Episode 01, "Great Thief vs Lady Phantom Thief"
Synopsis: Master thief Lupin III crashes a marriage ceremony between a cult leader and his mistress. However, he soon finds out that the bride, a woman named Fujiko Mine, is after the same treasure that he is: the secret to a powerful drug the cult uses. The cult leader imprisons them both, intending to execute them. However they both manage a way out of their situation. Lupin suggests they compete for the prize. The two of them both find their way to where a giant statue made of the drug is. The police, led by Inspector Zenigata arrive thanks to a note Lupin sent. The island begins to fall apart, but Lupin has a plan, rocketing out on the statue, with Fujiko close behind. Ultimately, the statue falls into the ocean and dissolves, leaving traces of the drug on the surface of the water.
I love me some Lupin III!
I have to applaud this episode for doing what any other Lupin III TV series has done before: that is, do an episode that establishes Lupin. The first series' first episode was about some criminal organization that had something vague against Lupin and he seemed more like a secret agent in that episode. The second series did a first episode that was a callback to the first series first episode, no heists there. The third series did a pretty mediocre "here we go again" kind of first episode. But this, this has a first encounter, that is the one between Lupin and Fujiko, establishes Lupin and Fujiko as thieves, establishes Lupin's reputation, have an actual incident of stealing, and gives a pretty good view of what the franchise is as a whole. They even throw in the classic Lupin "I'm going to steal X" note.
You've just got to love both Lupin and Fujiko in this episode. Fujiko is not ashamed to use her feminine charm (TITS) and cleverness to get what she wants, but Lupin is also very crafty and gets the better of her on occasion. They're a great match for each other. But the way this episode plays out, Lupin seems very much the main character of this show that supposedly revolves around Fujiko. He's got all the answers, all the moves, and he's the one who comes the closest to claiming the treasure.
There's full-frontal nudity up the wazzoo in this. Even the opening credits depict nipple pinching. It tries to come off as classy and artsy, but it doesn't quite make it. On the other hand, it doesn't seem cheap and tawdry, either. It's not exaggerated much and it seems more seductive, a means to an end.
And just look at the art and animation of Takeshi Koike, the driving (lol) force behind Redline. The character art is very unique, but brings to mind the classic Lupin III manga by Monkey Punch. Lupin has a wealth of expressions, both subtle and wacky, and is rendered in a way that reveals his supreme confidence. They don't shy away from Fujiko's dangrous sexuality, either. Inspector Zenigata, who doesn't do a lot in this episode, looks somewhat intimidating and hardboiled. I love the flare of the animation's movements and how the art changes to reflect the action in it.
The voice acting is rather excellent. I think this is some of Kanichi Kurita's best work as Lupin. He can sound very cool and smooth, but also very silly, and expresses all of that very well. I didn't think he could do this type of Lupin as well as Yasuo Yamada did in the first TV series, but he pulls it off rather well. And Miyuki Sawashiro, still fairly new to the part of Fujiko, came off youthful, vibrant, and sexy. I'm still waiting to hear more of Koichi Yamadera's Inspector Zenigata.
The music is, well, jazzy, but understated. It does help illuminate the mood of the actions, and gives it a classy atmosphere, but it's not really remarkable in any way. I know it's too early to say this, but I kind of miss Yuji Ono. Still, it's not bad music in the slightest. Though it might disappoint those waiting to hear the second TV series theme music.
The whole thing definitely feels a bit like the original manga, or the first TV series. It's got a bit of a sternness to it, a feel of danger. I like it.
4.5 out of 5