There’s a tendency among viewers of television—anime especially—these days to take contention with anything that could be considered ‘filler’: one-off, episodic entries in a series that don’t tie into the apparent ‘main’ plot. There’s a whole thesis I could get into about our modern lore-poisoned wiki-bullet-point-driven fandom culture being a major driving force of this mindset, but suffice it to say I think it’s pretty misguided. In ages-spanning, wide-reaching adventurous franchises like Lupin the 3rd, individual entries serve to flesh out the flavor and appeal of the characters and what they do more than any singular driving plot could. Part 6 has been noticeably more episodic than Part 5, yes, but even the latter knew when to take time out from its ongoing story to illustrate how far Lupin had come from the past that show was so dedicated to updating itself from. Lupin as an institution has a very long history of its anime entries being almost entirely episodic, from the long-running instances of one-and-done stories across Parts 1 through 3, to the unique entries that every one of the character’s annual animated specials exists as.
And if you really think there’s something that can’t be abided about ‘filler’, I invite you to reflect on Netflix‘s recent Cowboy Bebop adaptation, which sought to excise all the individualized storytelling from the original, and look at how that just turned out.
All that is to say that this week’s episode of Lupin the 3rd Part 6, another one-off adventure in the show’s rotation, is one of the most fun half-hours of TV anime I’ve seen in a bit, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It makes sense, this being another Part 6 episode where they’ve brought in a celebrated mystery author (Kanae Minato this time) to write the script, and the result is an absolutely rollicking roller-coaster of a story. It’s fascinating to watch unfurl on a base level, not just because of how strong the fundamentals of the story are, but in how many of the included details are so distinctly Lupin that you really get the sense that this is Minato’s specially-crafted idea for a story starring the character, rather than just being her own kind of mystery story ported onto the Lupin universe.
As with the more successful outings of Part 6 so far, this one plays with some presumed audience familiarity with Lupin conventions. We’re at a point where the show basically expects us to be able to tell when a seemingly-random incidental character is Lupin in disguise, with him and Fujiko quickly coalescing around some treasure-adjacent plot-devices to chase after some legendary loot. But even at the base structure, there are some tricks to this one that can only come as a result of its placement in Part 6. Still being set within the time frame of the ‘main’ plot means Lupin continues to be busy in London, for instance, so he can’t travel to Brazil with the others. This leaves Fujiko to do a lot of the legwork (and thus gain the spotlight for the time) while Jigen and Goemon provide comic relief in the margins, leading to a delightful last-leg sight gag of Lupin needing to telecommute into the plot via drone. And you thought this series wasn’t carrying on Part 5‘s agenda of modern advancements for the franchise.
As Lupin himself is necessarily just kind of casually winging it for this particular heist, he’s able to serve as the ‘viewpoint’ character for the audience in this case. He’s figuring out the constantly-shifting twists to this story in real-time, with his revelations well-structured to land about the same time we do while watching. Some of it is given away a little early, like how the old lady that Fujiko’s trying to scheme the treasure’s location out of has her own counter-scheme going on. But by the time said old lady reveals that she’s been able to walk this whole time and is actually ‘Cherry’, the master treasure hunter who invited Lupin to kick off all this, we’re as impressed as the man himself. The whole thing moves at a mile-a-minute of swerves and surprises, but each turn has led us in just enough that none of it ever feels fully out-of-nowhere, rather more focused on shocking us with the ‘how’ of something we may have already figured out the ‘what’ of. That’s the mark of an experienced, expert author, I suppose. The only major drawback, I think, is that Fujiko’s place in the center of excavating this action necessitates her playing the patsy to be most taken aback by the plot twists and under-informed about it all, which feels like it shortchanges her in an episode that’s at least partially a spotlight entry for her. But given how cool Cherry turns out to be and how much fun Lupin is in his specifically-limited presence, I can handle Fujiko (plus Jigen and Goemon) feeling a little demoted in this instance.
Besides, the way everything in this episode wraps feels like Minato’s own ode to those aforementioned episodic entries of classic Lupin anime. It turns out to be a sweet story of love both romantic and familial, and sees Lupin in the more clear-cut benevolent role that’s been gradually coming into focus over in that main plot with Lily and Holmes. See, it all reflects on the spirit of the ‘main’ story even if what we’re watching in this moment might technically be considered ‘filler’! It’s why you can’t count out singular stories like this in shows like Lupin the 3rd. These kinds of episodes are all about reinforcing how reliable it can be to flip on for a fun, self-contained adventure by a writer who knows exactly what they’re doing, and still ingratiates us to the spirit of the characters overall.
Lupin the 3rd Part 6 is currently streaming on
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.