【Interview】 Lupin Zero Director Daisuke Sako & Ichiro Okouchi


Interview 【Lupin Zero】 Daisuke Sako & Ichiro Okouchi

LUPIN ZERO is an original story set in 1960, the same year that Monkey Punch’s original manga 「Lupin the Third」 was first serialized, in which the not yet famous Lupin runs around Japan during its rapid economic growth period. In this anime, Lupin is a junior high school student who has been trained by his grandfather in the art of thievery, but is unable to decide what his future holds. While spending his days worrying about whether to become a yakuza or a thief, Lupin meets jigen, a classmate who pulls a gun on delinquents. The distance between the two quickly grows closer after an encounter with a woman.

For this time, we were visited by director Daisuke Sako, who served as the animation director for 「Lupin the Third」 ( Part 4) and assistant director for 「Lupin the Third 」(Part 5,) and writer Ichiro Okouchi, who worked on the series composition and screenplay for (Part 5. )We spoke with the two about what kind of Lupin and jigen they will portray in this anime.


Daisuke Sako talks about the world of Lupin Zero

-First of all, could you tell us how you came to undertake the production of an animation of Lupin’s childhood?

Sako: The premise of the production company’s project was to depict Lupin’s boyhood. While we were considering whether to make them elementary or junior high school students, I had the idea of targeting the age group that I wanted to see this animation. Of course, I want men and women of all ages to enjoy the anime, but in particular, I wanted to approach the demographic that will be exposed to Lupin for the first time through this work.

He is a member of the Lupin family, so he takes over the family business of thieves, but I don’t think he does it because his grandfather or father tells him to. I asked Mr Okouchi to write a story about a boy of age who doesn’t want to do what others simply tell him to do, but can’t articulate his reasons well, and decides for himself to become Lupin III. The theme I wanted to depict throughout the six episodes was 「I decide my own life,」 so I worked backwards from there and decided on the age of 13. We hope that the adolescent audience will be able to empathize with the Lupin we portrayed in the anime.

-What was the director’s motivation regarding Lupin this time?

Sako:After Lupin PART 5 , I thought to myself that I would take over the work as is and produce Lupin PART 6, but that didn’t happen, and there was a time when I was living a rough life out of desperation (laugh), At that time, I was asked to do this new Lupin, so I gathered up all the smoldering feelings I had up to that point and put them into this work. In other words, my motivation was to make a Lupin the Third” anime. The reason I entered the animation industry in the first place was because I wanted to make Lupin, and that is the driving force behind my work.

-But this time, the anime will be a completely different Lupin from the previous ones. Were you okay with that?

Sako:Just by making the two main characters younger, I was able to create a considerable new image, and from there I had many options, but this time I wanted to make it an introduction to Lupin and a bridge to the previous series. Therefore, I wanted to preserve the impression of the Lupin of the past.- The boy Lupin appeared in the original story, but Jigen-kun is a completely original creation. I couldn’t imagine the young Jigen at all, so I left it entirely to Ms. Taguchi (Mami), the character designer, but when she came up with that Jigen, I thought, 「Oh, this Lupin work will be good.」

-So the character design became a major point.

Sako:Well, Taguchi-san’s drawings are really good. The copyright illustrations were also really well received, and another key point was the music . This time, we really wanted to use the score from 「Lupin the Third Part 1,」 so we checked with all the relevant parties and were allowed to use it in the anime. I also asked Mr.Otomo Yoshihide, who is the most knowledgeable person in the world about Mr.Takeo Yamashita (the composer of Lupin), to remake the music, and he readily agreed and made it happen.

As a result of the production, I am glad that we made this anime as a drama between Lupin and jigen. The cast was the third point . We had the efforts of sound director Mr. Tange, and Mr. Hatanaka (voice actor for Lupin) and Mr. Takeuchi (voice actor for Jigen) were always able to record together, and their plays beautifully created and expressed the process of the two becoming friends from their awkward encounter. I think we were able to create an interesting content that fans have nothing to worry about if they just follow the two of them and watch it.

The two main voice actors of Lupin Zero

-Are Yu Hatanaka and Shunsuke Takeuchi the best choice for the pairing?

Sako:They really helped us . There is one thing I am happy to hear . Normally, the voice actors are given the scripts for the postrecording of the anime by the voice actors’ office, but Mr. Hatanaka wanted to read the scripts as soon as possible, so he went to get them himself. I was impressed by how much he was absorbed in the story of Lupin .
Also, as the number of episodes of the anime increased, the two of them started to groove together, and their actual relationship made me feel that they were like friends or partners, or something close to that. I was unaware of this aspect of their relationship, and the casting of these two came about by chance, but I think it all worked together to make it better as a result.

Okouchi: I had worked with Mr. Hatanaka (Lupin) several times before, and I knew what kind of an attractive voice actor he was, so my expectations were met and I wasn’t worried. However, this was my first time working with Mr. Takeuchi ( Jigen), and as soon as I heard his voice for the first time, I thought, 「Wow, this is the character itself」 (laugh). I also really liked the fact that he didn’t try too hard to sound like a boy, and his first line convinced me of his ability. But why do you like 「Lupin the Third」 so much, Mr. Sakou?

Why Director Daisuke Sako fell in love with Lupin

Sako:I think 「Lupin the Third」 is the most interesting anime in the world. I happened to see 「The castle of cagliostro」 when I was a child, and that is how I got hooked on Lupin.

Okouchi:Did you start watching Lupin during the time of Red Jacket (PART2)?

Sako: The first (anime series) I watched were the reruns of Green Jacket (PART1) and Red Jacket (PART2), and in real time, the TV special (a special version of Lupin like a movie). That was my first introduction to Lupin’s work, but as I thought about it more and more, I realized that the concept of Lupin was not something that I could find anywhere in the world. There are similar films (to Lupin III) like the 007 series, but there is no other interesting setting where the hero is a thief, his partners are a gunman and a samurai, and a beautiful woman is involved and being chased by the police. Well, that’s just my personal theory, I just like Lupin. (laugh).

Okouchi: Have you read Lupin by Maurice Leblanc?

Sako: When I was in elementary school, I saw (Leblanc’s books) lined up in the library, but I just thought, 「Ah, yes, there it is」 (laugh). When I saw 「The castle of cagliostro,」 I think the pleasure of the animation and the appeal of the characters were imprinted on me.

Okouchi:But isn’t cagliostro difficult? 「Am I now in love with Hayao Miyazaki, or with Lupin?」 Don’t you think?

Sako:That’s something you have to think about when you grow up! (Everyone laughs) There are people who simply think that Lupin is interesting and watch 「Wings of Death: Albatross」 as the next anime, right?

Okouchi:That’s Miyazaki’s work too!

Daisuke Sako life is defined by Lupin III

Sako:Let me make an excuse! At the video rental store at that time, there were videos containing 「Albatross」 and 「Goodbye my dear Lupin」 next to 「cagliostro」. And when I actually watched them, I thought they were interesting. From there, I started reading Animage (a famous animation magazine) and started checking the end titles (of animated ) for staff members, and eventually I got a job at Telecom (Telecom Animation Films). In other words, Lupin was my entry point into the world of anime, and I became an anime geek.

Okouchi:Once you start watching the end ticker , you are a complete otaku (laugh).

What is Lupin Zero scripted by Ichiro Okouchi?

-So, Mr. Okouchi (in charge of composition and scriptwriting), what did you try to express in Lupin Zero?

Okouchi: Having scripted Lupin PART 5 (anime), I was already quite satisfied for me and thought that I would never make another Lupin again. …… But it was not the next series after Lupin PART 5 but before it. story, so I decided to participate in the script. This anime was to be the story of the birth of Lupin III, but I wanted to depict the relationship between human beings, so I wanted a partner, not just Lupin. In writing the script, I thought that the first partner for the new Lupin (anime) should be neither Fujiko nor Zenigata, but Jigen. The last scene of Lupin Part 5 (anime) ends with Fujiko, but I had the idea that jigen might be thinking,「No, no, no, my friendship with Lupin predates yours」. I had already depicted such an exchange in Lupin Part 5 Episode 23, but I wanted to write the beginning of the relationship between Lupin and jigen again in this anime.

-The character of jigen is fascinating, isn’t he?

Okouchi: I have always liked Jigen, but the degree of my liking for him changed before and after I wrote the script for Part 5. I was very impressed by Kiyoshi Kobayashi’s (voice actor) performance as Jigen. I don’t know if it’s right for me to say this, but I think that episode 23 of Lupin was a masterpiece. Now I realize that only Mr. Kobayashi could have delivered that line (Lupin, I’ve known you the longest / I’m the only one who can ‘lead you on’, Fujiko can’t do it) with such quality, and that it was the one and only time he could deliver that line. For that reason, if I had been asked to write a screenplay for the post-Lupin PART 5 jigen, I would have been in trouble, but I thought I could write a screenplay for the younger jigen before that.

Sako:To add, if you ask me if the jigen of Lupin Zero is the same jigen of Part 5, I don’t know. It is just that the events depicted in the past series are facts, and I personally drew the anime based on what I imagined based on those facts.

Okouchi: The so-called 「sako-historical view.」

Sako:Yes, it is my own view of Lupin’s history.

【Lupin Zero】 set in 1960s Japan

-What are the joys and difficulties of making an anime set in Japan in the 1960s?

Sako:There were times when we found better materials after the production was finished. I would think to myself, What the heck, this material could have been used for the animation! (laugh). However, what Mr. Haruichi Shirado, who has been working on the Lupin settings since Lupin Part 5 , taught me was that 「everything comes from the story.」 This time, the anime does not need to faithfully depict the period like Hiroyuki Okiura’s work 「Jin-Roh」 (2000), but the main premise is to depict Lupin.

Okouchi:For me, it was interesting to set the anime in the Showa 30s (1960s), which allowed me to include a girl from an undeveloped land in the script. There is a boxer named Harimao in 「ROOKIE JOE」 ……. (A famous manga in Japan that started in the 1960s).

-Harimao was a Malaysian boxer who specialized in aerial combat, right?

Okouchi:He loves chocolate and is a wild character who speaks 「Gau gau! 」but I thought that no matter how much he was from an uncivilized area, there was no way he could be like that (laugh). But it was acceptable in that work of that era, and I wrote the script for this anime with that kind of cluttered yet tolerant atmosphere of the early Showa period. Lupin and Jigen are in junior high school, but they smoke in this world. Nowadays, it would be a big problem and definitely out of bounds, but in those days, it was a common scene and existed as a scene of the era.

-I think it might have been possible in the 1950s, when there was still the scent of postwar Japan, to have 「Jigen,」 a student, carry a gun around with him. I felt such an exquisite sense of distance in the animation.

Sako:Indeed, that part may have been helped by the period setting.

Okouchi:I wrote the incidents that appear in Lupin Zero with an awareness of the incidents that would have existed back then.

Interview Last message from Mr. Daisuke Sako about Lupin Zero

Sako:…… Finally, may I talk a little more about Hatanaka-san?

-Please do! (Laugh)

Sako:I had an image of Mr. Hatanaka’s plays as if they were one after another, gushing out of him and overflowing. So this time, we prepared a 「vessel」 to receive Hatanaka’s performance, a video of Lupin’s poses and facial expressions, so that we could prepare for his recording.

-So, as a result, you were able to produce a work that you were quite confident in?

Sako:Personally, I think it became Hatanaka-san’s masterpiece!
Well, I’m just saying that here on my own (laugh).
It is truly a wonderful work, and I hope that everyone will see it.

Original story: Monkey Punch
Director: Daisuke Sako
Series composition: Ichiro Okouchi
Setting Design: Haruichi Shirado
Character Design:Mami Taguchi
Art Director: Tetsuhiro Shimizu, Hiroki Ozaki
Color Designer: Ryoko Oka
Director of Photography: Hiroyuki Chiba
Editing: Miwa Yanagida
Sound Director: Yuji Tange
Sound Effects: Hiromune Kurahashi 
Music: Otomo Yoshihide
Main Theme 「AFRO LUPIN’68」 Composed by Takeo Yamashita Arranged by Yoshihide Otomo
Ending theme 「Lupin the Third Theme Song II」 Song: Nanao Tabito Composition: Takeo Yamashita Arrangement: Yoshihide Otomo
Animation Production: Telecom Animation Film Production: TMS Entertainment, Inc.

Thank you very much for watching. See you soon.


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