I’ll give a lot of credit to TMS for the work they did on this updating of the Lupin III franchise. The soundtrack (produced by Watanabe Shinichiro) was superb, and the visuals were quite unlike anything I’ve seen in the last couple of years. But taken as a whole, I have to rank the series as a disappointment considering the number of talented people who worked on it. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but the episodes personally written by Okada Mari all seemed to suffer from the same problems – and pairing her with a similarly talented but undisciplined and fetishistic director in Yamomoto Sayo was probably a bad idea.
I will say again that I’m not such a fan of the Lupin franchise that I’m particularly offended with Okada taking her usual liberties with convention – that’s license, more or less. And I enjoyed most of the first 9 episodes pretty well – it was a bit of a rollercoaster, but most series are. It’s when we got to the ponderous and silly (even by Lupin standards) plot that Okada crafted to tie it all together that the series pretty much checked out for me. There was some fascinating moments watching Okada psychoanalyze herself on screen during the final arc, and some of the psychedelic imagery was pretty haunting. But even for a poser to the franchise like me, the whole concoction didn’t feel remotely Lupin.
I’m sorry to those of you who’d like a little deeper analysis, but I think it’s kind of a zero sum game. The folks who liked the way Okada handled the series aren’t going to be convinced by the likes of me, and I don’t find it especially fun to heap criticism on a series (unless it’s one I truly despise, like Blood-C). I just feel sad that the mind that gave us the likes of AnoHana and the Hourou Musuko adaptation (with a lot of help in both cases) seems so caught up in chasing her own tail that all sense of perspective seems to have gone missing from her writing. Writing is a personal thing, I’m certainly not denying that – but what Okada is doing comes off more as masturbation than writing. It’s not all about respect for the franchise – though I don’t think that should be totally discounted – as it is placing your own niche interests as a writer in some context with the universe you’re writing about.
In any event, Lupin is more than Okada – to the extent that any modern Okada series can be – so full credit to the excellent cast and animation directors, who really did give us some memorable moments. It was a lot of things, but Mine Fujiko was never boring and always interesting to the eye and ear. It’s also a great set of characters, when they’re allowed to behave like themselves. This show has also kindled an interest in me to go back and look at some earlier Lupin material, to see how it plays for me now that I have many years of watching anime under my belt and this incarnation to judge it against. I’ve changed a lot since I watched a Lupin series (or the Ghibli efforts) and I’m sure I’d perceive the material differently now. Judging from the ratings it seems that interest in this series has dropped off dramatically in the last few weeks, but hopefully there are others who have the same reaction – I’d like to see Mine Fujiko end up as a net positive for the franchise as a whole.