On the one hand, Lupin Zero is a show that doesn’t “need” to exist. We’ve had several TV specials and the series A Woman Called Fujiko Mine has covered some of this in the past. Lupin Zero tries to put their own spin on it by making Jigen & Lupin either late-Middle Schoolers or early High Schoolers, in a series set contemporaneously with when the manga started running.
I think the premise of Lupin Zero is something of a misstep. Not in terms of the characters’ youth, but because of the decision to have them both be the same age. One of the vibes I’ve always gotten about Lupin & Jigen’s dynamic is that Jigen has considerably more life experience, possibly only equaled by Zenigata. Instead, in this series, Jigen and Lupin are in the same grade and class. While Jigen is established as being a little more worldly, it’s not quite the same.
On the one hand – they’re the kind of delinquents I imagine them being – both are depicted smoking underage, and there’s one episode with a plot around trying to steal bootleg whisky from the US Occupation Forces. However, putting them at the same age still feels off.
Ultimately though, Jigen feels like a secondary character in the story, as much of the focus of the narrative is around Lupin deciding if he wants to take up the family business. Those parts get much more introspective and dark compared to the rest of the series. Though, even then – it feels like it rushes through those elements of the plot as well – particularly with the conclusion feeling like it’s going out of the way to give him both the Walther P-38 and the Green Jacket.
I did enjoy my time with the series, but I’ll say that this isn’t quite what I was looking for in a Young Lupin III story.
Lupin Zero is currently available for streaming on Hidive. If you want a better (though admittedly edgier) Lupin Crew origin story, you can pick up A Woman Called Fujiko Mine from RightStuf – buying anything through that link helps to support the site.
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