Episode 20, "Viva Lupin III"
Synopsis: Shake Hands is in turmoil as governments of the world clamp down on PeopleLog to prevent leaks of classified information. This is the perfect time for Lupin, with allies past and present, to strike at their HQ once again. The plan is complicated by the US military doing some striking of their own, so our favorite felon has to be fleet to uncage Fujiko before everything collapses. Albert, meanwhile, has his own designs on PeopleLog's resources, and Fujiko demands the answer to her important question. A mask flies off as the clock winds down for this fantastic Lupin series with one last hurrah!
One of the things I've enjoyed so much about Lupin III Part V is its reverence for the history of Lupin, acknowledging what's come before it, but without trying too hard to hammer out what happened when for some definitive timeline. It's sort of like Grant Morrison's Batman run, but without all the metaphysical/meta-textual cosmic bullshit. Just in this episode we get a cameo by Diana from Pursuit of Harimao's Treasure, a reference to Castle of Cagliostro (in Jigen's "YATTA!" pose), a little bit of Rebecca Roselini from Part IV, and a possible reference to Farewell Nostradamus (in that Lupin has to slide down a slope to escape a collapsing building). We also get cameos from various characters from throughout this series. This could have been an awkward mish-mash of references and inside jokes if it didn't have a well-scripted main story to focus it, and fortunately it had it in spades. That's what does the franchise justice. Less Die Another Day and more Skyfall.
One of the central, ongoing themes of this series was the advancement of technology and the increasingly shrinking window of anonymity and privacy. Sure, if you want to prevent people from scamming you, if you want to find somebody who's missing, if you want to connect all sorts of people, the internet and social media are practically the gold standard, but it's a double-edged sword. Even though Lupin manages to shut down PeopleLog so he can once again disguise himself on heists, he knows that Enzo, or somebody else just like him, is going to make something just like it in the future, so he'll have to stay on his toes. Even if he might be outdated, he wants to see what happens next, as he said in the previous episode. There are no real answers in this finale, and maybe that could be seen as a strike against it, but the fact is, there's no answer to it in real life, either, and it was clear the writers weren't trying to propose a resolution to the connectivity-privacy conundrum.
We get a resolution to the rift between Ami and her father, whose tunnel vision over PeopleLog has distanced himself from his daughter. He wanted an an all-knowing program so he could feel comfortable, because he can't stand not knowing things, but he didn't even know who his daughter was because of his obsession with knowing Lupin's secrets. But despite his insistence that he'll build a better PeopleLog, he almost seems relieved at the end, because his obsession was keeping him from acknowledging Ami. Maybe there are more things for him to learn, even if he knows Lupin's big secret. At least Ami was able to have a somewhat happy ending, still admiring Lupin. As she says, she wants to know everything about him, but she also wants him to keep surprising him. And even though we get a message of "Lupin and the gang never change", we all want to keep seeing what new situations they'll get into, because the world has changed.
I think what may have made headway into progression for the core group is Lupin's relationship with Fujiko, which seems a bit more intimate now. She acknowledges that perhaps if they tried settling down, the thrill would go away. However, at the same time, she's tired of guessing at what defines their relationship. She does have a nasty habit of backstabbing him for treasure, but maybe it's because she recognizes that the immature Lupin actually likes the ambiguity of their relationship. It's that never ending ambiguity that is both a constant and a wild card. Whatever he revealed about his "true face" to her appeared to placate her for the moment, but it felt like they were turning a page in some way. Is he committing to only her exclusively? Is he showing her a side that he'd only let her see? Or is it that Lupin is just who he is, Lupin, and you have to take him as he is? Whatever it is, the two are closer in the finale than before. It'll be interesting to see if this goes anywhere, should there be a Part VII.
Speaking of the future, Albert was quick to take advantage of the situation by taking Ling into his private custody. He's looking at the long game, and he believes Ling will be useful in assisting him in his ambition to control a country (whether or not it's France or somewhere else is up in the air). It's probably why he helped Jigen in the previous episode, so he could help ensure the events that lead to this opportunity. Albert is somewhat respectful of Lupin at this point, but he still has different goals, and I'm hoping we get at least a movie, if not another season, to see where that path leads. He's definitely miffed that the only car he could find to leave the scene was Lupin's beaten up one. Hey, at least he doesn't have to hoof it like Lupin.
Lupin III Part V may have been my favorite Lupin TV series, though it'll probably be a few more watches through before I can decide on that. Its plot lines didn't always land well, and a couple of the standalones were weak, but that it painstakingly wove together so many elements of classic Lupin, while adding its own, unique signature to it, made even the weakest parts worth watching. It was gutsy enough to ask questions about the very fabric of Lupin adventures while still being entertaining and not naval gaze too much as to remove all the fun. This final episode is a master course in how to do Lupin right, not by pitting him against the supernatural as some stories do, but by having him face the onward march of time itself. Even if he'll probably always look as young as ever, the series' wrinkles gave it just the right character.
Viva Lupin III!
5 out of 5
Lupin The 3rd Part 5 can be watched on Crunchyroll