How I’d Reboot the Lupin Franchise
I’m starting to look over the upcoming fall anime series and show I’d most want to see is the one I don’t think will be (at least for right now) – namely, a fourth Lupin the Third series. Scamp, over at The Cart Driver, reminded me that it was announced that this fall’s Lupin project was going to be yet another TV special but I had already decided that the lack of publicity that would surround a new Lupin series meant we still weren’t getting a TV series. They could still surprise us and pull a Kyoto Animation but I’m not sure how fans would take watching Lupin commit the same crime 8 times over with the only difference between the eight being what Fujiko wears.
Which is disappointing but so is the thought that even if we would get a new Lupin TV series, the people creating it would be the same people who do such a sub-par job on the yearly TV specials/movies that we’ve been subjected too over the years. What the Lupin franchise really needs is a reboot and I feel the need to display my limited understanding of how anime operates so here’s my idea . Constructive dissenting opinions are always welcome .
For me, the first step in a Lupin reboot is picking the right animation studio to handle it; every studio has its strengths and weaknesses that would shade the resultant product. For example, a Bones Lupin would bring serious animation quality but they’d also pace the show poorly and make a mess of the ending. A Kyoto Animation Lupin would be even better animated but there’d be no fan service involved which for a womanizer like Lupin would lessen the characters in the anime. A ZEXCS Lupin would be completely average and forgettable. A Sunrise Lupin would somehow involve lots of mecha and pretty much be a train wreck with a slight chance of being awesome anyways. A Shaft Lupin would be an interesting visual exercise but it would only be 90% done when aired on TV and Lupin isn’t the type of character that I think they could get right. Let’s not even imagine what Studio Deen would do with Lupin. A Gainax Lupin would be awesome because they understand the importance of over-the-top absurdness needed for Lupin and there’d be great animation but Gainax seems to only really shine with original material with it’s poor history of adapting material vs. anime like Gurren Lagann, Panty and Stocking, FLCL, etc..
The choice is actually pretty clear, especially with their recent adaptation of Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera – it’s Brain’s Base. They can do a wide variety of series types from the slow, contemplative Natsume Yuujinchou to the bloody, action-packed Baccano to the fast-paced, gleefully fan servicey comedy of Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera. Their stuff always has high production values and picking Brain’s Base means getting their number one director – Takahiro Oomori – to direct.
As for the rest of the staff, I just don’t know enough to make a pick/educated guess at who’d best be writer, animation director, music, series composition, etc. so let’s move on to voice actors. I do think it’s time to get newer, younger seiyuu to voice the main characters in Lupin. For, one, because the current ones that have been doing the voices since the beginning will eventually reach a point where they can’t work anymore and, two, because if Dr. Who can switch it’s main character every couple of years – anyone can – and, three, new actors would bring new quirks to their characters.
For the role of Lupin I can think of two choices: Daisuke Ono and Mamoru Miyano with Mamoru Miyano being my first choice. He’s currently voicing Okabe aka the Mad Scientist in Steins;Gate and he also recently voiced Takuto in Star Driver. Both of these roles showcase the energy, the Sauvé, and the range of emotions needed to bring Lupin to life. Daisuke Ono would give Lupin an interesting new twist and he’d be convincing as a lady’s magnet but he’d probably end up making Lupin too much of a smarmy basterd (think Itsuki from Haruhi).
Behind Lupin the most important vocal role of Lupin is arguably that of Zenigata, Lupin’s nemesis. Zenigata has to sound like a manly, tough-as-nails police detective, be able to do comedy, must have the ability to make his “LUPIN” scream memorable and needs to be loveable. Best known as voicing Zoro from One Piece, Date from Sengoku Basara, and Mugen from Samurai Champloo – Kazuya Nakai would be my first choice. My second pick would be Katsuyuki Konishi whose best known as voicing Kamina from Gurren Lagann but also was a treat as the kendo teacher in Bamboo Blade.
Of nearly the same importance as Zenigata is Fujiko – female thief, sometimes ally and sometimes enemy of Lupin and the sole major female role in the franchise. For this role I had two names that instantly jumped out as possible choices. The first was Aya Hirano. I follow seiyuu news enough to know there’s a lot of drama surrounding Aya Hirano but she remains a stellar seiyuu. She’s best known for her role as Haruhi in Haruhi and also probably as Katja, the sadist ojousama in Seikon no Qwaser. She’d be perfect in the role of wrapping Lupin around her finger. The second name I thought of was Chiwa Saito. Her signature roles are Hitagi from Bakemonogatari and Homura from Puella Magi Madoka Magica but she’s done everything from Tama the talking cat from Kamichu to Stella from Arakawa Under the Bridge to Lavie from Last Exile. She really displays a wide range to her vocal talent and could infuse Fujiko with any emotion or wile she needs to the successful female thief.
The final two reoccurring roles, Jigen and Goemon, were tougher picks to nail down since in Jigen’s case I couldn’t get the English dubbed version of Jigen out of my head and Goemon just doesn’t talk enough. It was tough but I eventually decided on Tooru Ookawa as Jigen. He’s currently voicing the only redeeming feature of Sacred Seven – Hellbrick and has voiced Dr. Ozaki from Shiki, Gedächtnis from Fireball (Charming), Brian Roscoe from Gosick, and Arawn from Tears to Tiara. As for Goemon, I had to go with Keiji Fujiwara. He’s voiced the Kappa from Arakawa Under the Bridge, Ladd Russo from Baccano, Maes Hughes from FMA(B), and Jake Martinez from Tiger & Bunny.
Okay, we’ve got the animators, staff and vocal actors, now it’s time to look at the show itself.
I’m not actually familiar with the source manga so I can’t comment on how important it is to stick to source material but there are several things that one can infer upon watching a fair amount of the animated Lupin franchise. For starters, even though the newer Lupin specials appear to take place in modern times, it’s really just a whitewash over the older, original 60’s – 70’s time period. So the question is whether Lupin should be left in 1970’s or should to be fully brought forward to contemporary times.
With Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera Brain’s Base kept the show in the 1970’s and it worked for that anime. Then again, that show seems deeply intertwined with that time period and I’m not sure they could have brought the show forward and kept it’s comedy intact. For a Lupin reboot, keeping the show in the 1970’s would be a possibility as well. It’d have the nostalgia factor and it would easier to explain why Lupin never gets caught in the era before today’s omnipresent security/surveillance state but I think doing that would sell Lupin short. He’s Lupin, the international gentleman thief; I don’t think the Department of Homeland Security would scare him or stop him. So, I definitely think Lupin should fully update itself into contemporary times.
Another point that assuredly starts with the source material of Lupin is it’s fast-paced, over-the-top absurd action. This most definitely needs to be kept in a Lupin reboot since it’s a hallmark to the series but that’s not to say a new TV series should follow the caper-of-the-week setup that was the norm in the older series (at least from what I’ve seen). Assuming a reboot would be 26 episodes long (with future sequels if the sales warrant) the series should focus on maybe 5-8 distinct heists and introduce a wider variance between the arcs. Maybe they could develop a reoccurring criminal nemesis to Lupin or have the various organized crime groups that Lupin has stolen from in the past band together and hire an assassin to kill Lupin or maybe have Zenigata finally capture Lupin and Lupin is employed in cases like freeing hostages from a tin-pot dictator instead of being imprisoned or he can match wits with international secret organizations like Nazi groups still hidden in the jungles of South America or we could get some back-story and deeper characterization on the main characters. It probably would be a blast to see a flashback to Lupin’s first job. The resultant additions need to be carefully done so the overall show isn’t bogged down but it’s entirely possible to balance the two sides with the right group of staff.
I’d also keep the “spirit” of the show the same. I wouldn’t monkey with Lupin and do something drastic like dropping the age of the main characters and shifting the show into a high school setting. Nor would I sanitize the show; that means keeping the smoking, the gun play, and the fan service.
And the final piece to my Lupin reboot would have Lupin wear the red jacket – he just looks the best in red. Now if you’ll excuse me, all this talk of Lupin makes me want to rewatch some Lupin.