independent version of her character. It's a good thing Goemon hasn't changed much in fifty years, so even when his focus episode calls back to a previous series, it still makes sense for the character we know and love.
Lupin the Third: Part 5 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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