Whether you have watched the manga or anime of Lupin The Third or not, you must have somehow heard of its classic theme song. The fun-filled and jazzy tunes pretty much conclude the essence of its whole story- a comedian escapades of a master thief and his gang buddies.
Sad news came as Lupin III creator Kazuhiko Kato(加東一彦), also known as his pen name Monkey Punch（モンキー・パンチ), has died at the age of 81 on April 11. But the carefree spirit of Lupin III never dies in fan’s heart.
The following tunes from OP of TV anime Lupin the 3rd Part IV: The Italian Adventure may well remind you of this legendary manga.
Born as the son of a fisherman in Hokkaido, Kato started drawing from a young age and gravitated towards a manga style when he started writing comic strips for his Junior High School’s newspaper. After moving to Tokyo , he work with a doujinshi group of other artists.
He later made his manga debut with a story in 1965’s Playboy School under the pen name Eiji Gamuta(がむた永二). Given the name “Monkey Punch” by the editor from the magazine, the artist quickly came into his own in just two years with the 1967 debut of Lupin III in Weekly Manga Action.
The story of master thief Lupin’s adventures with his gang – gunman Daisuke Jigen, sword master Goemon Ishikawa and sexy beauty Fujiko Mine, as well as a detective, Zenigata – gained massive population worldwide ever since.
▍The Beginning of Lupin III
Originally planned as merely a three-month series, Monkey Punch’s Lupin III became a major hit, spinning out into five cartoons, several animated films, two live-action films, music albums, games, and even a musical. Monkey Punch himself direct the 1996 animated film Lupin III: Dead or Alive.
Beginning in the 1980s, Monkey Punch received honors such as Comic-Con International’s Inkpot Award, Romics’ Golden Romics, the Association of Media in Digital (AMD) Awards’ Meritorious Service Award, and Tokyo Anime Award Festival’s Meritorious Service Award.
In recent years, Monkey Punch had been studying 3D art using CG, and he served as a guest lecturer for manga production at major universities.
▍Popularity of TV Anime and Other Media
The first Lupin III TV anime adaptation premiered in 1971 with only 23 episodes and a second TV series began airing in 1977 with an increase of 155 episodes. In 1984, the third Lupin III television series, called Lupin III Part III, aired for 50 episodes. The fourth series, came out after a decade in 2002, titled Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, aired on NTV for 13 episodes.
The fifth series, Lupin the 3rd Part IV: The Italian Adventure, was created by Telecom Animation Film in 2016 and is set in Italy and San Marino. The sixth anime television series, Lupin the Third Part 5, aired in 2018. It is set in France, the home of the main character’s grandfather and namesake.
It also spawned a media franchise that includes numerous manga, two versions of an animated pilot film, six animated television series, eight theatrically-released animated films, two live-action films, six OVA works, twenty-five animated television specials, two musicals, many music CDs, and several video games.
Although with different adaption, Lupin III–and his gang– have remained essentially unchanged over the years, with different directors emphasizing different aspects of the characters. The basic template, though, remains the same.
While Lupin III and his gang are in a city on a heist of their own, they get swept up into the plans of another gang of crooks searching for another treasure. Foiling those crooks requires dodging the law, beating the crooks to the treasure, helping innocents harmed along the way, and utterly ruining the rival’s criminal empire.
▍A Symbolic Figure of Phantom Thieves
Over fifty years after its creation, Lupin III remains popular, with a sixth anime series airing in 2018. Critical reception of the franchise has been largely positive across its various incarnations, with the appeal of the lead characters being noted as the primary factor of the series’ success.
Lupin III is allegedly the grandson of the famed gentleman thief Arsène Lupin. Sharing the same love of life, adventure, and filthy lucre as his ancestor, Lupin III travels around the world, stealing from the rich.
His clownish exterior hides his impressive skills in disguise, observation, pickpocketing, and scheming. Women are his favorite and his relationship with Fujiko Mine, a sexy and confident trickster, has left quite an impression to fan’s heart.
His agile movement and gentlemanly gesture resemble the famous British agent James Bond, who actually inspired Monkey Punch to develop the character. But Lupin’s fun-loving and carefree spirit defines him from others. His signature red jacket further give him a flashy and sexy impression.
You will always remember his symbolic gesture: sending a calling card to the owners of his desired items to announce his intention to steal valuable objects.
The calling card is indeed a very old-fashioned conceit: the way you’d let people know you were coming by but you never know when the attacks begin. Lupin is obviously no hero, but he is not a villain either. He is a thief, but instead of stealing for personal interests, he steals for the thrills that it provides.
There are so many examples showing that Lupin loves to steal more than actually having the treasure he sought. There have been times he has had what he stole lost or he intentionally threw it away. It appears Lupin relishes more of the challenge of stealing and thus is usually not that upset when he ends up empty-handed as long as he beat the security and stole the object of his desire away.
In fact, Lupin III has set the definition for phantom thieves anime characters. Some example includes Kaitō Kid from Magic Kaito, Thefrom Cat’s Eye and, from the manga of the same title.
They all share the same characters of impeccable manners, charm, courteousness, and the avoidance of physical force or intimidation to steal. As such, they steal not only to gain material wealth but also for the thrill of the act itself, which is often combined in fiction with correcting a moral wrong, selecting wealthy targets, or stealing only particular rare or challenging objects.
▍Modern Version of Lupin III
The 2016 and 2018 TV anime series receives huge success as Lupin III has been brought to life in a modern setting without neglecting the original classic elements.
Modern technology further gives a new look to the series: the Anime Opening of Lupin the 3rd Part IV: The Italian Adventure that is attached above, was actually made to be an optical illusion, amazing 3D effects can be seen if you watch it with one eye covered.
The 2018 TV anime series moves the setting to modern France. While Lupin still uses classic cars and traditional guns like the Walter P38, he also employs the Internet, mobile devices, and other digital gadgets to take on his foes.
Evolution has been made as Lupin changes into a blue jacket and a stronger emphasis is placed on the relationships between the members of the gang. New recurring characters appear, including Ami, a young and skillful hacker, and Albert Andresy, a shady figure connected to Lupin’s youth. The new characters, especially Andresy, largely related to the past of Lupin and give the audience a deeper understanding of the main character.
Efforts can also be seen in the improved animations, and great care was put in portraying real-life objects and environments. The watercolor background has been widely used, which is perfect to convey the melancholy mood. The expanded, theatrical length “episodes” also conveys the happiness and sadness in life, which echoes to audiences of different ages. It also explains the reason for Lupin as one of the longest-lived characters in anime.
For those who want to continue enjoying Mr. Kato’s legacy, the Lupin spin-off film, Fujiko Mine’s Lie is slated to open in Japanese theaters on 31st May 2019. Fujiko takes the center stage of this movie. The plot follows the adventure of Fujiko, a young boy whose late father has hidden away a treasure, and a killer is on the boy’s trail.