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Lupin Zero Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read
It looks great, sounds great, and leaves you with a thoroughly enjoyable experience with replay value.

While young Lupin may not be a draw to some, there’s a lot of fun to be had here in his earliest adventures.

What They Say:
The exploding megalopolis of 1968 Tokyo is a wonderland filled with constant innovations, tempting opportunities, and beautiful girls! Unfortunately for young Arsene Lupin (the Third), his father, Arsene Lupin II, insists that young Lupin stay on the right side of the law and avoid those temptations… even though Lupin III’s Granddad, Arsene Lupin I, the world’s greatest thief, has stuffed young Lupin’s head with the tricks of his nefarious trade!

Then Lupin III encounters similarly trouble-prone schoolmate Daisuke Jigen, and when bad boy meets bad boy, what do you think they’re going to do? It’s the start of a beautiful friendship and the wildest crime spree of all time!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is quite good as we get the original Japanese language in stereo but sadly no English language dub, which would have been a lot of fun to hear. The series is one that uses music and ambient sounds and incidental effects to good use here as there’s almost always something going on, which is made better by the overall score for the series and the fun opening and closing sequences that add even more warmth and richness. The core of the series with the actors definitely works well though and shines the best when you get down to it as they have fun with the roles and it comes across with the lossless encodings that we get here. The show works well with the depth and placement that’s used regularly throughout to set various scenes and moods and that adds to the overall atmosphere in a great way. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2022, the transfer for this six-episode ONA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series, animated by TMS Entertainment, is one that works the design of most shows that have been airing as it looks like full-color manga pages come to life. It’s a dark-looking series at times with some moody areas along the way but it’s filled with a lot of great colors, heavy black lines, and intriguing styles of detail, all of which just look fantastic here during regular playback. The series definitely stands out as being very different and the transfer captures it with nothing in the way of significant or noticeable flaws such as line noise or cross-coloration. Since it has a lot of still scenes and then big movement scenes, the bitrates are all over the map, but when the show gets very fluid, the bit rate keeps up and spikes high to deal with all the changes and fast motion without any problems.

The packaging for this release comes in a standard-sized Blu-ray case to hold the single disc that makes up this series. The front cover artwork is a solid piece used as one of the main key visuals for the series as it gives us a good look at the characters and their designs from this age but also other hints while also playing up the time period in a good way. The logo is pretty solid since it can’t do the traditional one as it’s not using the same name but it stands out in a way that isn’t distracting or contrasts things in a bad way. The back cover provides for some decent character artwork in a small way while also delivering some small shots from the show that add a bit more color against the dark background. The premise is well-covered here and we get a clean listing of both the extras on the disc and the usual production and technical information at the bottom. No show-related inserts are included with this release.

The menu design for this release plays well just in the fact that it uses the Lupin theme song playing over the static screen. Just that opening bit sets such a tone for so many with decades of shows that have used it. The layout is pretty standard fare as we get a large chunk given over to some character visual pieces that look good against the backdrop while the remainder is given over to the menu. Sentai’s approach of listing all the episodes by number and title on the main screen is something I’m still not 100% on board with all these years later, but it works and makes for a quick selection. I like the font they used sticks to the kind of Lupin-ish font these days and we get easy access to everything on each disc. Language setup is a breeze and access times are nice and fast in moving around. Everything loads quickly and the menu works well enough during playback as the pop-up menu.

The extras we get for this are pretty standard stuff that are always welcome but don’t add too much of anything to the experience of the show. The main piece are the welcome clean versions of the theme songs and the fun of the promos themselves to see how the show was marketed prior to its broadcast.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Lupin has been a staple of anime for such a long time now that it continues to simply delight that there are such regular new releases for it. We had mostly just specials and the occasional movie for so long but the other shows have really been killing it over the past ten years. It was just over ten years ago we were watching the Fujiko Mine series and that helped to change the way things were adapted a bit and led to the next few series that brings us to this project. An original net animation that landed in late 2022, this six-episode series is something that could generally annoy people because it goes back to when the characters were young. And I get that, but for me, it’s based on the “Confession Series” of material from the original manga from Monkey Punch and handles updating it and smoothing it all together in a good way so that the original material inspires this so well.

Taking place in the 1960s, that alone hits a sweet spot for me as we get a school-age-era character but one that leans more into the middle/high school period that highlights to me how he’ll be in the coming years. I spent a lot of time reading the original manga years and years ago and that kind of rough and tumble saucy stuff is appealing. You don’t get the saucy side here in that way but it has the hallmarks of the early manga for me with the kind of loose and anything-goes approach that Lupin often takes. The only thing that may frustrate some, depending on familiarity, is that it brings Jigen in very early and makes it a kind of buddy show at times. Which is fine because when you remember that we’re talking about something that’s probably closer to fifteen years after the end of WWII and the occupation and changes going on in the state of the country at the time, having these characters be like they are and act as they do works.

The storyline itself is one that’s fairly twisty and takes it turns across it, but its central premise has Lupin and Jigen getting caught up in events that a woman named Yoko is dealing with. It takes them to interesting locations and we get characters that feel like they step right out of the Castle of Cagliostro in their design at times as well. And it doesn’t hold back from some actual violence and blood either even though we’re dealing with two younger leads. There are dead bodies along the way, Jigen gets a few good shots off with his gun, and accidents certainly do happen. I was glad that they didn’t hold back from that side or some of the lightly pervy moments that come from Lupin himself. You don’t expect him to be quite the lech that we see with how he is with Fujiko in the future, but when we get characters as skimpily dressed here as they are and he being a teenage boy, well, he’s going to play it up once in a while. All the hallmarks are here but it’s adjusted well but not so far as to be unrecognizable. It does come across as pretty foundational in a lot of ways, which leaves it up to the viewer whether they want to see that part of his life or not. It’s not quite so referential as a lot of other modern media in overexplaining things, but you can see elements of it here.

The driving force is always the character dynamics because you want to see them engage with each other. So much of my love of the original works is when all four of the core are together, and Zenigata bumbling along, so losing so much of that here could be a problem. What’s interesting, and I’ve sen others say this as well, is that you have Jigen in more of a supporting role rather than a co-lead buddy film kind of position and that strengthens the bond between them in a good way. There’s the whole story that’s ongoing but they’re not trying to over-devote time to Jigen’s story but rather how the two are together. And there’s a lot to love in seeing how it goes from dismissive and antagonistic at first to something more trusting toward the end. I also absolutely love that we get some time and nods to the Lupin the 1st and Lupin the 2nd, especially in bringing back Toshio Furukawa to take on the latter role. I have a special place in my heart for the Fuma Conspiracy project from my pre-internet and pre-Lupin fandom days so getting a little more time with him in the franchise is a delight. He’s just such a favorite of mine from so many other projects that I wish he had more time to flex in this franchise.

In Summary:
As much as I love traditional Lupin the 3rd material, I love when it tries to do something different. From the CG film a few years ago to the Fujiko Mine series, when it expands and tries new things it delivers intriguing experiences. Lupin Zero may induce some eye-rolling by giving us “Young Lupin” but it largely delivers in what it needs to – showing the formative years of the character without playing the reference game. Bringing Jigen in as they do works wonderfully and helps to set the bond that lasts decades going forward – but also why they can break apart at times as well. The show is a lot of fun and it feels firmly complete at its six-episode run so that you’re not left wanting for more. It looks great, sounds great, and leaves you with a thoroughly enjoyable experience with replay value.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promos, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 26th, 2023
MSRP: $39.98
Running Time: 150 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.