Lupin the Third: Part 5
Episodes 1-3

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Lupin the Third: Part 5 ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Lupin the Third: Part 5 ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
Lupin the Third: Part 5 ?

Lupin III is back and having more fun than ever! Lupin steals stuff, Jigen and Goemon defeat his enemies, and Zenigata chases him down—but this time, he's not alone. Now the whole world is in on the Lupin-nabbing game, thanks to the Internet. How will the "Lupin Game" change things for our enigmatic thief? Will he embrace his social media fame or run from it? What is Fujiko's role in all this? And can this new Lupin III series fill the mighty shoes of Part 4, now one of the franchise's best? What new gimmicks will it bring to the table?

Part 4 distinguished itself with a strong sense of place: its Italian-centric plot and setting was full of rolling hills and marble cityscapes that drew viewers into the story. Lupin III: Part 5 was initially billed as being set in France, but by the second episode, it's already jumping ship to the fictional African nation of "Bwanda." In truth, its real setting is online, with modern technology driving the show's drama and suspense. It starts with Lupin stealing money on the dark web. Social media helps police and hitmen alike track him down. The show's new female character, Ami, is a mysterious waiflike hacker. By episode 3, it's clear that Lupin and his gang see Ami as their key to navigating the wilds of the Internet.

Writers often struggle with how to portray social media in fiction, if at all. Its interconnected nature makes many classic dramatic tropes—like miscommunication and missed connections—much harder to carry out. How do you account for everyone being just a few taps and clicks away from each other? This poses a particular problem for action series like Lupin III, which rely on characters being able to hide information, escape, and disappear into a crowd. In the Internet age, can anyone or anything really be mysterious anymore? So Part 5 is taking a real chance in embracing and centering these issues. It will be challenging to carry out, but so far the series is handling itself with aplomb. There's so much potential for new situations and new characters, and these first three episodes have been mining this potential well.

Ami is a familiar character type for anime fans. (She even shares a name with the quiet computer whiz from another anime, Sailor Moon.) Like many smart oddballs, Ami has a traumatic backstory that explains her personality. We learn in episode 3 that she was captured by child porn producers, but Ami was able to save herself when her coding skills proved more lucrative for her kidnappers. This culminated in her involvement with the Marco Polo dark web market. Such a disturbing background needs to be handled sensitively, and I'm not sure that Lupin III is the show to do it (rare exceptions like The Woman Named Fujiko Mine aside). I hope this plot won't just be dropped after this episode, since something of this magnitude deserves long-term development, not just cheap use as a one-off twist. Part 4 was good at maintaining its dense plot while developing new characters, so I'm confident this team can pull that off again, but I wouldn't be surprised if it means a similar darkening in tone later in this series.

I wasn't that interested in Ami at first, but I appreciate what the show has done with her over the past two episodes. Episode 3 especially shows that Lupin III isn't content to reduce her to a fragile victim. She can be weird and sarcastic with the other characters, particularly Lupin himself, making fun of his elaborate plans and weird social life. Ami seems to express romantic interest in Lupin—though this could be another joke—but he makes it clear that she's too young. I'm glad that even with all she's suffered, Ami's still got some sense of humor and resilience. I'm eager to see how her wit and weirdness will shake up the group. Lupin III's cast could use more female characters who aren't love interests.

Speaking of the ladies, let's talk about episode 3's big ending twist. Fujiko Mine is my favorite Lupin III character, and one of my few disappointments with Part 4 was that it kept her on the sidelines. Part 5 seemed to be doing the same until the end of this episode, when she drops in (literally, from a helicopter) to shake up the "Lupin Game." Lupin, ever fond of puzzles and stunts, has turned the game around to his benefit by having Ami post the locations of hitmen trying to take him out, figuring those merely trying to capture him will clean up the killers due to an online betting scheme. He's right, and this caper makes for nonstop hijinks as the baddies get taken down one-by-one. Still, Lupin can only play with the pieces that are already on the board. He didn't count on his old flame swooping in with a gun and announcing her intent to kill him. What a cliffhanger! Fujiko is always a wild card in Lupin III adaptations, appearing as anything from a damsel-in-distress to Lupin's partner to his (often superior) rival. I doubt she really wants to kill him; Fujiko always has another trick up her sleeve. Regardless, she certainly has an interesting part to play in the Lupin Game.

Aesthetically, Lupin III continues its impressive recent streak. Part 4 drew on the grittiness of The Woman Called Fujiko Mine and Daisuke Jigen's Gravestone while toning it down a little—fewer fuzzy edges, more bright colors. Part 5 seems to be pushing that softening even further, to the point where you can only see the remnants of Takeshi Koike's designs if you know to look for them. I don't mind this artistic shift, and the sunnier colors definitely fit the more lighthearted tone of this series. Even with darker elements like Ami's past creeping along the edges, Part 5 remains a goofy and fun romp. The music so far is also a mix of old and new, a middle ground between "classic" Lupin III soundtracks and the frenetic '60s jazz of Sayo Yamamoto's series.

As with any long-running franchise, Lupin III fans love to debate which installment is the "best" one for newbies, and Part 5 so far could be a promising candidate. It features familiar takes on these characters in a thoroughly modern setting, and its aesthetics stand out but not too much. If it can keep juggling its tone well—taking the serious stuff seriously without sacrificing its lighter heart—I'd feel great recommending this Lupin III to just about anyone.

Rating: A-

Lupin the Third: Part 5 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rose is a Ph.D. student in musicology, and recently released a book about the music of Cowboy Bebop. You can also follow her on Twitter.


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