What? A Prequel?
My sphere of conversation that I see on twitter was kind of baffled by the idea of Lupin and Jigen as kids. Especially since Lupin doesn’t need a backstory for it to exist. We only need Lupin and his gang to be gay and commit crimes. The fun of Lupin is that every episode is a different sort of adventure. Even Part 6, which was decent but not amazing, started digging deeper into Lupin’s backstory in a similar manner to how it happened for Fujiko in The Woman Called Fujiko Mine by saying his origins didn’t matter in the end. So it felt like this entire ONA didn’t have to exist at all and yet here it was.
Of course, this short series had a lot more going on then that. In a bit of a spoiler towards my opinion, it was really good. It captured the original feeling of Lupin III Part 1 with its opening that used music from that part. The show even used the Megalobox method of lowering the resolution of newer animation to make it look older. You know, on top of modern animation with CG and other things. It also helped with the older character designs used too for the complete feel. It looked pretty good honestly with barely noticeable cg. I enjoyed the visuals just as much as I enjoyed the writing.
Jigen and Lupin as kids
Lupin Zero is a six episode series that takes place in the 1960’s. So Japan is still occupied by the United States which is an important detail for this entire ova. So where is Lupin now? He is a bored, rich teenager that goes to school. He also has thieves skills which is what fulfills some of his boredom. Also, Jigen goes to this school for some reason and he smokes a ridiculous amount of cigarettes every day. Oh, he brought his gun to school. So Lupin sees something interesting about Jigen and instantly wants to recruit him for fun. Of course, this involves them getting involved in a heist along with meeting a pretty girl named Yoko.
So that is the journey of this short series. Not just Jigen and Lupin gaining a level of trust that is impossible to break for however long they work with each other. There is also a force that wants to push Lupin into having a normal rich person’s life. Same with Lupin II and the bad ass servant he left behind to watch over Lupin, Shinobu. Sure, some episodes are Lupin and Jigen just hanging out which are great, but the entire show is Lupin finally gaining that sense of freedom. He doesn’t to be some rich kid, he wants to be out there and living his best life by going where he wants and doing whatever he wants. At the end of the day, he defeats his father Lupin II and becomes the soon to be infamously known Lupin III.
Wonderful World Building and Conflicts
Yeah, this show was so much better than I thought it would. Lupin the third is tied to a certain time period in anime history. Especially since Lupin III Part 5 and Part 6 try to push Lupin into the current time period with some talk of technology. So Lupin Zero plays into that a little bit by not usually the usual Japanese School we see in anime, but one that would be time period accurate. Same with, as I talked about already, a time period accurate representation of Japan currently occupied by the US Military. Especially since we see an underground whiskey trading system that the army was exploiting for extra profits. This occupation even plays into the final conflict of the show.
The other Lupins, Lupin I and Lupin II are also important parts of this story. Sure, we see the cape and hat of Lupin I from The First movie. There is some internal consistency with what the newer franchise is trying to accomplish, but it matters in the long run. Especially since legacy is also a part of this ova’s conflicts. Lupin I with his harem of women and his game of taking a younger candidate’s heart while Lupin II spends it helping and protecting young Lupin where he can. So there is a generational conflict in the mix of everything. That’s why the whole drama of young Lupin taking the mantle of Lupin III has more weight to it. Of course we know he’s going to take the title, what matters is the circumstance of how he does it. It’s good writing.
Good Lupin Franchise Fanservice
So with that world building that does so much leg work into Lupin Zero, the show really spends a lot of time just hanging around with Lupin and Jigen. Jigen may be almost as crusty as an adult from all the cigarettes he smokes, but he is still a kid working on growing up and finding his place in the world. Lupin is the same way and seeing the two do kid things like planning small level schemes or trying to find a place to build their base inside their school gives them so much more character, just being Lupi and Jigen but younger. The fact that Lupin Zero cares about them so much is the key to why this is such a short but great ONA series.
This was honestly the best new Lupin thing, on a chronological basis, that I’ve seen since Lupin III Part IV. That was the part which pulled me into Lupin in the first place. So when I say that this is almost as good as Part IV, then you know that I really like this ONA series. It has so many good ideas and is written well enough to just carry all of them while keeping with the energy and passion that a Lupin franchise needs to have. Such an easy recommendation to people who are already into Lupin III. You know, if you guys haven’t watched it already. Otherwise, I think people not as attached to the Lupin franchise would enjoy it. It just isn’t the usual Lupin experience though.
Wow, sounds really good! This series has been sitting in my To Watch List for a while now, I really need to get around to watching it. I’m usually a fan of seeing characters I already know and love in their kid form, so just for the joy of seeing a mini Lupin would be enough for me, but to hear that it actually has a good story too? Count me in!
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