3 out of 5
Directed by: Daisuke Sakō, Yūichirō Yano
Lupin the Third Part 5 is, conceptually, perfect: more modernized, sleek, multi-part storylines allow for the larger scope of Lupin’s films, while these are interspersed with standalone eps that are clearly modeled on “classic” Lupin, meaning we get plenty of last-minute kookiness and Fujiko machinations and hammerspace stretch-and-squish gags as well. Lead writer Ichirō Ōkouchi keeps the core personalities and tone well intact, but also tries for a “Skyfall” approach, which should lend itself well to Lupin: bringing the world into the current age of social media and tech, and asking if the gentleman thief has a place in such an age.
Alas, something is off: the standalone hijinks are absolutely fantastic, which the longer stories – which connect – never quite land. The exact formula to juggling longer-form narratives with one-and-done silliness still seems to elude Lupin’s various writers over the last few iterations, although I think Ōkouchi has gotten closest. The introduction of Ami, a young hacker, is a smart addition to the team, but they also wrap her up in a weird romantic angle (from her perspective) with Lupin, which feels unnecessary; Zenigata is kept competent – which I prefer – but he’s also given a “getting too old for this subplot” of an assistant who urges him to stop working on the Lupin case, and it’s firstly too reminiscent of Oscar, while also being ultimately just a distraction, preventing Pops from ever feeling like a very relevant piece of the show. This kind of net zeroing effect occurs throughout: Lupin’s relationship with Goemen and Jigen is explored – another smart way of maturing the show – but the exploration is very surface level, and the trio’s responses to one another too childish to sync with the “adult” tone of the conversation; Fujiko is given more agency to act on her own terms – she’s a wholly separate thief, not part of the gang – and then her character model is 100% sexed up; the inclusion of timely tech – and the way that would foil a lot of Lupin’s traditional methods – is a great idea, but it was apparently so great that Ōkouchi essentially repeated the same general storyline (let’s use social media to track Lupin!) in two of the multi-part tales – and knowingly so, since one of the characters comments on how they already went through this… There are certainly some great moments sprinkled throughout, particularly a really sharp, meta, speech in the penultimate episode that gives focus to what was being attempted, leading in to a grand finale, but the moments that otherwise stick out are the interstitial episodes.
Part 5 is thus, again, Lupin trying too hard to be all things for all its viewers. However, it does fix the herky-jerkiness of jumping between longer stories and singles by keeping the overall vibe more lighthearted and consistent, and that alone is a big step forward. Figuring out how to bring the same energy of those standalones to bigger stories is the next leap – evolving Lupin for its adult audience without assuming that means we need over-complicated twisty-turns (a la Part IV) or the kind of humdrum “real life”-isms of Part V.