Before there was TinTin, Herge had Quick & Flupke; before there was Asterix and Calvin & Hobbes, there was Little Nemo and yes, Arsene Lupin, gentleman thief. We’ve all had years of growing up on superheroes, from Phantom and Mandrake to the usuals of the Marvel and DC universe.
And the numerous superhero films have kept us trawling the websites for comic books, and you know that sometimes the madness – paying a handsome amount and getting a purple eye in a fight for the last available issue of Death of Superman at a comic book store – was worth it.
How can I not mention Bela and Bahadur? Those comic book heroes were just what we Indians needed! Even though my fantasy casting of Bela keeps changing, Anil Kapoor has been perfectly cast as Bahadur in my head for years! Speaking of an unusual comic book hero, I am so glad Lupin drops on Netflix as I write this column for you.
Maurice Leblanc created Arsene Lupin: Detective and Gentleman Thief as a French counterpart to Sherlock Holmes in 1965. The short stories are magnificent, if I may say so, and Kazuhiko Kato, the Japanese Manga artist recreated Lupin in anime under the pen name Monkey Punch. More about that later.
Netflix creates Lupin magic in the smile of Omar Sy, and I think no one better could have been cast. The lone wolf of the comic book and anime is shown to be a dad here with the delightful Ludvine Sagnier playing his ex-wife.
Omar Sy embodies the role so easily, he transforms into a suave gentleman from a janitor to steal Marie Antoinette’s necklace from the Louvre and steals your heart in the process. A far cry from Pierce Brosnan’s flashy Hollywood Thomas Crown Affair, but really involving plot.
Before I could say ‘Saint’ (a fabulous set of books by Leslie Charteis, never really recreated memorably for the screen – the TV show was awful!), I was watching episode two, watching Lupin get into prison. What? Why? How?
It’s not the bicycle chase in the park that gets your heart rushing and then collapsing in a giggle, but you as an audience, who knows the identity of Lupin, slowly begin to enjoy the cat-and-mouse game between the police and Lupin. It’s fun to watch the young officer painstakingly put the anagrams of Arsene Lupin together on his board only to be taken for a fool. Why will no one believe him?!
Meanwhile, Lupin is in prison, trying to figure out… Oh no, you don’t get me to spill the plot now, do you? It’s such a pity the review has to be spoiler-free. But I can tell you a little secret. The audiobooks and Kindle version of Lupin’s adventures are available on Amazon. Regular books will be available soonish, I hope. It is such a treasure discovering a new good bad guy. As the book says, he makes friends for life, and he keeps his promises. It’s been a long time since I said, ‘How did he do that?!’ and I’m glad I watched Lupin.
A man’s quest to prove innocence is a noble one and the third episode went into the grey zone rather quickly. I watched it with a cup of tea trembling in my hands. Maurice Leblanc wrote these stories in the sixties, but the content is as relevant today as it must have been then.
Those who speak the truth to power are more often than not silenced. I have seen careers of honest men and women who wear ink-stained fingers as badges of honour destroyed by powerful men and women. I have seen, and so have you, institutions that could have been shining beacons of truth manufacturing consent. And the series surprised me because the truth offers a gut punch and it made me pause and make those calls to the mad idealists in my phone book. Some are still fighting the good fight, although with limited resources, and yet living with their pride intact.
The episode with the journalist perhaps goes along the predictable story arc, and yet, it is powerful. It also serves to push us to side with Lupin and his quest for the truth. The finale is as powerful as a season finale should be, keeps us viewers glued to the sofa (mine has a surprise-sized dent in it!) and you wish there was more.
As a Netflix original series, the show has it all. And it will make you earmark it for the second season.
Netflix does have the anime version of Lupin III (by Miyazaki of the famous Studio Ghibli) in case you are thirsting for more. This is very old-fashioned anime, but the action is so good, you will forgive the dubbed in English, and hence ‘lame’, dialogue.
The story of Lupin III The Castle Of Cagliostro is vanilla compared to the series I have just watched, but the action and the characters are ‘really cool’ considering they were made years and years ago. In the anime series, Lupin works with his band of friends (Fujiko, Jigen, and Goeman) and his usual adversary Inspector Zenigata is ready to capture him in the act.
The television show of Lupin that ran in Japan is also available if you just trawl the net. I am glad that I watched the French series that just dropped on Netflix, and am glad this is a good beginning of the year. As it promises, Lupin has lots of panache, and he will steal your jewels (and your heart). So get set with some tea or coffee or some Bordeaux and settle down for un bon spectacle!
Lupin is now streaming on Netflix.
Read our other reviews here.