Attempts to make Lupin III into an anime began as early as when the first few issues appeared in Manga Action. Together, TMS and Toho teamed up to produce a pilot film for the new anime. Despite being completed on schedule in 1969, the project still consumed a great deal of time and money. TMS and Toho could not come to terms about budget for the film. This (and several other problems) led to the Lupin project being cancelled. Risking another failure, TMS tried to pitch Lupin III again, despite its adult-oriented themes. In October 1971, TMS managed to sell the idea to Yomiuri TV. Yomiuri TV (and by proxy all Nippon TV affiliates) proceeded to air what would later become known as Lupin III: Part 1.
Unsure of what direction they wanted to go with Lupin, TMS made two versions of this (roughly) 12-minute film – a CinemaScope version, and a TV version. The animation for the two versions was mainly the same, but the voice cast was different in each, with only Kiyoshi Kobayashi and Eiko Masuyama, voicing Daisuke Jigen and Fujiko Mine respectively, in both versions. The primary point of the film was getting the audience introduced to the six characters. Yes, six. Lupin, Jigen, and Fujiko were supposed to be allies, while Goemon and Inspectors Zenigata and Akechi were supposed to be antagonists.
For the record, Lupin was played by Nachi Nozawa in the CinemaScope cut and Tachirou Hirokawa in the TV cut; Zenigata was played by Chikao Ohtsuka (who voiced Goemon in "Green Jacket") in the CinemaScope cut and Shinsuke Chikaishi in the TV cut; Goemon was played by Osamu Kobayashi in the CinemaScope cut and Gorō Naya (better known as Zenigata) in the TV cut. Kogoro was played by Hitoshi Takagi in the CinemaScope cut and Koichi Kitamura in the TV cut.
The two versions of this pilot film were later released in 1989 as a part of the Lupin III Secret Filesnote collection. Discotek Media included both versions in their 2012 release of the first TV series. Overall, the animation style and most of the voice acting is unique to this pilot film.
- Adaptation Amalgamation: Much like the art-style, the story material was taken straight from the manga: the actual plot from Ch. 63, and the Shogi gag from Chapter 61.note
- Adaptational Villainy: Goemon is supposed to be a villain here. Good thing that didn’t get carried over into the series, eh?
- Animation Bump: Likely due to a higher budget, shorter running time, and trying to replicate the manga's art style, which was more exaggerated and cartoony compared to later Lupin stuff.
- Ascended Extra: Kogoro Akechi's only appearance save for this film was as the officer that arrested Lupin in the first chapter of the manga.
- Aspect Ratio:
- CinemaScope is 2.39:1, designed for theatrical release.
- TV is 4:3, designed to be released on broadcast channels after the film's theatrical release.
- Bandage Mummy: After the police assail Lupin's hideout, one man, wearing bandages over everything except his police cap, reports back to Inspector Zenigata that they've been unable to capture Lupin.
- Concealment Equals Cover: The pilot film zig-zags the effectiveness of the idea that things that grant concealment being interchangeable with things that grant protection from attacks. Lupin's knife cutting through a tapestry to strike at Fujiko (averting), only to be stopped by a playing card (exaggerated), during a montage, a man is killed by shooting through a door (averting), but the policemen avoid Jigen's shots by hiding behind a table (straight).
- Dropped After the Pilot: Detective Kogoro Akechi (the same character as Edogawa Rampo's detective), a one-shot character in the manga series, is established as a partner for Inspector Zenigata, but never appears again in the anime portion of the franchise.
- Early Adaptation Weirdness: Jigen openly Eating the Eye Candy while Fujiko holsters her gun in her garter is not something you'd see him do in more recent adaptations.
- Falling Chandelier of Doom: Jigen shoots down the chandelier to knock out the policemen hiding behind a table.
- Flipping the Table: Downplayed in this film, but when Lupin "beats" Inspector Zenigata in Shōgi, the detective knocks everything off his desk.
- Funny Background Event: As Zenigata rushes out of his office, he slams the door behind him...right onto the face of an unlucky officer who was following him, who then staggers, dazed.
- Master of Disguise:
- Lupin and his "dress for any occasion" montage demonstrate his ability to make himself appear at home in any situation that may appear, as well as disguising himself as Akechi for the climax.
- Fujiko also has an "any occasion" montage.
- Akechi has master of disguise by name, in an Informed Ability sense. Most likely because he's supposed to be well known already.
- Montage: Each of the villain protagonists is introduced with a splash screen and montage depicting their skills.
- Pilot: The short film was intended to be the pilot film (at ~12 minutes, it is not a Pilot Movie) for a series of films created by TMS Entertainment and Toho. While that goal was dropped, TMS managed to sell the idea of a TV series to a television broadcast station (Yomiuri TV) which became Lupin III: Part 1.
- Smart People Play Chess: While establishing Lupin's character, he and Inspector Zenigata play Shōgi over the phone. Naturally, Lupin wins by having one of his pieces disguised as one of Zenigata's.