"Lupin III" Manga Review

Title: Lupin III
Author: Monkey Punch
Volume(s): 14
Publisher: Tokyopop
Genre(s): Action/Comedy
Rated: Older Teen (16+)

Note: This review was originally published on The Comic Book more than ten years ago.  It is being republished here (in a slightly cleaned up and edited format) for our new site!  As a result, it may not reflect the writers currently writing style (but time was spent on it anyway,so it'd be a shame to completely get rid of it)! Enjoy!

Back in the early 1900's, a french man known as Maurice LeBlanc wrote a series of books about a gentleman thief by the name of Arsene Lupin (Pronounced Lu-PAWN). The reason he was called a gentleman thief was because he always sent his victims a card telling them that he was going to their house to steal their stuff, and that they should get it ready for him or else he would rob them blind. Arsene also wouldn’t rob just anyone; he only stole from rich people who he felt didn’t deserve the riches they had (although unlike Robin Hood, he usually kept the stuff for himself as opposed to giving the stuff to the poor). Later on in the late 60's a man by the name of Katou Kazuhiko read the famous French books and decided to create a sort of “spin off” of the famous thief. The spin off character he would create would be the great great grandson of Arsene Lupin, and he would be known as Lupin III.

However instead of being a gentleman thief like his great grandfather, Lupin III would instead just go ahead with his plan and take what he wanted without giving his victims any warning that he was coming (though there were rare exceptions). Also Lupin III wouldn’t do his gigs solo as he would have his own team to help him along the way. He wouldn’t be a gentleman around women, and instead of being polite to them he would pretty much treat them as sex objects. And after it was all said and done, Katou Kazuhiko created the first fan comic of “Lupin III” under the strange pen name 'Monkey Punch.' At first the idea was to simply get his work out there in hopes that it would catch enough eyeballs in hopes that he could write a real manga for a living (despite the fact that a few of Japan’s best artists started out doing fan created comics, fan comics don’t usually become too popular), and hopefully change his pen name to something more...attractive.

However “Lupin III” turned out to be a huge success, and what followed were multiple TV shows, theatrical movies (including one that was directed by Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki), countless TV specials, spin off manga, video games, toys, and much, much more! Monkey Punch thought for sure that the success wouldn’t last too long, but Lupin III has been popular for almost 50 years now (which also meant he was been stuck with the pen name all that time)! And the funny thing is that the formula for Lupin III hasn’t changed much since it first premiered back in 1967. I'm going to spare you all a story summary for this review, because to tell you the truth “Lupin III” is not a terribly complicated series. Each book is all about Lupin’s plans to steal something of value, how his gang (made up of his gun loving partner Jigan, Samurai friend Goemon, and on again off again girlfriend Fujico) put their master plan in motion, while they try to avoid getting caught by Inspector Zenigata, who is hell bent on capturing Lupin at all costs.

This is pretty much how all the stories go, and the formula hasn’t really changed in 40 years because...well, it works. This may not be the greatest story telling in the world, but the stories in these books are just plain fun! It’s no more complicated then that. If Lupin lasts another 40 years chances are the formula will still be the same. However since this IS an old series that means that some things about these early books may look, feel, and seem outdated...and to tell you the truth some of these stories in the early books ARE outdated! For starters the art is really quite bad. It’s sketchy, it’s rough, the characters in the early volumes look so much alike you can’t really tell them apart from each other when they aren’t addressing each other by name (and even that tends to be no help).

The art improves a little bit as time goes by, but for the most part the art is pretty bad. Another problem would be the humor of some of the earlier volumes. If you were a fan of “Mad Magazine” in the 60's then the humor here will remind you a lot of the humor in that magazine, and to say that “Mad’s” sense of humor was a wasn't exactly 'refined' back in the 60's/70's would be an understatement. It was a very funny magazine, but it was also just as offensive as it was hilarious, and some of the humor in the first few volumes may be considered too risky or sexist to some people(which may turn some people off in these early volumes). So with the outdated art and everything else that's going on in this series, this may ultimately be tough for some people to swallow.

Those who are open-minded about everything may have an easier time swallowing this, but even some of those people may find the stereotypes in the earlier volumes disturbing (think about those old Tex Avery fox cartoons and you may have an idea of what I'm talking about). Those who are fans of the “Lupin III” TV show will find lots to like about this. Those who aren’t fans may still not be even after reading this, as this is just too old to attract new fans to the series. However for fans of the TV series and for those who are looking for some good nostalgia then this will be the perfect series for you...just don’t take this series too seriously (the author certainly didn’t).

Grade: B-

Your Comic Book Guy - Kevin

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