Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lupin III volume five

Here's how this works. I read a book or two and tell you about them and try not to get too long-winded. This time, a review of Lupin III volume five (Tokyopop, 2003).

I can certainly understand why Monkey Punch's international super-crook Lupin III has been a successful media empire in Japan for the last forty years, with its annual cartoon TV movie and quarterly comic book release. The stories are very fun and loopy, some of those movies are terrific, and one of them, Castle of Cagliostro, belongs on anybody's list of all-time ten best animated films.

What I don't understand is why TMS and Toho ever decided to make these comics into the TV series that would become so successful, because these comics are terrible. When Tokyopop first released these in 2003, I decided I didn't like the artwork and passed on them. But as time has taught me to enjoy Punch's long, blotchy lines of ink - reminiscent, in its odd way, of Ronald Searle or Hank Ketcham - I reconsidered and picked up an inexpensive copy of volume five from a local shop's clearance table.

I couldn't follow it. Punch's storytelling is so loose and weird, and his characters move with body language and postures so similar, that I genuinely could not tell what was happening on the page or who the characters were, or where the stories were taking place. It's certainly different from anything I was expecting, and many things I've seen from its period (roughly 1968-69), but the in-at-the-deep-end pace and the nebulous conclusions to the stories made me unhappy because I couldn't follow them. My son, who urged me to buy the book, gave up after about three episodes, similarly baffled and bored. There was one episode about Lupin being forced at gunpoint into a strange woman's bed which was mildly amusing, but there were seven or eight head-scratching pages of confusion and disjointed action sequences before a plot that I could follow got started.

I'm assured that Punch's second series of Lupin III comics, which ran from 1977-1981 and are available under the English title World's Most Wanted, are considerably better and tell longer stories. Hopefully they're more coherent, and I might give those a try one day. The original batch, however, I don't recommend.

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