TV Tuesday 5/16/23

Back in March I posted about the Japanese manga/anime franchise Lupin the Third (aka Lupin III aka Lupin the 3rd). And about my love of stories about clever thieves, a love clearly shared by many given all the stories and movies made over the years — from Robin Hood to Inside Man (2006) and beyond.

Because I’ve been watching various Lupin III anime TV shows, Amazon Prime’s mighty algorithm suggested a Japanese live-action spin-off, Daughter of Lupin (2019; 11 episodes). It’s quirky, silly, exciting, delightful, romantic, and fun. Definite thumbs up!

I also have some movie double-features to tell you about.

The character Lupin the Third was created by Kazuhiko Kato (aka Monkey Punch) back in 1967. Lupin is a fictional master thief — reputedly the best in the world. He’s based on, and is the grandson of, fictional gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, created by Maurice Leblanc (1864-1941).

The Lupin III franchise is mainly manga and anime but there are a handful of live-action shows that are considered part of the canon. Daughter of Lupin is not one of them. It doesn’t seem to be part of the Lupin canon; it’s not listed in the Wikipedia page for the franchise (in fact, it’s so obscure that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page).

The only place the name Lupin appears is in the show’s title. There is also a suggested connection to the original Arsène Lupin, but I’ll have to come back to that.

The show centers on Hana Mikumo (Kyoko Fukada). She’s the daughter of a family of expert professional thieves. Her family expects her to carry on the family tradition because her brother, Wataru Mikumo (Louis Kurihara), can’t. He suffers from the severe social withdrawal syndrome called hikikomori and spends his life in a small room in the family’s palatial high-rise condo.

But from his little room he’s the family’s computer expert. All the screens and keyboards and lots of cables. He’s the one that hacks burglar systems and does whatever is needed to support the family’s thieving. He also makes (and is constantly improving) the tiny ladybug spy cams the family uses.

Despite her parents’ wishes, Hana is determined to go straight. She has a simple job at the library and wants nothing to do with her family’s thieving. Yet she’s constantly being sucked back into it. Her problem is that she’s fallen in love with Kazuma Sakuraba (Kōji Seto) and he very much with her.

Kazuma Sakuraba (Kōji Seto) and Hana Mikumo (Kyoko Fukada). He’s a cop, she’s a thief (one he’s actively hunting). Let the fun begin!

All he’s told her is that he’s a “civil servant”. Hana assumes he’s some kind of bureaucrat. In the first episode she meets his family and is horrified to discover that, not only is Kazu a cop, but his whole family is also cops. And they expect their son to marry a cop, not a librarian, so they’re not thrilled with Hana.

Making it worse, Kazu is charged with bringing the infamous “L” family to justice. (Being known as the “L” family is the suggested connection to Arsène Lupin mentioned above.) Of course, neither Kazu nor his family have any idea who Hana’s family is. And Hana’s family doesn’t know that her boyfriend (and his family) are cops.

This all leads to Hana desperately trying to keep both families from finding out about the other. Only her grandmother, Matsu Mikumo (Yoshiko Takehara) is in on the secret. She lends what help she can to Hana. And I have to mention that granny alone is worth the price of admission. Everyone on the show is clearly having a ball, but Yoshiko Takehara especially so. She’s kind of a scene stealer (which, I guess, is entirely appropriate).

The show could have rested on the theme of keeping the families from finding out about each other’s professions, but about halfway through the season things change and take a new direction. (I won’t spoil it. Suffice to say it recharges the plot.)

The infamous “L” family. Grandpa (rear), son, granny, mom, dad (left to right middle row), Hana (front and center). Kazu (right).

When the Mikumo family goes thieving, they wear over-the-top disguises. Full body suits and wild costume ball masks. Hana and Kazu encounter each other several times while he’s chasing the family after its latest crime without his realizing who she is. One time she saves his life after he’s been captured by the very bad guys the family was robbing.

Which brings up a point. The family only steals from “bad” people — with bad sometimes defined as “too stinking rich” but their big capers are directed at some truly bad criminals. Not that they’re Robin Hoods — they keep it all to fund their opulent lifestyle.

The show has its exciting moments but much of it is silly good fun. It reminds me vaguely of a cross between Get Smart and Mission: Impossible. Very much in tune with the whole Lupin III ethic.

Part of the show’s whimsey comes out in the musical numbers that occur in most episodes. They’re between Hana and a childhood friend, Akira Enjouji (Yusuke Onuki) — who has always been in love with her. Akira is the only other one initially in on Hana’s secret.

Akira and Hana in one of their musical numbers.

The singing is very cute and mercifully short (I didn’t sign up for a musical). In some cases, they start to sing but Hana stops the song because she’s just not into it (her life is pretty stressful at that point). It all comes off more as karaoke than a traditional musical number (the lyrics appear (in Japanese) at the bottom of the screen).

All-in-all, it’s a very clever very fun show. Highly recommended to all viewers (unless you just don’t like fun). I thoroughly enjoyed it. Each actor brings something special to the story. Kazu’s mom, Misako Sakuraba (credited only as Marcia, and I can’t find any reference to her, even on IMDb), who almost immediately becomes suspicious of Hana, is another “worth the price admission” character (they kind of all are).

Season one is available on Amazon Prime. The episodes, except for two, are 45 minutes long. The two exceptions clock in at just under an hour.

§ §

Double Features

As with the last episode of TV Tuesday, I’ve got some movie double features to tell you about. All of them are Asian martial arts films, some Chinese, some Thai, and one from Malaysia. All of them watchable, although some more than others.


Kill Zone (2005), also called SPL: Sha Po Lang, is too recent to be considered a classic, but I’d bet that someday it will be thought of as such. It stars Donnie Yen, the inestimable Sammo Hung, Simon Yam, and Wu Jing (all experienced martial artists).

It’s the first film selected for the Dragon Dynasty series of east Asian martial arts films. I stopped collecting them at #44, and it appears the company is now defunct (do not go to the website Wikipedia links to; bad things on the other end of that link). The company was criticized for not using the original language soundtrack as well as for shortening some of the films. Fair enough, but it offered an opportunity to see (and own) over forty excellent examples of Asian martial arts cinema. Lot of classics from the early days.

Highly recommended for all martial arts fans. I’d seen it when I bought the Dragon Dynasty DVD, but watched it again because I had the sequel, Kill Zone 2 (2015), also called SPL II: A Time for Consequences, queued up on Amazon Prime. One warning: the film is a tragedy in the classic sense.

The sequel stars Thai martial artist Tony Jaa (we’ll come back to him!) as well as Simon Yam and Wu Jing (but not reprising their roles from the first movie). As far as I can tell, there’s no connection between the two movies. The sequel is… okay but nothing like the tour-de-force of the first one.

There is a third film in the series, Paradox (2017), that I haven’t yet seen. I have it queued up on Amazon Prime (which has a decent selection of Asian films).


Speaking of Tony Jaa (and we’ll speak of him yet again), Triple Threat (2019), starring Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, and Tiger Chen. It also has Scott Adkins (who played the corrupt racist U.S. Marine Corp gunnery sergeant in Ip Man 4 — see this post for more) and Michael Jai White playing the Bad Guys.

It’s… not bad but has been criticized for wasting its expert martial arts cast. I think there’s some truth to that — it could have been better — but I also think this may be a matter of people’s expectations. A film is what it is, not what you want it to be.

What’s a bit notable is how the three stars each bring with them a different style of martial arts. Tony Jaa brings Thai arts; Iko Uwais brings Indonesian arts; Tiger Chen brings Chinese arts. The film is set in Thailand.

The only connection with the second feature, The Raid 2 (2014), is actor Iko Uwais, who also starred in the earlier film, The Raid (2011). Those two would make a good double-feature, but nothing I stream offers it. That said, if you can find it, I highly recommend the first film — some jaw-dropping fight scenes. The sequel is… a sequel, and they’re rarely as good as the original. Both are Indonesian films (as is Iko Uwais).


Lastly, one of my favorites, The Protector (2005), also called Tom-Yum-Goong. It stars Tony Jaa, Petchtai Wongkamlao (as semi-comic relief), and a whole lot of stuntmen. It was the third film Dragon Dynasty selected for their collection.

Watch for the four-minute no-cuts Steadicam take that follows Jaa up several flights of a building, fighting each step of the way. Breath-taking! Took several days of attempts to finally get it right (one time the camera ran out of film).

Kham (Jaa), in Thailand, is the last of a line of guards who used to watch over the King of Thailand’s elephants. Two of his elephants are stolen by Bad Guys, and Kham follows the trail to Sydney to find them. The fight scenes are brutal. Jaa and his mentor Panna Rittikrai created a new fighting style they called “elephant boxing” based on Muay Thai.

If I recall from the Making Of extras on my DVD, they used Jaa’s elephants — his family raises them — and the interactions between Jaa and his elephants is a big part of the draw (at least for me). Very cool. Elephants are awesome.

The fight sequence in the burning Buddhist temple is also striking and beautiful. It’s especially notable for how it ends (SPOILER: Jaa loses to the second fighter and is only saved because the cops show up. But this sets up what happens later.)

Tony Jaa (left) and the first fighter (Lateef Crowder dos Santos, Capoeira expert). The water and fire combo make it special.

This film also has a tragic element I won’t spoil but it mostly ends on a good note.

Sadly, the sequel, Tom Yum Goong 2, isn’t very good — definitely not a worthy successor. It attempts to recreate the fighting-in-fire sequence from the first film, but the fire is so obviously CGI that it comes off kind of silly. (If the fire had been real, they’d all have fried.)

Jaa reprises his role as Kham, and his elephant is stolen again, this time as part of a nefarious (and absurd) plot. The first film is notable of its lack of wirework and sparing and subtle use of CGI. This one is a CGI-gasm that just makes everything even sillier. The scene with the electricity is just stupid.

It also has RZA playing the (very) Bad Guy. He’s a big fan of martial arts films, and very knowledgeable about them, but isn’t a martial artist. What’s a bit notable about this one is the use of three female martial artists.

For all that, I didn’t hate it but can’t really recommend it.

§ §

Getting back to Lupin spin-offs, I have queued a Netflix TV show from France, Lupin. It’s obviously based on the character. No idea yet if it’s any good.

Stay honest, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

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