From the first Lupin piece of media that ever existed, let us move to the latest animated series of Lupin, part 6. This one feels like a bit of a legacy piece. In a lot of ways, it felt like it was trying to do a lot of things to carry onto that legacy. For one thing, this is a season of two halves which means two distinct stories. At the same time, it’s pulling the Cowboy Bebop method of inserting stand alone episodes in the middle of their story elements. A lot of those stand alone episodes are by people who wanted to do Lupin earlier in their lives like Mamoru Oshii and a lot of other people. So right from the get go with its announcement, the show already felt busy.
I don’t feel like I have to explain who the Lupin archetypal characters are again, but maybe I should do that anyway. Lupin himself is Lupin the third, the grandson of the infamous Arsene Lupin. He is partnered with Jigen, the every loyal gun guy and Goemon, the silent and skilled guy with an invincible sword. Fujiko Mine is the fem fatale that either joins with their party or has her own agenda so she’s fun. Then there is Zenigata, the infamous IPO officer who constantly chases them. So that group dynamic is good while being challenged in this modern era by creating a different story line with other casts of characters that are starting to stick around too.
The First Half
The first half of Part 6 takes place in London, so it’s continuing the world tour from Part 4 and Part 5. It’s very interesting that Lupin and his gang face off against the current Sherlock Holmes. Why? Sherlock is actually a good guardian of Lily Watson because Lupin might have been involved with Watson’s murder. Plus, there is a mystery about this Raven’s group and a treasure that Sherlock’s rival, Albert from Part 5, was trying to locate for his own good. So there is a decent crime drama throughout the show that builds on some cool details. A very in the present time sort of adaptation that works somehow.
Yeah, I really don’t have much to say against it. I thought that Lupin’s Gang and Zenigata would be overrun by Sherlock Holmes and Scotland Yard, but they actually helped each other a lot. It also helps that Zenigata ran with his own team too because I came to like them a lot. A lot of good time dynamics are going on in these episodes that I just really enjoyed. Everyone felt like they got enough time to shine together. Maybe Goemon, Jigen, and Fujiko felt like they were being held back a bit, but there were stand alone episodes put into the storyline that featured them. Mainly Jigen, but everyone got a piece of pie to eat. Very well thought out and great. If this part ended here, I would have been so happy.
One thing that I feel like the creators of modern Lupin have noticed is that while they can change Lupin slightly to fit their story, he and his gang still have to be somewhat recognizable for those who have watched Lupin for forever. That means they can’t change as much as the people around them can. I think that’s fine. It was fun to see the concerned step dad Sherlock being told that it’s ok for him to go out and solve mysteries again. It was also great to see our cute Lily actually be allowed to solve cases with Sherlock in the end too. That appearance of the young Moriarty points at more mysteries to come. Each of these characters has a relationship with Lupin, but Lupin can fit any role he wants to in this franchise which is why it works.
Before moving onto the second half, I do have to mention some of the creative stand alone episodes in this half. A lot of good story book sort of episodes with a modern twist. It seems like this half of Part 6 had a theme running in the background and it was just a very good one that I liked. Mamoru Oshii got to have his episode based on one of his pretentious novels that he likes featuring our cast and it was fun until the end where the game was ruined. Then there was the two parter holodeck sort of episode where Lupin was transported to pre-WW2 Showa Era Japan where he met some historical figures from that time period. Really had fun with that too.
The Second Half
With all of that comes the second half of Part 6 which, to me, started really strong. A cool lady villain challenged Lupin by outdoing him in a heist and then insulting him for how unsharp he was compared to her. Plus, there was Lupin visiting this mysterious girl who owned a flower shop and this mysterious Lady Tomoe who trained all of them. This was a mystery that brought Lupin into a lot of places across the world and especially some political intrigue in a particular nation too. These are arcs that are intriguing with some creative ideas and complex ideas onto them too. So on paper, all of it sounded good and possibly looked into Lupin’s backstory again.
In terms of execution, everything about it was lacking a bit. At least in the end. There were long stretches of time where Lupin and his gang didn’t do anything while the other named characters did something. Even Zenigata, during the political intrigue arc, was locked in prison while his two assistants Ari and Goro tried to figure out the mystery. Not a bad thing there, but then the execution of that was so flawed too. Then the last part of storied elements were rushed with episodes that left you going “well, what was the point” or the ending where Lady Tomoe appeared and suddenly every single stand alone episode was connected to the plot.
Now, having every single part of these episodes is a bad thing. Or even that intrigue towards Lupin’s backstory or anything else. I feel like the fact that it all connected together in a lackluster manner is what damaged a lot of those bits. Especially since all of it was Lady Tomoe inserting words into Lupin’s brain through every woman he has ever met. That very concept is not too ridiculous for a Lupin series, but it’s ridiculous because Lupin has met many women in his journey. Also, they did the Woman Called Fujiko Mine again where Lupin’s backstory doesn’t matter which is supposed to be a solid point, but it did all of it just worse and messy.
Like I mentioned earlier in this post, Lupin’s backstory didn’t matter in the first place either and the show does know this too. But I don’t think that trying to pull the wool over our eyes to see us figure out more about Lupin’s backstory did anything to us either. There is that sort of meta element that Part 6 has in its conclusion of how it doesn’t matter and Lupin will always be Lupin. In the end, the show didn’t do much with Lady Tomoe either. She was built up as this ultimate badass who has a connection with Lupin and could have been mysterious in some way. All she did in the final encounter was stand in one place and just act like a cliche villain because of mind control. It’s like this show had no idea how to handle her which was just so blah.
What held up this second half a bit more were the stand alone episodes in it. These episodes were just the right amount of meta. Some obviously referential or having fun with the characters in a very interesting media glance sort of way without going too far. The episode of Goemon doing modeling was great because of that. Same with that one girl who created a fan fiction of the Lupin gang during the week they were locked on an island. Or Lupin defeating an AI security system that was designed to defeat them by someone who is in love with Lupin. All three of them have the right amount of wink at the camera without going too far.
So those are my general thoughts on each part. Visually, the show is pretty consistently good looking for the most part. A really good modern character design of Lupin and his other cast members. All including the new side characters in the story too. Some really cool locations for our characters to be in and amazing action direction and amazing when it calls for it. Which Lupin does all the time. The biggest flaw for me was the obvious CG car chases that carry the old fashion sort of energy to them with all the cars bouncing around in cool ways, but it feels off too. But in general, very well textured and excellent all together.
With the way the first half and the second half are not of equal quality to each other, I think the ride is cool. There are some really cool ideas and concepts put into play which makes it a very cool collection of things. Some of the ideas do work out very well and I really dig all of that. Others aren’t as executed as well as they could be or have been done before by other parts of the Lupin franchise much better. Overall, I am glad that I watched more Lupin and that I still enjoyed watching it every week when it came out because even not as good Lupin is good. So with that, I am giving Part 6 a good. Not amazing like Part 4, but it is about the level of Part 6 for me. Please keep up the ideas, people. I wait for more Lupin series going forward.