Lupin III: Green VS Red

I’m a pretty big Lupin fan, but I have to admit– the series hasn’t held up all too well since the 1980s ended. Sure, some of the ’90s specials were good, and Episode 0 was almost a masterpiece, but for the most part modern Lupin productions just… suck. I went into Green VS Red with low expectations, but at the very least expected a confrontation between a green jacketed Lupin and a red jacketed Lupin. And I got that. Along with a lot of other shit.

Before I go any further, let me set the scene: Green VS Red is an OVA meant to commemorate 40 years of Lupin, and to the film’s credit it does this spectacularly. In fact, I’d even venture to say that the entire point of watching this at all is for the sheer amount of Lupin fanservice and general otaku antics. The movie makes excuses time and time again just to make throwbacks to older Lupin works. For example: The film opens with a scene that involves millions of Lupin impersonators wreaking havoc on a city, which reminiscent of an episode from the 1971 TV series. Other bits of Lupin fan-pandering involve a scene in which all the Lupin character designs from the past 40 years are shown side by side, or flashing one after another; a scene with Lupin watching The Castle of Cagliostro; and an amazing 30 second sequence which is animated in Monkey Punch’s signature sketchy and crazy style.

Sadly, the story for this one is just a mess. There’s a bunch of elements thrown out there that, in the end, don’t really come together. It seems they only put a white guy in the movie just so they could have the real life white guy they had in the studio do some bad English voice acting. Similarly, they gave this one Lupin impersonator an afro just so he could look like Nabeshin. And there was a giant robot. No, really.

What saves most of these new Lupin productions are the characters. Even if a Lupin story sucks, these things are least kept watchable due to the series’ charming characters. Sadly, most of them don’t get much screen time. The main focus is on the conflict between Lupin and Yasuo (the main Lupin impersonator, who is named after the late Yasuo Yamada– Lupin’s old seiyuu) while the rest of the characters are pushed more into the background. Fujiko probably gets the least screentime, because I guess they wanted to hide the fact that her seiyuu is something like 70 years old now, and they also wanted to give Aya Hirano’s character more lines.

Fujiko aside (who really doesn’t sound all that bad after 40 years) the rest of the seiyuu have aged pretty well. Jigen and Goemon still sound about the same as they did 40 years ago, and Kurita’s Lupin is fine, but will never live up to Yasuo Yamada’s legendary work. The voice which has probably aged the most is Goro Naya’s Inspector Zenigata. In older Lupin productions, his perforamaces were filled with lots of energy, but these days (or at least in this special) Zenigata sounds very old. It works, though. One thing that’s always bothered me about most Lupin animated things is how Zetigata is often played for a fool. This was not so in the original manga, and I like how they brought some of that back for this OVA. He still gets to yell RUPAAAAAAAAAAAN, though.

I sound like I hate this movie, but it actually wasn’t too bad. If you want some good Lupin fanservice, it’s all here, but if you want a good Lupin story, watch the older stuff. I wish these new writers would stop trying to copy off of the old stuff and just make something that captures the spirit of the old stuff, but tells a completely new story. I understand it’s a tall order, but if they could do it with Episode 0, they could do it again.