One series that’s long been beloved by fans is Lupin the Third, the manga-and-anime that’s been a part of Japan’s popular culture for more than 50 years. The story of the gentleman thief Arsène Lupin III, his gun-toting sidekick Daisuke Jigen, sword-wielding samurai Goemon Ishikawa and the sexy femme fatale Fujiko Mine is one of Japan’s beloved franchises. I thought I’d write a guide on the ten best Lupin the Third works that you should totally watch!
The History of Lupin the Third
Created in 1967 by Japanese manga artist Monkey Punch, Lupin the grandson of a thief from a popular series of French novels created in 1905 by French writer Maurice Leblanc. Because the artist didn’t get permission from the Leblanc estate to use the name, this caused Lupin’s name to be changed in international releases, though the original copyright has since expired.
There have been six official Lupin the Third series, with Part I beginning way back in 1972, part II in 1977, Part III in 1984, and Parts IV and V coming in recent years. There was also an experimental series called A Woman Named Fujiko Mine done in 2012, focused on the character of Fujiko and what traumas and experiences lead her to become the woman fans know today. In addition to the broadcast TV series, there have been many movies and two-episode OAVs. I’ll pick the best ones to show you in this post!
In general, the closer anime works stay to the original manga by Monkey Punch, the darker and “dirtier” the stories are likely to be, with cool plots in which Lupin takes bloody revenge against those who deserve it or makes a blood pact with Fujiko that each will kill the other rather than allow them to be taken alive in a dangerous situation. There’s also plenty of nudity and sex in Monkey Punch’s stories, too much for broadcasters’ comfort at the time in some cases.
Lupin the Third back in the Monkey Punch era was a lot darker and more sexual than later series. pic.twitter.com/HNkAo67JdH
— Peter Payne (@JListPeter) October 30, 2020
The 10 Best Lupin the Third Series and Movies to Watch
Whenever we’re confronted with a series that been ongoing for longer than most of us have been alive, it can sometimes be daunting to know where to begin with it. It’s kind of like wanting to get into Doctor Who, but not knowing the appropriate place to start. So enjoy this guide to the best Lupin works!
Lupin the Third Part IV: The Italian Adventure
An outstanding series that updated Lupin in a more modern setting, it had gorgeous visuals and a story set in Italy. It featured some bold new characters, including Lupin’s bride Rebecca, a bored heiress who wants to be a thief like Lupin, plus Nyx, an MI6 agent who’s clearly patterned after James Bond.
(The most recent series, Lupin the Third Part V, was also good, though I was less of a fan of the way it tried to update the story more than needed. Lupin stealing cryptocurrency, really?)
A Woman Named Fujiko Mine
I really enjoyed this show by genius writer Mari Okada, which was focused on the life of Fujiko and what experiences made her the character we all know. It was dark, featured tons of nudity and sexual themes, and represented a nod to the original concept created by Monkey Punch.
The Gravestone of Daisuke Jigen
A continuation of the darker, more gritty Lupin began in the above series, this is a two-episode set of OAVs which technically counts as a film (as it was released in theatres) that details the death of Jigen. With tons of violence and nudity, this is one of my favorite installments of the Lupin series.
Goemon’s Blood Spray
Continuing the above darker series, this is a two-episode OAV focused on Goemon. When an assassin kills the syndicate boss that Goemon is protecting then defeats Goemon himself, he goes on a bushido journey. This show featured gorgeous animation, and the best character design of Lupin and Fujiko I’ve ever seen.
The third (so far) of the dark-and-awesome two-part continuation of the Woman Named Fujiko Mine re-imagining, it focuses on Fujiko’s attempt to rescue a boy who’s being hunted by a terrible assassin, who Fujiko must defeat.
Lupin the 3rd vs. Detective Conan: The Movie
A crossover between Lupin and the popular Detective Conan series.
Lupin the 3rd (2014 Live-Action Film)
Anime fans famous love to hate live-action adaptions of popular anime, but there are many reasons why they keep getting made. And sometimes they’re downright awesome, like the 2014 live-action film featuring Shun Oguri in the lead role.
Lupin the Third: The First
A CGI film released in 2019, it was a fresh new way to enjoy the series. While I famously hate poor-quality attempts to convert 2D anime into a 100% CGI by anime studios, I found this version to be perfectly acceptable, with visuals that were their own thing, without trying to capture the exact visuals of hand-drawn anime. I recommend this show a lot.
The Castle of Cagliostro
Finally, what can only be called the single “best” Lupin the Third work, the legendary 1979 Castle of Cagliostro film, in which Lupin does battle with the powerful Count Cagliostro in order to save young Clarisse from a forced marriage. It’s frankly one of the best anime films ever made and helped make Hayao Miyazaki a household name. It’s regularly broadcast on Japanese TV, and I even attended a showing of the film with a live orchestra performance with Mrs. J-List.
Thanks for reading! When and where did you come to know and love Lupin the Third and all his friends? Tell us below or on Twitter!
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