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Anime: Lupin III Yearly Specials

Lupin's shirt is dark, someone's gonna die!

The unexpected flop of 1987's Fuma Conspiracy was a blow to TMS's efforts to revive the Lupin III franchise after the poor receptions of Lupin III (Pink Jacket) and its movie Legend Of The Gold Of Babylon. Yet the strong passions Fuma aroused proved that Japan had not yet given up on Lupin; TMS just needed to take a new (or old) tack...

On April 1, 1989, twenty years after the Lupin III Pilot Film was released and four years after Babylon hit cinemas, NTV aired Bye Bye Liberty Crisis, a 97-minute Made-for-TV Movie. Featuring the return of the original music composer and voice cast, it was a big hit. Since then, TMS has made an effort to have a new Lupin III special produced every year, typically airing either in April or (more recently) in late Fall.

Watching these specials is something of a trip through Japan's recent animation history. Unlike the old TV series, TMS does not make these specials in-house. Animation is typically handled by other studios, who often adapt the Lupin house style to whatever artistic trend that studio is currently using. Depending on the Artist is the rule rather than the exception here. As a result, many of these specials look wildly different from each other. This trend has affected Fujiko the most, of course, but none of the cast is immune to its effects. The animation quality, while far higher than any of the TV series, also varies from special to special.

In terms of content, these specials largely tread a middle ground although they are certainly more kid-friendly than Monkey Punch's extremely violent and raunchy manga, they are nonetheless a fair bit darker than "Red Jacket", or especially "Pink Jacket". Still, because Lupin remains a beloved franchise in Japan, and these specials air in Japanese prime time, they usually stay at least nominally Shōnen for families rather than going for a more true-to-source Seinen.

One fan observation is that if Lupin's shirt is Black, character deaths will involve Gorn. But if his shirt is Blue, a Disney Villain Death is most likely.

Many of these specials have found their way into the Western Market. Funimation licensed and dubbed eight of them from Voyage To Danger to Missed By A Dollar which they released in the early/mid 2000's, though they are now long out-of-print. Discotek has picked up several specials from both before and after Funimation's block. Italy has released a large number of them as well, but even they do not have all of them.

Below is the list of each special to air since 1989. The Funimation-released specials often changed the title, sometimes completely. In those cases, the (translation of the) Japanese title is listed in parentheses.note 

  1. Lupin III Bye Bye Liberty Crisis
  2. Lupin III Mystery Of The Hemingway Papers
  3. Lupin III Steal Napoleons Dictionary
  4. Lupin III Bank Of Liberty
  5. Lupin III Voyage To Danger (Orders to Assassinate Lupin)
  6. Lupin III Dragon Of Doom (Burn, Zantetsuken!)
  7. Lupin III: The Pursuit of Harimao's Treasure
  8. Lupin III: The Secret of Twilight Gemini
  9. Lupin III Island Of Assassins (Walther P-38 ~In Memory of the Walther P38~)
  10. Lupin III: Crisis in Tokyo (Memories of the Flame ~Tokyo Crisis~)
  11. Lupin III: The Columbus Files (Da Capo of Love ~Fujiko's Unlucky Days~)
  12. Lupin III Missed By A Dollar ($1 Money Wars)
  13. Lupin III Alcatraz Connection
  14. Lupin III Episode 0 First Contact
  15. Lupin III: Operation: Return the Treasure
  16. Lupin III Stolen Lupin (Stolen Lupin ~The Copy Cat is a Midsummer's Butterfly~)
  17. Lupin III Angel Tactics (An Angel's Tactics ~Fragments of a Dream Are the Scent of Murder~)
  18. Lupin III Seven Days Rhapsody
  19. Lupin III Elusiveness Of The Fog
  20. Lupin III Sweet Lost Night (Sweet Lost Night ~Magic Lamp's Nightmare Premonition~)
  21. Lupin III vs. Detective Conan
  22. Lupin III The Last Job
  23. Lupin III Blood Seal Eternal Mermaid (Blood Seal ~Eternal Mermaid~)
  24. Lupin III: Travels of Marco Polo Another Page (Record of Observations of the East ~Another Page~)
  25. Lupin III Princess Of The Breeze (Princess of the Breeze ~Hidden City in the Sky~)
  26. none for this year