Lupin III – Part 4: Crime, Italian Style

Among the many classic manga and anime franchises out there, one of the most enduring of the seinen (adult male) demographic is Lupin III, sometimes known as Lupin the 3rd. The franchise is centered around Arsene Lupin III, grandson of a legendary gentleman thief and a master thief in his own right. A master of disguise armed with gadgets and skillful trickery, he is a showman who pulls off master heists and will almost certainly flirt with any beautiful woman in his path. Aided by skilled marksman Daisuke Jigen, modern day samurai Goemon Ishikawa XIII, and the seductive but duplicitous Fujiko Mine, they pull off their expert crimes while pursued by the dogged Interpol detective Inspector Zenigata. Though they may be thieves, Lupin and his team prove to be more heroic as their capers inevitably bring them into conflict with criminals who are far more vile than they are. First created as a manga by an artist under the pen name of Monkey Punch back in 1967, Lupin III has grown to appear in such media as anime, films (both on television and in theaters), OVA (original video animation), and even video games. In fact, there have been multiple main anime series for the franchise, each one marked as a part though ultimately not related to each other. A fourth show can now be added to the line-up, with Lupin III Part 4.

The most surprising news has hit the globe: Arsene Lupin III is getting married. Not only that, he is getting married to wealthy heiress and businesswoman Rebecca Rossellini. Some refuse to believe that such a notorious thief and ladies man would ever let himself get tied down. One such skeptic is Inspector Zenigata, who journeys out to the town of San Marino to prove it. Of course, it turns out to be true. Lupin is indeed getting married. However, he has gone through with the wedding for ulterior motives related to a new crime. He is not the only one with secrets, though, as Rebecca proves to have a wild streak and is seeking to cut loose with heists of her own. Even with these new difficulties, Lupin is taking advantage of his time in Italy, setting out on new scores as his allies have adventures of their own. However, a mystery begins to form that takes hold of Lupin and his allies. Namely, what is the “Dream of Italy” and why does MI6 seem so interested in it?

This latest addition to the Lupin III franchise makes for a fun series.It delivers on the fun that the series has frequently offered, coming up with clever capers that Lupin performs or fascinating character studies for more low-key tales. It takes good advantage of its Italian setting for its stories, drawing inspiration from culture and history for plenty of stories. Whether it is in schemes involving footballers or wine or showcasing the law as handled in Italy, the show is infused with its source locale throughout. Even the music is a delight, crafted by Japanese jazz musician Yuji Ohno. Yuji Ohno has worked upon the Lupin III franchise for a long time, composing plenty of memorable tunes including the franchise’s iconic main theme. His masterful use of rhythm returns once more, making use of the leitmotifs he has made for this franchise in the past along with new tunes that fit the feel and pace of this new series. Of course, the series also features a particular element that stands out among most of the franchise’s various elements: the fact that it has an overarching story told over the course of its run.

One of the things that is a bit of a benefit to Lupin III and its long-running popularity is that it has no real overarching storyline. Most manga or anime series tend to have a singular story that they tell over the course of their entire run. Lupin III is not such a case. It has its main characters, but every series or movie is its own standalone story. Even the previous three main series (not counting the spin-off The Woman Called Fujiko Mine) had each episode as its own standalone plot. The result is that, for such a long-running franchise, a new person could easily jump in anywhere and get into the fun. Of course, sometimes such an approach may seem a little static. A benefit of a longer story, of telling a tale over the course of a show’s run, is the chance for growth and evolution within its characters. That is a benefit this series takes advantage of, being the first main series of Lupin III to craft a narrative over the course of the show’s one season run. It has the fun and the character studies, but also showcases some change and growth. In particular, Rebecca Rossellini grows over the course of the series from being just an adrenaline junkie to seeking a more worthy life as she becomes embroiled in the mystery of the “Dream of Italy”.

Though Lupin III is a franchise that has been around for a long time, it has plenty of places for any new viewer to jump in and become engaged. Lupin III Part 4 is one such starting point, offering the fun and excitement of the franchise with an overarching plot over the course of its one season run.

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