Monday, 18 April 2011

Lupin III

A master of disguise and professional thief, Lupin the Third will do whatever it takes to steal cold hard cash while checking any hot girls going. If you’re only familiar with the character from his anime incarnations, forget everything you know. Author Monkey Punch apparently wasn’t too keen on Miyazaki’s gentler interpretation of the thief in Castle of Cagliostro, and ever since that film came out Lupin has been presented with a bit of a lovable rogue that betrays his true origins. Reading this will count as a bit of a shock.

Chapters are generally one-shot affairs with no overbearing plot and expected allies Jigen and Goemon randomly drop in and out with no loyalty between them while cop Zenigata is more hardboiled than buffoon. Rather than saving and seducing the dames, Lupin just drags women into bed at every opportunity. Making no apologies Lupin is more likely to stab, shoot or blow his enemies up rather than give them a second chance. This is noticeably edgy stuff with a merciless streak that is completely at odds with more modern interpretations. The outlandish slapstick humour still remains but the starkly harsher outlook could will put many readers off.

Also not helping the series is scratchy artwork that is frequently poorly reproduced throughout the volumes. This is probably an issue with inadequate source material, but as a manga that is sometimes difficult to follow due to unusual panelling this can act against it. It’s just a bit of a shame as when you stop and look at the dense crosshatching and warped backgrounds it becomes apparent that Monkey Punch is a hell of a draftsman. Style over substance where this series is coming from as it combines murder, double crossings and slapstick humour and coats it all with an unapologetically sleazy shtick.

With Tokyopop recently announcing that is will cease publishing manga, looking back on its old catalogue digs up quite a few worthy titles. Lupin III is a risky choice for any publisher due to its ago and unusual style. To be perfectly honest Tokyopop’s later output contains very little approaching this sort of individuality (the recent anomaly that is Neko Ramen is both surprising and welcome), and the overall lack of diversity in its range is disappointing. These days only a few of the 14 original volumes are readily available, but as the chapters are self-contained I’d its worth grabbing any of the volumes if you fancy taking the risk.

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