Who is Arsène Lupine in pop culture? Books, animations and more

The Lupine series, launched this year on Netflix, has won over audiences with the story of Assane Diop (Omar Sy), who is inspired by Arsène Lupine in his quest for revenge against the injustice suffered by his father, condemned for a crime he did not commit. Although the success of the series has given great importance to the character in French fiction, Lupine is not the first adaptation of the character and his stories in pop culture, and it is possible to find versions of the thief gentleman in various media including books, animation and even manga and games.

The character was created by Maurice Leblanc and made his first appearance in a French monthly magazine called Je Sais Tout. Leblanc continued to write the adventures of Lupine from this beginning, in 1905, until his death in 1941. Leblanc’s extensive work became very influential in French-speaking (French-speaking) countries, but Lupine went further, becoming a well-known figure elsewhere in the world, one of the most notable being Japan. Here you will learn more about Lupine, and stay abreast of the character’s varied portrayals and his stories in pop culture.

Who is Arsène Lupine?

Part of Arsène Lupine’s cover against Herlock Sholmes

Maurice Leblanc’s creation is a character of great importance in French culture, comparable to what Sherlock Holmes represents for the English. A morally ambiguous hero, Lupine is seen as a force for good acting on the wrong side of the law, using his wits and impressive ability to disguise himself as robberies, but defeating villains far worse than himself.

For those who have watched the Netflix series, it is easier to understand not only this character ambiguity, because it is also portrayed in protagonist Assane Diop. The way Lupine operates in his stories is also reflected in the series, as the character played by Omar Sy uses many Arsene flights as the basis for his actions. Many points of the history of the series are not only based on the adventures of the character but in fact adapt them to a modern version.

In all, the author has published seventeen novels on the character, and nearly forty novels and short stories, which have been collected in twenty-four books. In addition, a posthumous book was published, some 70 years after the author’s death, containing a story about Arsène Lupine discovered by one of his descendants. Always considering only the works written by Leblanc, five pieces were created on the adventures of the gentleman thief.

Arsène Lupine and Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis Game Art

As well as being similar in terms of the importance he has in his home countries, the researchers speculate that Holmes was one of the inspirations for Lupine’s creation, even though he is a thief, not a detective. The two are not only compared, but also interacted in some of the stories written by Leblanc himself, introduced in one of the first to appear, still in 1906.

Called “Sherlock Holmes Comes Too Late”, the tale features an older version of Holmes meeting a young Lupine. The detective’s creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, took issue with the story, even using legal means to do so. In response, Leblanc kept the story in his book, simply changing the character’s name to Herlock Sholmes.

Sholmes returned in other Tales of Lupine, accompanied by Wilson, instead of Watson. In one of the stories, Lupine manages to unravel a mystery that Herlock was unable to solve. The Thief Gentleman would only face the detective with his real name and would be used many years later and in a completely different type of media: video games.

Lupine in games

The character Arsene from Persona 5

Such is the notoriety of the character that he even reached the games, whether as a direct or indirect presence. Lupine is one of the protagonists of Sherlock Holmes vs. Arsene Lupine, also known as Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis, in which he attempts to steal England’s greatest treasures while the great detective seeks to stop him. The game was developed by Frogwares, famous for creating detective games created by Conan Doyle, and released in 2007.

A recent title heavily inspired by Maurice Leblanc’s work is Persona 5, which is based on the group of so-called Phantom Thieves, as well as Lupine, who are fighting for good despite their actions not complying with the law. As if the premise weren’t enough to be similar to the author’s stories, there are several references to the character in Persona: the name of the cafe where the protagonist Joker lives is Leblanc, as the author’s last name, and the name of his first character is Arsène, just like the famous thief. In Persona 5 Royal, which expands on the events of the original game, there is a version of Arsene called Raoul, a pseudonym commonly used by Lupine.

Comics and manga

Lupine III manga cover

In Japan, Arsène Lupine became very popular thanks to the manga. Much of this success is due to Lupine III, written and illustrated by Monkey Punch, which is a reinterpretation, telling the story of Leblanc’s character’s grandson. The manga has generated a whole franchise derived from itself, which includes several CDs, movies, animations, games and even musicals. The franchise remains very popular in the country and had its sixth anime series launched in 2018. It is notable in the titles Lupine III the variation in tone in different products, with movies and animations tending to be more focused on family, while the manga is sometimes explicit about sex and violence.

For many years, franchise products could not use the Lupine name outside of Japan, due to copyright by Maurice Leblanc, and had to be renamed, using names like “Rupan”. However, those rights expired some time ago, which has allowed the franchise to use Lupine’s name around the world.

In addition to having received several comic adaptations, other well-known titles contain references to Arsène Lupine. In Dossiê Negro, Alan Moore’s HQ of the Extraordinary League, the character makes an appearance, being one of the members of the French version of the British group, called Les Hommes Mysterieux. In the Soul Eater manga, there is a character named Lupine, who appears in the third chapter and is also a thief. Finally, Gundam artist Takashi Morita made a manga adaptation of Leblanc’s work, published in 2011.

In the animations

Lupine III

As mentioned earlier, Arsene Lupine is the originator of Lupine III, a manga which in turn had animes and films derived from itself. One of the cartoons aired in Brazil on Locomotion in 2001, and the movie O Ouro da Babilônia was released here on VHS in the 1980s. One of Lupin’s most notable adaptations in animated form , however, was O Castelo de Cagliostro. The film was the second feature film on Lupine III, in addition to marking Hayao Miyazaki’s debut as a director. In addition to the film, Miyazaki worked on the first adaptation of the manga for television, also as a director.

Cagliostro Castle became the most popular and lauded title in the Lupine III franchise, although it didn’t go well at the box office initially. The film is credited not only for having a major influence on Miyazaki’s future work, but also for influencing animators and directors around the world, including in relation to Disney and Pixar productions. Although it suffered some criticism from manga fans for calling Lupine a gallant hero rather than an unscrupulous criminal, Cagliostro’s Castle has become dear to much of the public, in addition to being regarded like an animation classic.

In 2019, the movie Lupine III – The Premiere, the first 3D animated version of the character, whose story takes place in the 60s, was released and takes the protagonist to Paris and even to Brazil. The story and the animation of the film were praised, being the majority opinion of the public that the transition of the series to 3D was very well done.

Arsene Lupine has also been adapted as a character in an anime based on a game called Code: Realize – Guardian of Rebirth. In it, besides being a big thief, Lupine is the romantic interest of the protagonist.

The live-action versions of Arsène Lupine

The Netflix series introduced Lupine to new audiences, but it’s not its first live-action adaptation

The character’s first theatrical adaptation comes a few years after his first story, in a black and white silent film called The Gentleman Burglar, and directed by Edwin S. Porter. William V. Ranous played Lupine in the American film, being the first, but not the only: twenty other films based on Arsene Lupine have been released in several countries, including Japan, Germany, Mexico and the United Kingdom. – United, in addition to his, France.

Although the first film adaptation came from the United States, few films of the character were produced there, the most recent dating from 1944, in which Charles Kovin lived as the protagonist. Prior to that, a 1932 film titled Arsene Lupine starred Drew Barrymore’s grandfather, John Barrymore, in the lead role.

Lupine had also been adapted into a series format, appearing in several French-language series throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s. The premiere aired in 1971, having released hour-long episodes until 1974. In more than a Filipino series from 2007, other recent productions that refer to the character were a 2014 Kamen Rider film, which features the Kamen Rider Lupine, and the Japanese series Secret × Heroine Phantomirage !, which is based on a group of gentleman thieves called Phantomirage. The most recent and well-known adaptation of the character from the series is, of course, the Netflix version, a reinterpretation where the protagonist takes inspiration from Lupin’s stories.

Arsène Lupine is a charismatic character, who plays in interesting and intelligent adventures. It is therefore not surprising that it has been the subject of so many adaptations and reinterpretations, in the most diverse media. For those who knew him through the Netflix series and were interested in the character, this is only the beginning: between the original works of Maurice Leblanc and the most varied versions, there is no shortage of Lupine content to know . Now you already have several options for where to start!

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