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late ‘90s and 2000s, interested only in updating the aesthetic sheen without tackling any of the franchise’s extremely outdated ideas (the movies, meanwhile, took all of the grimdark edge and none of the feminist themes from The Woman Called Fujiko Mine).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.