Twenty years ago, the Lupin franchise produced its eighth TV special, a mildly entertaining but formulaic affair on the surface. However, there are a subtle and intriguing elements throughout the main story that have kept those steeped in Lupin lore talking about it long after the credits roll. Lupin is visiting Dorune, an ailing crime boss. Our convenient plot device this time is a diamond known as “Twilight Gemini,” claimed to be half of a key to a vast treasure. Dorune hands it to Lupin and off our story goes.
While a typical start to a Lupin story, the relationship between Lupin and Dorune appears to be anything but. Dorune constantly calls Lupin “Baby”, much to Lupin’s chagrin. This seems an unusually personal and storied relationship between the pair, even to the point that Dorune would simply hand over a key to a treasure much like passing along a family heirloom. But, we have no time to ponder this further. We are off to Morocco to find the other half of the key!
What follows is the formula for pretty much every Lupin TV special. Take one villain—a whip wielding assassin named Sadachiyo—hounding Lupin’s every step. Sift in political turmoil where the treasure is. Mix in a young female—Lara, leader of the freedom fighters in Morroco. Sprinkle in liberal amounts of fan service through Fujiko and her conniving ways. Dust the top with token appearances from Goemon and Zenigata. Viola! You have a decent ninety minutes of action and comedy.
Doesn’t sound like there is much there though to keep Lupin fans talking, right? Well, sit back and get ready for a bit of a history / lore lesson. Lupin III was created by Monkey Punch to be the grandson of Arsene Lupin, a master thief created by French author Maurice Leblanc. The original Lupin’s exploits included a brief stint in the French Foreign Legion, exploits that took him to Morocco. Interesting… Especially given various old photos found throughout the special showing a resembles a bearded Lupin III in native attire. And Lara seems to have ties to these photos and to the Twilight Gemini…
Basically, this special appears to be a well crafted homage to the works of Leblanc and a bit of teasing reward to those that have studied those works and the works in the Lupin III franchise. It is heavily implied that Dorune is Lupin’s grandfather, and Lara is quite possibly related in some way to Lupin. But, if you simply walk into this story without any knowledge of all this lore, well, you will still see get a decent amount of entertainment out of watching it.
Another interesting historical note adorns this title. It was the first Lupin title released in the US market by Funimation and was used as an experiment in producing their own “family friendly” version of a title. You could purchase the original, uncut special, but you could also choose a version that was edited and censored. The fan service aspects were trimmed down either through digitally painting over the naughty bits or excising scenes or parts of scenes. Dialog and violence were toned down. It seemed to be a failed experiment, as the next nine Lupin releases from Funimation were all uncut. The special was released one more time in Funimation’s “First Haul” bundle of five Lupin titles. All versions have long gone out of print. But, if you manage to find a copy, or a re-release happens, grab a copy and keep your eye out for the subtle clues about Lupin’s family history.