Lupin the Third: Part 5 Episode 4
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Lupin the Third: Part 5 ?
If Fujiko is my favorite Lupin III character, Zenigata is a close second. His dynamic with Lupin is easily the most entertaining to watch, which is why it's filled so many great episodes across the franchise's history. On some level, the two just get each other. In Zenigata's years of chasing Lupin, they've developed a grudging mutual respect. Maybe on some level, Zenigata knows he doesn't really want to capture Lupin (an idea one episode in Part 4 took to hilarious lengths). There's too much fun in chasing him down, and it's this relationship that allows them to trek across a desert together, little girl in tow.
I was a little sad to see Fujiko dispensed with so quickly, but that will hardly be the last we see of her. Lupin keeps talking about his relationship with her (or lack thereof), which wouldn't keep coming up if it wasn't relevant. For now, I'm fine taking a break for some ZeniLupin shenanigans. Lupin the Third: Part 5 is settling into a formula at this point; The "Lupin Game" players come up with a new method to kill or capture him, then Lupin and friends do whatever they can to evade it. There's a last-second twist ending that threatens to shake everything up, but it's usually a fakeout that's resolved or put on hold quickly.
Lupin III is an adventure-of-the-week kind of show, the kind of anime that usually settles on an arc storyline in its second halves. What makes Part 5 different is that we have an idea of where it will go already. The "Lupin vs. the Internet" story has been around since episode 1, but we keep seeing glimpses of the real villain laughing at all the social media mayhem. I could watch Lupin and friends race around the globe dodging bullets until the cows come home, but now my curiosity about the broader plot is piqued. The last two series succeeded at this episodic start because they played their cards closer to their chests; we hadn't seen as much of the "arc plot" at this point of Part 4 or The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. Conversely, Part 5 has told us just enough to make us wonder why we're not getting any more answers yet. I'm not sure this structure is sustainable, but episode 4 has finally pulled off a twist that will be harder to reset next week.
Before that, we get a solid 20 minutes of Lupin-Zenigata buddy comedy. Ami proves to be a good unifying force between them. Not only does she have Lupin as a surrogate dad now, but Zenigata already seems prepared to sign adoption papers after only a few hours around her. She shares a little more about her personal philosophy of why she prefers the Internet to real life, and this is the first moment that the show feels a little dated in its approach to technology. It's hard to imagine anyone that anyone who uses the Internet in 2018 sees it as a place "where gender, age and race don't matter"; social media and casual geotracking have permanently transformed the internet's capacity for anonymity. Maybe the world of Lupin III is different, but the most popular social media fad in this story is about tracking down and killing somebody, so I'm not convinced it's any less cruel and personalized than our own. At least Ami has found her niche online. She continues to drop little hints about herself that make me wonder if there isn't more to her than what she's telling her companions.
Ami also has a wry teenage sense of humor that allows the show to riff on itself, most obviously with jokes about shipping. Lupin III has always had plenty of homoerotic subtext, but it is a little weird how blatant Part 5 has been about pointing it out. First there were Lupin/Jigen jokes, now Lupin/Zenigata ones, right up to Lupin cackling about the "gun" in Zenigata's pants. You can't really call it subtext anymore when the characters themselves spell it out for you. This season's focus on the internet make it feel more like a joke about how online communities will see subtext everywhere; the Lupin/Jigen gag from episode 2 started with fans interpreting them as lovers. This week it's Ami's fault, when she offers love as an explanation for Zenigata's "only I can capture Lupin" obsession. Well, the girl does have a point. Whether it's love or just adversarial bonding, it's enough to carry them through a desperate desert trek.
Then there's another shootout—from drones, fitting in with the "technology" focus—before we finally get That Ending. Out of the corner of his eye, Zenigata sees a bullet hit Lupin's head, sending him flying with blood-spray everywhere. Lupin III is dead! Or is he? The episode ends ominously with an announcement on the "Lupin Game" website, rewarding the winning bet and announcing its shutdown. The next episode preview seems to confirm the death, with Zenigata reminiscing during what looks like an episode focused on him.
Let's be real: of course Lupin isn't actually dead. You can't kill off your main character and franchise-nomer in episode 4. I mean, it would be a bold move, but it hardly feels like Lupin III's style. Plus, we only saw Lupin get shot in silhouette, not directly. It's basic TV logic that if you don't directly see the dead body, it didn't happen. (And sometimes you can't be sure even then.) I'm not going to be shocked when it turns out he just planted a squib in his ear or something.
Still, this hell-of-a-cliffhanger gives the series a chance to really shake up its current formula. The world seems to believe Lupin is dead, officially ending the Lupin Game. If he's still alive, this gives Lupin and friends an opportunity to settle their own scores. Of course, he won't be out of sight for long, since there's still a smartphone around every corner—even in the field of Bwanda. This deadly twist could finally give the plot the push it needs forward. Or, like with Fujiko's appearance last week, episode 5 could anticlimactically resolve it within the first three minutes. I hope they make the right decision.
Lupin the Third: Part 5 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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