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 1st 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. However, 2014 came and went without any special at all. 2015 has seen a new Lupin TV series (an Italian co-production, fan nicknamed "Blue Jacket"), with its own special released in January 2016, but as of this writing it is unknown whether the specials will continue or if 2013's regular special the 25th was the last.note
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.
Many of these specials have found their way into the American and British market. Funimation licensed and dubbed eight of them from 1993's Voyage To Danger to 2000's Missed By A Dollar which they released in the early/mid 2000's, though they are now out-of-print. Manga UK dubbed and released the first special, Bye-Bye Liberty Crisis, in PAL-VHS markets in the mid-90's. Discotek has picked up several specials from both before and after Funimation's block, and as of 2016, even the ones in Funimation's block have been re-entering print thanks to Discotek. 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
- Lupin III: Bye-Bye Liberty Crisis!
- Lupin III: Mystery of the Hemingway Papers
- Lupin III Steal Napoleons Dictionary
- Lupin III From Siberia With Love
- Lupin III Voyage To Danger (Orders to Assassinate Lupin)
- Lupin III: Dragon of Doom (Burn, Zantetsuken!)
- Lupin III: The Pursuit of Harimao's Treasure
- Lupin III: The Secret of Twilight Gemini
- Lupin III: Island of Assassins (Walther P-38 ~In Memory of the Walther P38~)
- Lupin III: Crisis in Tokyo (Memories of the Flame ~Tokyo Crisis~)
- Lupin III: The Columbus Files (Da Capo of Love ~Fujiko's Unlucky Days~)
- Lupin III: Missed by a Dollar ($1 Money Wars)
- Lupin III: Alcatraz Connection
- Lupin III: Episode 0: First Contact
- Lupin III: Operation: Return the Treasure
- Lupin III Stolen Lupin (Stolen Lupin ~The Copy Cat is a Midsummer's Butterfly~; with A-Line)
- Lupin III: Angel Tactics (An Angel's Tactics ~Fragments of a Dream Are the Scent of Murder~)
- Lupin III Seven Days Rhapsody
- Lupin III Elusiveness Of The Fog
- Lupin III Sweet Lost Night (Sweet Lost Night ~Magic Lamp's Nightmare Premonition~)
- Lupin III vs. Detective Conan (with APPP, Dogakobo and Xebec)
- Lupin III: The Last Job (with The Answer Studio)
- Lupin III: Blood Seal ~Eternal Mermaid~ (with Nippon Animation)
- Lupin III: Travels of Marco Polo Another Page (Record of Observations of the East ~Another Page~)
- Lupin III Princess Of The Breeze (Princess of the Breeze ~Hidden City in the Sky~)
- no special
- no special
- Lupin III Italian Game
- no special
- no special
- Lupin III: Goodbye Partner
Tropes Common in Each Special
- Cerebus Rollercoaster: The specials can shift from tone to tone.
- Darker and Edgier: Than The Fuma Conspiracy, at least.
- Depending on the Artist: As mentioned above, this is the rule rather than the exception since TMS would use different directors and farm out different specials to different studios.
- Depending on the Writer: Sometimes, characterization would be different from special to special.
- Fanservice: Of course; usually provided by Fujiko, but both males and females have been objectified from time to time.
- Girl of the Week: Don't count on any females introduced in one special to appear in anything futher, and that's if they're lucky enough to not get Killed Off for Real.
- Lighter and Softer: Like many adaptations, they're still not as dark as the original manga.
- Long-Runners: The franchise as a whole qualifies, but this series alone is one of the longest lasting parts of it, with 25 specials across 27 years.
- Monumental Theft: Of course.