Otaku USA Magazine
50 Years Later, Here’s How Lupin III Has (and Hasn’t) Changed

Lupin III

In 1971, Monkey Punch’s action manga Lupin III got a TV anime adaptation. The manga was only meant to run for a few months… but as we can see, the series has gone on for decades. It’s been a long time since that first Green Jacket installment, to the point that the show turns 50 this year.

A lot has changed over the years… but a few things have stayed the same, too. We’re looking back on the show — including the films and TV specials — to see how it’s evolved since then. And we’re looking forward to more awesome action this year!


What’s Changed: More Family Friendly

The Castle of Cagliostro

In its earliest iterations, Lupin III was far more adult-oriented. Monkey Punch’s manga was unabashedly sexy and violent, and even gave little nods to the audience about it. When it made its way to TV, some things had to change. But it wasn’t until the Red Jacket era that the series began to really tone things down. And then, with Miyazaki’s Castle of Cagliostro, even that original Green Jacket took on a gentler vibe.

Not all fans are pleased with the change, but it’s made the series accessible across the decades.


What Hasn’t Changed: Supernatural Elements

Lupin in a cave of ancient wonders

If you’re looking for believable action, Lupin III is going to be a hard sell. And we aren’t just talking about the gang playing fast and loose with physics.

The paranormal is a common theme in the series and films, at kind of an Indiana Jones level. Whether it’s ancient tech, weird wizards, or time travel, the gang will often find themselves embroiled in the supernatural. Then again, they’re pretty superhuman in their own ways… so it scans.


What’s Changed: Family Ties

Lupin and Jigen in the 21st century

Lupin III tends to stay contemporary… which kind of throws a wrench in the works. The conceit of the series is that our hero is the grandson of Arsène Lupin, Maurice Leblanc’s legendary literary thief. But that doesn’t work as well in 2021 as it did in 1967. It’s rarely addressed, but it’s a fact that our modern-day Lupin doesn’t fit the timeline.

Part V posited that the contemporary Lupin is “the third” to use the name, inheriting it from a senior who leaves the trade. It’s a passing reference, but it explains things away tidily. Meanwhile, 2019’s The First avoided the issue entirely by being a period piece.


What Hasn’t Changed: The Gang

The Lupin Gang... part of it

50 years later, the core five stars of Lupin III are still in place. He’s got his sharpshooter, his samurai, and his lover/rival. And, of course, Zenigata. Can’t forget his best frenemy.

The relationships between these characters have been poked at and explored, but they remain essentially the same decades later. You can enter on just about any movie or special and learn who they are in next to no time. Those enduring relationships are comforting. Times may change, tech may change, but Zenigata will always chase Lupin and Jigen will always disapprove of Fujiko. And, of course, Goemon will cut a lot of worthless objects.


Kara Dennison

Kara Dennison is a writer, editor, and presenter with bylines at Crunchyroll, Sci-Fi Magazine, Sartorial Geek, and many others. She is a contributor to the celebrated Black Archive line, with many other books, short stories, and critical works to her name.