Analysis

[Link] The People’s Hero (Some People Not Included): The exclusion of queer viewers in LUPIN THE 3rd PART 5

lupin 2

When I reviewed the premiere for LUPIN THE 3rd PART 5, I said I was disappointed to see that the franchise looked like it was sinking back into the slurry of mediocrity that characterized the late ‘90s and 2000s, interested only in updating the aesthetic sheen without tackling any of the franchise’s extremely outdated ideas (the movies, meanwhile, took all of the grimdark edge and none of the feminist themes from The Woman Called Fujiko Mine). Episode 2 seems to confirm those fears, making a joke out of marginalized fans rather than trying to sincerely include them.

Other recent updates of 1970s anime have made intriguing or downright revolutionary changes to their classic properties: MEGALOBOX’s protagonist is an undocumented citizen, as powerful a subtext in Japan as it is in the U.S.; DEVILMAN crybaby told a story about the oppressed and disenfranchised in modern Japanese society; and Lupin’s own The Woman Called Fujiko Mine reassessed the franchise’s sexism and finally had a female writer and director for the first time in 40 years.

What does Part 5 have? Well, the second episode is cause for much relief by clearly stating that the young Ami is a daughter-figure rather than a love interest (though not until after the premiere got a shot of her panties). And considering its social media gimmick, combined with the opening narration about how Lupin’s freedom and lack of consistent origin make him a “hero,” it seems the series wants to have a conversation about Lupin as a folk hero of sorts, a mutable figure that people everywhere can look up to.

It’s a theme the series has covered before to varying effect, and an understandably appealing one when depicting characters who’ve existed across so many time periods while remaining basically consistent archetypes. But Part 5 has very specific ideas about the audience to whom Lupin is a hero, and it doesn’t seem to include queer people.

Read the rest at Anime Feminist!

2 replies »

  1. Considering enough time has passed since the incident, and as I haven’t found any later post of yours about Part V I need to share. I have been cyberbullied by a Tumblr user back in 2018 over that very episode of part V and your essay on it for having a different view point. The user in question used real life hate crime tragedies as arguments for his opinion, and his dishonesty and violence drove me out of the platform. Subsequent episodes of part V introduce Albert d’Andrézy, the first unambiguously gay character in the whole franchise. And while he begins first as an antagonist (and an enjoyable one at that), he clearly becomes more like the Vegeta to Lupin’s Goku. His sexuality is never mocked, criticised or frowned upon and his boyfriend, while being a minor character, is shown interacting lovingly with Albert. When Lupin jokingly flirts with Zenigata due to Ami’s suggestion of them being boyfriends, he doesn’t do it as an insult towards sexual orientation in itself and while Zenigata strongly denies such a relationship, he is clearly flustered. Finally, near the end of the series Zenigata expresses his intent to have a drink with Lupin and while this sentence is left ambiguous, the remark isn’t mocked either. It has been a rough couple of years because of that bullying and because of it I was feeling being wrong to love Part V. But as I have been discussing with some of my fellow fans and members of the LGBTQ+ community and as they shared my love and reading of it, I felt it was only a question of intellectual honesty to provide an alternative to your case.

    • It hasn’t aged the most gracefully, this one. I still find the episode shitty but it’s nice to see Albert existing. Sorry to hear you’ve had a rough time.

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