Content considerations: Mild fanservice (adults); violence.
What’s it about? Master thief Lupin III and his merry crime family make their way to London in pursuit of a legendary treasure, but their plans become complicated when they run into Detective Sherlock Holmes—and he and Lupin seem to have a fraught history.
It feels like any Lupin III premiere review has to start with a listing of fan credentials, so allow me to assure you that I am a damn dirty casual. I’ve seen a couple movies, a few series (mostly post-2010), and have absorbed a fair amount of supplementary information by existing in Vrai’s general vicinity for several years, but I’m hardly what you’d call an expert on the franchise.
We purposely assigned this review to me instead of Vrai to see how Part 6 would click for non-superfans. And while this premiere didn’t exactly blow me away, it’s solidly entertaining and loaded with potential for future storylines. Barring nods to a few new characters added in Part 5, it’s also easy to follow. I’m not sure it’s the most accessible entry point for newcomers (I might direct you to the latest film, Lupin III The First, for that), but if you want to jump in here, I think you’d do just fine.
It’s worth noting that Part 6 technically begins with an Episode 0, but it’s a standalone story intended as a send-off for Kobayashi Kiyoshi, Jigen’s voice actor and the last of the original cast, who has officially retired from the role. Episode 0 is—and I say this with nothing but affection—pure, unadulterated fanservice, packed with meta-commentary and enough shipping material to build a cruise liner. It murdered Vrai and even laid me out for a few minutes. A+, 10/10, Love Story of the Season.
That said, the story proper begins with Episode 1, a fast-paced dash through London that’s one-part car chases and one-part table-setting for an extended arc involving Lupin’s crew, a treasure belonging to a mysterious organization known as “The Raven,” and Sherlock Holmes himself. The focus on set-up makes the episode difficult to appraise on its own, although we can talk general tone and foreshadowing to some extent.
Anyone who’s seen even a little Lupin III knows that its tone can run the gamut from family-friendly caper (a la Castle of Cagliostro) to M-rated noir (a la The Woman Called Fujiko Mine) to anywhere in between—and Lupin himself can be anything from a fatherly outlaw to a selfish creep. As the resident Team Rocket stan, it should come as no surprise that Wacky Crime Family Lupin is my favorite version of the character and franchise, though I acknowledge the merit of the more mature material if it’s done with care and not just grimdark shock value.
So where does Part 6 fall? Somewhere in the middle, I’d say. There are a few deliciously silly moments in the early going (Lupin’s car doing a cartoony barrel roll had me clapping with glee) as well as some warmhearted scenes between Sherlock and his
stepdaughter ward, Lily. That said, they’re balanced against shady organizations strapping bombs to people’s chests and a growly Lupin glaring at a frightened young girl, to say nothing of the obligatory cleavage shot of Fujiko while she’s working a mark. Whatever happened between Lupin and Sherlock in the past will give us a much better idea of whether this new iteration of “Green Jacket” Lupin slants closer to villain or crime dad, but it’s too soon to say yet.
From a feminist-minded perspective, Lupin III’s effectiveness tends to ride on how it treats its female characters. True to its mid-century crime fiction roots, the show’s women/girls generally slot into “femme fatale” or “damsel in distress,” but sometimes the franchise writes those archetypes with a refreshing enough spin that it’s fun instead of exhausting.
Lily’s cleverness and spunk offer a promising start, though she could slide into “danger-magnet waif” if not careful. Meanwhile, Fujiko is forever toeing the line between “sexy respected rival” and “sexualized two-faced harpy.” At its best, the franchise depicts Fujiko as Lupin’s equal instead of his enemy, confident in her sexuality without being reduced to only her sexuality. Generally I’ve been pleased with how they’ve written her in recent years, but she doesn’t do a ton this premiere, so we’ll have to wait for a better idea of how Part 6 handles her.
Maybe the most surprising element of this premiere, though, is its reimagining of Sherlock Holmes as a kind, sad uncle instead of the usual self-absorbed jackass. Sherlock has taken to solving minor cases so he can earn money to support Lily, who appears to be
his boyfriend’s John Watson’s daughter.
Watson, for his part, is either dead or missing, an incident that is almost certainly tied to Lupin’s previous run-in with Holmes. It’s a reworking of the character that positions Sherlock as more of the hero than Lupin—though with secret organizations in the mix, I suspect it’s a lot more complicated than just “Lupin is the bad guy this time.”
Does a bromance await Fiction’s Greatest Detective and Greatest Thief? Is Watson still out there somewhere hoping his beau will save him? Will Lupin adopt Sherlock and Lily into his happy crime family? Is Zenigata going to get, like, supes jealous about this new inspector honing in on his man? The answers to these questions and more await us in the season’s most stylish fanfic!
And while there are still a lot of “maybes” and “wait-and-sees” in Part 6’s premiere, you can bet I’ll be sticking around for a couple more to see where this crossover goes. The potential is just too potent not to at least test it out.