Broadcast on Canal +, Lupine III The First marks the first foray of the cult figure on the big screen in France. But who is this gentleman burglar invented in the 60s inspired by our national Arsène Lupine?
No, Lupine III is not the 3rd opus of a saga! When you do not know the character, it is normal that the first reaction is to question the presence of this number after the name. Which often leads to the most hackneyed joke in the world: “I haven’t seen the one or the two!”
This number therefore does not correspond to a film number but quite simply means Lupine “the third” or “third of the name” in French. Indeed, the burglar gentleman is the grandson of Arsène Lupine, an emblematic character of French literature. The latter was born in Normandy under the pen of Maurice Leblanc in 1905.
In 1967, the mangaka Kazuhiko Kato alias Monkey Punch, was freely inspired by Arsene to invent the incredible adventures of his grandson, Lupine III.
A first series of 14 volumes will be published between 1967 and 1969. The success of the manga reaches the ears of the beneficiaries of Maurice Leblanc, who do not agree with the appropriation of the name Lupine without authorization.
Monkey Punch then finds an agreement with them, signing a contract authorizing the author to use this name only in Japan. This is why abroad, Lupine was renamed Edgar (in France) or Wolf (in England or the USA). It was not until 2012 that the name Lupine, which fell into the public domain, could be used all over the world.
Lupine III is an elusive thief, a unique burglar who always gets what he wants. If he is known for his agility and discernment, pretty girls can quickly make his head spin. This free and crazy side pleases a lot and contributes greatly to the success of the manga.
His accomplices, Jigen, Goemon, Fujiko and his nemesis, Zenigata, are also emblematic characters in the universe of the whimsical burglar. It is also rumored that Monkey Punch would have been inspired by our national Jean-Paul Belmondo for the design of Lupine. The author has never confirmed, unlike Buichi Terasawa, creator of Cobra, who claimed Bebel’s inspiration for his hero.
However, Monkey Punch was inspired by cinema to forge the relationships between his characters. For example, Breathless was a great influence on the author to build the connections between Lupine III and Fujiko Mine.
He was also inspired by the duo Alain Delon-Charles Bronson in Farewell the friend for the relations between the ace of the robbery and his accomplice Daisuke Jigen. Note that the physique and attitude of the latter are clearly inspired by James Coburn in The 7 Mercenaries.
Who says literary success necessarily says adaptation in animated. This idea germinated in the studios of TMS Entertainment (formerly Tokyo Movie) in 1969. Initially, it was a question of producing a feature film. But the project did not finally come to fruition until 1971 in the form of a TV series.
It will be released in France under the name Edgar de la Cambriole. This is one of the first times that an animated series broadcast on TV has targeted an adult audience, at a time when the genre is mainly intended for children.
At the beginning of the 70s, a certain Hayao Miyazaki, then totally unknown, will take part in the Lupine III adventure. Within the TMS studio, he will direct 15 episodes of the series between 1971 and 1972. He collaborates in the direction with another future sacred monster of animation, Isao Takahata.
At the time, the Japanese had already directed the feature film Horus, Prince of the Sun. The two men dramatically alter the original, darker material, making Lupine a more comedic and grandiose hero.
Did you know that the Italian credits of Lupine III had been recycled to become that of Olive & Tom?
In 1977, a second series was ordered, Edgar, the burglar detective. It will be spread over 155 episodes, broadcast between 1977 and 1980 in Japan (in 1985 in France on France 3). It is with this animation that the main characteristics of Lupine emerge, between adventures, investigations and humor.
The series is a huge success, earning the character his first adaptations on the big screen. It was in December 1978 that Le Secret de Mamo was released, directed by Sôji Yoshikawa. Unlike the series, the studio has chosen to return to an adaptation closer to the original manga with a darker story.
The following year, Hayao Miyazaki was hired to produce the next opus, The Castle of Cagliostro. This is his first feature film. The filmmaker wants to completely change his tone for this second part, to make Lupine a much more sympathetic and virtuous burglar than in the previous versions, where he could act in a totally immoral and rude way.
The director operates an unexpected turn, far from the Manichaeism of productions of the genre, writing much deeper and more contrasting characters. This way of proceeding is also a snub to Disney, whose protagonists are almost always cartoonish, the good guys on one side, the bad guys on the other.
Miyazaki also completely obscures the erotic dimension of the original manga, preferring to remain subtle. This reflects in particular the director’s own personality, with unfailing discretion and humility. We will find this facet in all his following films, the Japanese never sinking into easy provocation or vulgarity.
His exceptional sense of detail is also already present in Cagliostro, as much in the animation of the characters as in the architecture and the landscapes. Success is there and allows the future director of Chihiro to make a name for himself.
Despite the film’s triumph in Japan, Le Château de Cagliostro never reached French theaters at the time because of the West’s total disinterest in japanimation (It was not until 1995 that producer Jean-Pierre Dionnet introduced Miyazaki at home with Porco Rosso).
The film was released on video in France in a truncated version in 1983 under the title Vidocq against Cagliostro. It then benefited from a cinema release in January 2019. Moreover, Cagliostro strongly marked filmmakers like Steven Spielberg or John Lasseter.
A third series arrived in 1984 with a new design, followed by a third feature film, L’Or de Babylone, directed by Seijun Suzuki (a filmmaker known in particular for his yakuza films). The legend Lupine is now installed! In 1989, the NTV channel program an animated TV movie, Goodbye Lady Liberty, a 90-minute untold story.
From now on, each year, The Burglar Gentleman will be the subject of a special episode. In 2015, a fourth series of 26 episodes saw the light of day, The Italian Adventure, followed by a fifth, Lupine III Part V, whose action takes place in France. A 13-episode spin-off, Lupine III: A Woman Named Fujiko Mine, also premiered in 2012. As the name suggests, it centers around the famous detective’s accomplice.
On the big screen, Adieu Nostradamus and Mort ou vive will be released in 1995 and 1996 in the Land of the Rising Sun. We then have to wait 17 years before seeing the mythical gentleman burglar again in the cinema in Lupine III VS Detective Conan (2013). As for Lupine III The First, an adaptation in 3D animation, it is the first film to be released in theaters in France without having to wait several years after its release in Japan.
Today, with six series, ten feature films and more than thirty TV films, the Lupine III saga is one of the most famous animation licenses, one of the few that has continued to stand the test of time for nearly 50 years.
Lupine III The First: cult character, Miyazaki’s influence, his place in pop culture … Our interview with the director!
Note that the legendary jacket worn by Lupine is a marker of each era. Depending on the series or the films, the color changes. It’s not just a stylistic effect: each color marks a certain narrative and artistic treatment of the characters. The green jacket indicates the first adaptation with the imprint of the Hayao Miyazaki / Isao Takahata duo.
The red is that of the second series, the one that allowed Lupine III to meet the success and the most used, even today, from TV movies to the feature film Lupine III The First. There is also a pink jacket, seen in the 1984 series and the movie The Gold of Babylon. Finally, since the 2010s, Lupine wears a blue jacket, the mark of his most recent adventures in Europe.
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