Two of the first Japanese movies I watched in Japanese were the animated movies Akira and then Lupin Sansei Castle of Cagliostro.

The 1979 Castle of Cagliostro, is notably the first feature length film directed by Miyazaki. (whose influence on all animation across the world can never be over-estimated) Luckly Castle of Cagliostro is a heist film featuring that cleverer-than-Sherlock Holmes gentleman thief Arsene Lupin‘s half-Japanese grandson, Lupin III and super easy to follow.

Maurice LeBlanc’s Arsene Lupin

There are ninjas, a stoic sword-wielding samurai, repartee, and a princess in a castle to rescue. Standard fantasy tropes. I loved it. I think the story holds up even now despite the actual animation obviously feeling outdated next to recent Pixar and Disney movies.

Recently, Netflix kept suggesting to me the recent live-action French TV show, Lupin. I didn’t want to watch it because it would require subtitles and I had a difficult knitting pattern that required me to mostly look down. But I finished the knitting project and am on to a less complicated one, so I binge watched it, and even Tokyo boy (possibly because of his Miyazaki-induced cultural fondness as a Japanese national for Lupin Sansei) kept track of what was going on.

In this French update, the main character is Assane Diop– an immigrant from Senegal whose father, the chauffeur of a rich and powerful Paris man, was falsely accused of stealing a multi million dollar necklace. Assane is back in Paris and determined to exact revenge.

Oh, and his honorable father gave him the Arsene Lupin books as a child and he basically modeled himself as a master of disguise and heists on those books. The show bluntly addresses racism, immigration, socio-economic power issues, etc. This is multi-cultural France, with the only policeman who makes the Arsene Lupin connection one with a lower-status job and an Arabic name. But the main draw here is definitely Omar Sy as Assane. He is charming and pensive and extremely expressive. Apparently he’s also a comedian and you can sense that sharp-edged laughter just behind his eyes when he pulls a fast one on some unlucky character, even while it makes you uncomfortable.

Omar Sy looking pensive, but don’t let him fool you

The 5 episode first season ends on a personally tragic cliffhanger and I will definitely be on tenterhooks until Netflix gets the next season! I would definitely recommend this series for folks who don’t mind subtitles for both heisty-ness and cultural-political relevancy.

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