Something to note with these movies: while they’re technically in order just to keep the list convention afloat, I sort of think of these films as an amorphous blend of “First.” Each does a component of what I value in fiction incredibly well, or speaks eloquently on a personal level. It feels especially unfair to rank them. But! Here we go anyway.
Or: Probably the Only Time You’ll See Hayao Miyazaki Compared to Frank Miller
Spring season is finally bringing us a new installment of Lupin III, dear readers. As much as I adore The Woman Called Fujiko Mine (and I do, emphatically), it was quite the departure for the series’ established MO – a contained, stylish thought experiment and deliberate period piece rather than a fast-and-loose adventure story with a consistent core cast. Meanwhile, the new “Blue Jacket” (premiere date undetermined at time of writing outside of the general spring 2015 timeline) seems set not only on returning to the adventure of the week formula but in finally updating the thief to the modern day – and I’ll be particularly interested in seeing how deep that goes. Annual Lupin specials might have had modern tech interludes (who can forget the oddity of Goemon using an iPhone), but the character writing has never really felt like it left the 70s.
In fact, while I’ll fight for the highest caliber entries of the franchise’s status as timeless classics, it can be really tough to sell a modern anime fan on getting into Lupin. Part of that’s the age (particularly in the art style), but beyond that I hear over and over again that the amount of content is just overwhelming. We’re talking over 40 years of animation, after all. And it’s not always evident from the outside how loose the continuity between series is – not to mention the many, many different tones and takes over the years, meaning there can be different “best starting places” for everyone. But I think I’ve finally got a way to explain it to people: Lupin III is like Batman.
Not the go-to comparison (that’s usually, off the cuff, “James Bond meets Bugs Bunny”), but it works. Trust me, I can prove it.
Today’s lesson is as follows: there’s nothing like TV to prepare you for the movies, or so the story goes with this week’s episode. If you have an excess of post celebration alcohol (and are of legal age, or willing to tell me such), here’s a quick way to empty it: take a hearty shot every time there’s a visual or narrative motif that will one day be reused in The Castle of Cagliostro, and by the end of this post you’ll be so completely blitzed that an upcoming season of yet more sequels, moe shows, and harems will cease to be such an overwhelmingly depressing concept.
“Hunt Down the Counterfeiter!” begins with Lupin and Jigen pulling off an unusually straightforward car assault, stealing a briefcase full of money from what appear to be their evil twins (it would seem that low ratings were not kind to the character designers). But alas, aside from giving them off-screen time to nab a plane (an honorary drink for Miyazaki’s burgeoning love of flying machines), the briefcase is totally useless: the bills inside are all forgeries, and not even good ones at that. Lupin vows that he won’t rest until he finds a counterfeiter capable of making perfect false bills in order to fool his current rival, Baron Ukraine (who sports an unfortunate ugly shag cut to rival the Count’s, so go ahead and drink).