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We've gotten a new Telecom Lupin III film roughly once per decade so far, but that rule is soon to be broken. After doing the 2007 Elusive Mist TV special, Telecom is back with a new TV special next month: Seal of Blood: The Eternal Mermaid.
This time Teiichi Takiguchi of Grampa's Lamp directs and Satoshi Hirayama is replaced as the character designer by ex-Nippon Animation animator (and Studio 4°C co-founder) Yoshiharu Sato.
I'm reassured to see Teiichi Takiguchi at the helm, as he did a good job with Grampa's Lamp, but I can't help but feel apprehensive about whether it won't be another disappointment. I don't know whether Telecom has it in them anymore to make good Lupin like the old days. I don't expect it to be as good as Plot of the Fuma Clan, but I wish they could at least come close. At least the character designer has changed, although I suppose you can't entirely blame Satoshi Hirayama for the lack of good movement in The Elusive Mist.
Personally I'd love to see Yuzo Aoki come back to the show and bring on a bunch of today's wild young animators to make another Lupin film in the spirit of Mystery of Mamo or Gold of Babylon. But I doubt the TV station or the sponsors would be willing to accept such looseness anymore.
This month marks 40 years since the first Lupin III series produced by A Production began airing. Eternal Mermaid is thus going to be the 40th anniversary film. It would be a nice touch if some of the staff who worked on the original Lupin III TV series could make an appearance in Eternal Mermaid, although Otsuka already made a cameo appearance in The Elusive Mist. Rumors are circulating of a possible new TV series being produced in conjunction with the 40th anniversary, so perhaps we will see even more Telecom Lupin in the months to come.
The Lupin III franchise has really gotten pretty stagnant. It feels like it’s become desperate to maintain whatever it thinks people once liked about it (which often means cribbing shamelessly from the Cagliostro movie), and at the same time it tries to minimize the idiosyncratic style it once had, in order to be more palatable to a modern anime audience.
One of the biggest tragedies in the modern anime world (and to a lesser extent, in western animation) is that people have no appreciation for funny drawings or animation. In fact, people seem to think of it as “bad animation” simply because it doesn’t aim for realism, which is ridiculous.
The fact that they’re currently trying for a “fresh start” in the franchise gives me a bit of hope that they’ll be allowed to do something different, to get people’s attention again. I think even the big bosses have started to realize they’ve been making the same TV special for 15+ years.
And as you probably know, I’d also love for Yuzo Aoki to return to the franchise and beat some life into it. A sense of fun in the drawings definitely needs to return.
It does feel like they’e dragging on the series out of momentum more than artistic imperative. There hasn’t really been a TV special that I could unhesitatingly call a good movie. Most of them, especially the recent ones, are nigh unwatchable. Even the Telecom ones, sadly, as you say, feel like they’re just trying to mimic what they did in the past rather than trying to do something new with their know-how. I personally do want to see the Telecom style carried on. I don’t have a problem with that per se. But it seems like all they can do now is half-hearted mimicry of their old selves.
In comparison, what Yuzo Aoki did with the third series actually pushed it in a new direction, and did something we’d never seen before with the show, that nonetheless was true to Monkey Punch’s original concept. That’s what I’d like to see happen again. It would be great to get Aoki Yuzo involved in new TV show (it almost seems like it would be breaking tradition otherwise), but as long as it’s something in that vein it doesn’t really matter who does it. But I don’t think it would be possible for a show with such out-there visuals as the third series to get aired again today. Times have changed. So I’m skeptical of the fresh start. I don’t expect to see anything really new and revolutionary. But I still hold out hope. I don’t know whether there will even be a new TV series, but I wish they could at least do something Aoki-ish to re-invigorate the series in the TV specials.
Ben and Aaron,
I’m bit worried about current trend of tightening of artistic freedom in Japanese animation industry. Nowadays, it is expected to see new animators to come up with tight drawings instead of loose and experimental drawings. To me, it adds unnecessary stress to artist and stifles creativity.
I have to blame small minority of Japanese Sakuga otaku who are very vocal about on-model & tight motion animation.
Instead of prolonging the life of the Lupin franchise, maybe it’s better for Telecom to find new idea. When things are too stagnant, it’s a clear sign that they’re tired. Cling onto the generation who grew up watching original Lupin is not helping in long term and most of that generation have moved on.
Telecom has established itself as quality animation studio, so it’s better to focus its creative asset on new and different ideas.
In spite of having a soft spot for Walther P-38 and Tokyo Crisis (and having had some fun with Red vs Green the Conan special), I share the same feeling that much of what has been done with the Lupin franchise post-Dead or Alive lack interest. Telecom should concentrate on a new franchise rather that keep beating the same old dead horse; the only way to make Lupin interesting again would be a major reboot with a dramatic graphical overhaul, something funky among the lines of Redline or PSG, I think. Monkey Punch own original manga had quite a strong style, after all. It should be time to throw out the Otsuka/Miyazaki take on the character (graphical or otherwise).
> I don’t expect to see anything really new and revolutionary
We will forever mourn what Lupin VIII could have been, I guess ?
I guess I’m one of the few who hasn’t moved on, haha. I still want to see more kickass Telecom Lupin. Those old Lupin episodes they did blow away just about any show I see on the air today. But it’s true, if they can’t do it well any more, they should stop. I’ll pass final judgment on that once I see the new TV special. If anything, I’d prefer to see them do more action adventure on a grand scale like Tide-Line Blue. Except good this time.
I basically agree, except that I think Telecom should continue to do Lupin the way they always have, but other more daring studios should come in with something really dramatically new, yet still in the spirit of Monkey Punch.
> We will forever mourn what Lupin VIII could have been, I guess?
I’m certainly curious what it could have been, but it sounds like Oshii wanted to do some pretty crazy stuff, so I’m not surprised they nixed his plan. And heck, it resulted in Angel’s Egg, so I’m not too sad. (Not to mention Aoki’s Gold of Babylon)