Review for Lupin the Third: Part IV (2015) - Complete Series Blu-Ray Ltd. Collectors Ed
We’ve never really got Lupin III in the UK. Monkey Punch created his lecherous master thief based on the Arsene Lupin novels, made him a direct descendant, and in doing so stumbled on copyright issues that made releasing Lupin here problematic (he was often renamed ‘Wolf’), although the series is big in Italy. To date, the UK releases I have seen comprise the Castle of Cagliostro (Miyazaki’s family friendly take on Lupin), The Secret of Mamo, which was The Prisoner levels of psychedelic and weird, and the recent spin-off, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine was obviously focused on the supporting character, and got quite dark and psychological in its episodes. The copyright issues with Arsene Lupin expired quite some time ago, so it seems strange that we haven’t seen more Lupin III in the UK.
Lupin III debuted in anime form in 1971 with a 23 episode series, followed by a 155 episode second series from 1977-1980. 50 episodes comprised the 3rd series in 1984, and there followed a lengthy hiatus before the Fujiko Mine series in 2012 whetted the appetite for more Lupin anime. This series, Part IV was released in 2015/16, and Part V is currently being broadcast. Of the seven films, we only got the first two, so you can see that of the pure, unadulterated Lupin, we’ve hardly seen any in the UK. That changes now, as we at last get a proper, Lupin III series released here. It’s that fourth series, also known as The Italian Adventure.
I did say that Lupin was popular in Italy. This fourth series actually debuted in Italy in August 2015, and didn’t see a Japanese broadcast until October that year. As it stands, there are notable differences between the Italian and the Japanese versions. The English dub was based on the Italian broadcast version of the show. That is why this initial release from All the Anime is Japanese audio only with English subtitles. If you want the English dub, they’ll be releasing it as an All the Anime webstore exclusive further down the line. If you buy the subtitle version and want the dub as well, keep that proof of purchase, as that will entitle you to the dub version for just £10 from the webstore. NOTE: This offer only applies to subtitled versions bought from All the Anime’s webstore or convention stands, not any other retailer. Incidentally, All the Anime have already announced that they have Part V of Lupin III licensed, the series that is currently airing.
Lupin the Third is the master thief who with his occasional allies, gunman Jigen Daisuke and the sword wielding Goemon Ishikawa has a blast stealing the world’s rarest and most heavily guarded treasures. He also has the occasional assistance of, and occasional rivalry with his long time object of affection, Fujiko Mine. Ever on his tail is his foe Inspector Zenigata. But this time, Lupin’s been tied down to one country, Italy. He’s been tied down even more than that, as he’s married to wealthy Italian heiress, Rebecca Rossellini, and getting unhitched proves problematic. If that isn’t enough, he’s picked up a new foe, Nyx of the British Secret Service.
26 episodes of Lupin the Third Part IV are presented across 4 Blu-ray discs from All the Anime. Note that this is a Blu-ray only release in the UK.
1. The Wedding of Lupin the Third
2. The Fake Fantasista
3. 0.2% Chance of Survival
4. With a Gun in My Hand
5. The Magician’s Left Hand
6. Venice of the Dead
7. Until the Full Moon Passes
8. The Zapping Operation
9. Welcome to the Haunted Hotel
10. Requiem for the Assassins
11. The Lovesick Pig
12. The Dream of Italy, Part 1
13. The Dream of Italy, Part 2
14. The End of Lupin III
15. Don’t Move the Mona Lisa
16. High School Undercover!
17. Lupin’s Day Off
18. The Murdering Marionette
19. The First Supper
20. Dragon’s Sleep Soundly
21. To Hear You Sing Again
22. From Japan With Love
23. Nonstop Rendezvous
24. I’m Going to Get You Lupin
25. World Dissection, Part 1
26. World Dissection, Part 2
Lupin gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these discs. At first glance, this is a glorious anime, offering a retro feel in world and character design, but with modern dynamic animation and direction. It’s an energetic and visually stylistic show that evokes the past while remaining very much of the moment. And for this fourth outing, Lupin gets a change of jacket, now sporting a rich and royal blue. The image is clear and sharp, with excellent detail, and no visible sign of compression. Only... digital banding rears its head, and to a greater degree than you might have expected from a modern anime release. It’s not Steins;Gate or Psycho Pass prevalent, but it is noticeable nevertheless in darker scenes, and with a lot of thievery happening at night, it’s pretty common in this show.
The images in this review were kindly supplied by All the Anime.
The sole audio track here is DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo Japanese with the choice of English and French subtitles, locked during playback. The subtitles are presented in a thin bordered, white font which has the unfortunate tendency to get lost against busy backgrounds once or twice on the discs. Also the theme songs lack subtitles, as well as a couple of moments of dialogue during some of the eye-catches. It’s a shame as Lupin III gets some really nice music, and I’d have loved to have seen the lyric translations to the end theme. The dialogue is clear, the action is presented well, and the characters sound exactly as they should. The subtitles are accurately timed and free of typos.
The discs present their content with animated menus. Any extras with this collection are physical. There is nothing but the episodes on the check discs that I reviewed. It’s a pity as this is one case where even the bare minimum of textless credits would have been appreciated.
I haven’t seen the physical extras or the packaging with this release to comment.
I loved watching this show, although not without reservations. One of the things I love about it is how timeless it feels. That’s helped by the actual Lupin III franchise being some 40 years old now, so placing these discs in my player, I was presented by vintage character designs, vintage characters, but with a modern storytelling ethos and up-to-the-minute animation quality. It’s a type of narrative that we don’t really get in anime any more, and so it feels tremendously fresh, and dare I say it, original too. It is after all a show about anti-heroes, the master thief Lupin III and his gang as they go about their playful larceny, constantly pursued by the redoubtable Inspector Zenigata. Yet you’re always rooting for the thief to get away with it. He’s a playboy, a philanderer, and he’s distinctly amoral, but he’s tremendous fun into the bargain, while the rest of the cast, Jigen, Goemon, and Fujiko Mine are so cool that they could carry shows of their own (and in one case did).
This series of Lupin III also strikes an interesting balance between ongoing narratives, and what is pretty close to an anthology episodic storytelling format. There is a rich variety of tales to be entertained by here, including the two OVA episodes slotted into episodes 6 and 23 in the run. That is also the show’s weak point, the cause of my reservations, as the episode is only as good as the writing, and once or twice during the run, a particular story might have lost my interest, even got my eyelids to start drooping. That’s a legacy of when the story was created, as entertainment in the sixties and seventies were replete with mind-bending perspectives, alternate realities and dream worlds, never my favourite aspect of storytelling from that era, and this series delves into twisted perspectives as well, including the two part finale of the series. For most of Lupin III Part 4, I was on the edge of my seat, but a few episodes put me right to sleep. There may be more hits than misses, but it still drags the experience down a bit for me.
This series is split into two arcs, really, the Dream of Italy arc, which leads into the second half of the series, which is centred on a certain, charismatic polymath whose identity is a bit of a spoiler. Lupin’s Italian sojourn is initiated by the wealthy heiress Rebecca Rossellini who as the series begins becomes Lupin’s bride. It’s all in the aid of a theft of course, but the fact of the matter is that Lupin is still married to Rebecca at the end of the episode, and that drives the whole of this series. Especially as Rebecca is the kind of wealthy playgirl who just loves thrills and excitement, and has decided to become a thief in her own right, one worthy of her husband. And she isn’t ready to have the marriage annulled just yet.
Their paths keep crossing through all 26 episodes, as they occasionally work together, compete, and generally try to tweak each other’s noses. This culminates in perhaps my favourite episode in the collection, I’m Going to Get You Lupin, which somehow turns into a competition as to who can rob more banks, only Lupin is breaking into safes not for money, while Rebecca is breaking in to try to capture Lupin’s heart. It becomes a tit for tat story that fifty years ago would have been a romantic farce starring Rock Hudson and Doris Day.
The story gets even more complicated when MI6 make their presence felt, first when a prince of the realm pays one of Rebecca’s hotels a visit, about the same time that Lupin sets his sights on the necklace of Marie Antoinette. Lupin runs into a secret agent named Nyx who has some serious combat skills and a preternatural ability to calculate the odds. He’s also a little overprotective of his family to a degree that makes him a liability to his employers. Sure enough MI6’s presence in Italy goes beyond protecting the royal family, and their antics are at the heart of the overarching plots in the story.
I’m not going to go into the individual episodes in this series, as I’d be here for a couple dozen more paragraphs. But I have to say that the last time I was so impressed with the quality of the writing, the sheer variety of the stories was when I watched Space Dandy, yet Lupin has a far greater degree of continuity and connectivity to its story arcs. I could happily sit down and watch most of these episodes again right now, they are simply so entertaining. It’s just that when Lupin enters a dream-world, so do I, literally. There’s just something about that particular trope that cures me of insomnia, although your mileage may vary. Alas, that trope comprises the final two episodes in this collection, and one around the halfway point, so neither arc of Lupin the Third Part 4 leaves a positive impression on me. But in this case, given the quality of the rest of the show, it is a small nit to pick.