I spied this most excellent video overview of the original 1971-72 Lupin III television series ("Green Jacket"), and thought this would make an excellent conversation piece as we start up the hype machine for this spring's hotly-anticipated DVD release of Lupin Series One. If you're not familiar with the original Lupin anime, this video does a very good job of covering all the major points.
I'm a great fan of Lupin Series One, so you know I'm going to be the first in line to pick up several copies. In a lot of ways, it's the best Lupin, the purest, the most honest, probably the closest to the spirit of the original Monkey Punch comics. Indeed, many of the early episodes are ripped straight out of the comic book pages. This was very much a landmark anime series, the first of its kind aimed at a more adult audience, and the early episodes are laden with hardboiled plots, violence and sex. There's also a great attention to detail on machines, cars, and guns - this is the mark of series mastermind Yasuo Otsuka.
There's a clear divide between the early episodes, directed by Masaki Osumi, and the later episodes, which were directed by Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, who had just escaped from Toei Doga. Each strain of the series has its good and bad moments. I think the transitional period, around episodes 8-10, are probably the best, as they contain Osumi's gritty, violent vibe, matched with the slapstick wit and more more confident pacing of the Takahata/Miyazaki team.
Lupin III never had the time to really find its groove, and there is an uneven quality across its 23 episodes. The first couple episodes are a bit rough, and a couple of the latter ones are too silly and goofy. But there are some spectacular episodes throughout, and the series goes out on a high in its final episode. Personally, I think the Series One finale is a better episode than the much-loved Series Two finale, "Farewell, Beloved Lupin." There's a sense of chaotic fun in this original series, and once the characters gelled, they were perfect. For some reason, they remind me of the cast of Seinfeld. Yeah, that's right - Lupin III is Seinfeld with guns. Print that on the box, Discotek!
So what are your thoughts on Lupin III Series One? Do you agree with the video review's take on the series? What's your take on the Charlie Kosei's jazzy musical score? Personally, I love it.
At some point, I want to write detailed essays on all 23 episodes of Lupin III...but I really should get Future Boy Conan finished first. We'll get to work on all of these things, kids.