"Take no heed of her...She reads a lot of books."
~Jasper Fforde


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Thief (Maurice LeBlanc)

Those who know me well enough know that I'm a huge fan of the anime Lupin III by Monkey Punch (as well as the manga that inspired it, although it's really not as good).  And one day, while I was on a total Lupin III kick, I happened to stumble upon an interesting little fact on the Internet: Lupin III (or "Rupan sansei" as he's known in Japan) is based off a French book series by Maurice LeBlanc about a gentleman thief-turned-detective named Arsène Lupin.  (He's called Rupan in Japan in order to skirt around a copyright issue that originally prevented them from using the name Lupin.  Not that it mattered to them, since there is no "L" sound in Japanese, and they were already pronouncing it with an "R" sound anyway).  Already a fan of the famous anime criminal, I thought it might be fun to go back and read the book that inspired it all.  And that's how I ended up reading Arsène Lupin: Gentleman Thief this summer.  It also helped, of course, that the book fit into my theme of summer mysteries.  

This was a great book!  I honestly wasn't sure what to expect.  After all, I had fallen for Lupin the THIRD, the young, brash, and completely charming GRANDSON.  And sure, he was based off of the LeBlanc character, but that didn't mean that they were going to be the same.  And I'll be honest; they weren't the same.  But, despite this, they were both VERY good.  I really loved this original incarnation of Lupin.  He was funny, clever, charming, and had a sort of confident, mature bearing to him that Lupin III lacks.  While his "grandson" is cocky, over-confident, and pretty lusty, the original Lupin is much more of a romantic.  He does things not so much for the money or the sex, but because it's a charming or romanticized adventure.  It's like Robin Hood: robbing the rich and saving fair maidens.  Whether or not the whole thing is actually like this is up for debate, but this is certainly how Lupin sees it.

More than anything, these stories actually reminded me a lot of the Lupin seen in the Hayao Miyazaki Lupin III film The Castle of Cagliostro which quickly became one of my all-time favorite films as soon as I had seen it.  In this movie, Lupin III seems more mature.  He's not interested in all the ladies and the money; in fact, I don't think he makes any sex jokes at all (as contrasted to his other movies, which has him ogling breasts, chasing pretty girls, or attempting to seduce his on-again/off-again girlfriend Fujiko Mine).  His focus is on righting wrongs and saving a damsel in distress.  And in this book, that's what Lupin focuses on, too.  Sure, he plays some tricks and steals some things.  He even goes up against the greatest detective in literature: Sherlock Holmes.  But, he's not all about childish excitement.  He's more purposeful.  And it made for some great, fun stories with lots of drama and mystery.  I think my favorite was actually the final story: "The Sign of Mercury," which was almost completely over-the-top at times, but it was just so much fun that I didn't even care!

If you read any of the books I suggest this summer, this is one you just have to check out!  And I highly recommend that while you're at it, you give the anime a shot, too.  (A side note, some of the movies are rather bland, and might give you a bad introduction to the series.  Start with Castle of Cagliostro or Lupin III Series 2.)  But, read this book first.  Seriously.  Go read it.

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