Lupin III’s Mysterious Background Muisic

You may hear people say that the music in Lupin III is smooth enough that even the ears of music people will perk up. And yes, the music that appears on those Lupin III soundtracks is quite good.

Those soundtracks are gigantic lies.

Just recently I was powering through some DVDs from the second Lupin series (you know, the famous red jacket one from 1978) and I forgot about just how much of the music on the show’s “soundtracks” doesn’t actually appear in the show proper. Okay, to be fair I’m basing this off the soundtrack Geneon released in the mid-2000s–based off of a Japanese “best of” release–but even if you skim through the actual soundtrack CDs (the ones with ballin’ Monkey Punch covers) a lot of them are composed of the same tracks that appear on those best of CDs, along with other tracks that also don’t appear much in the actual show.

This isn’t to say that the music that actually appears in the second Lupin series is bad. While it doesn’t tend to be as smooth and silky as what appears on the CDs, a lot of it is very nice and punchy short incidental music that works well to underscore the action in the show, and there are also some legit good long tracks that appear throughout. But what CDs do these tracks appear on? On the “unreleased” BGM collection, of course! Strange how a large majority of the show’s actual music only appears on an obscure CD like this, while music that’s hardly ever used gets all the play.

But it makes sense, right? A lot of that music just doesn’t stand alone well on its own, and the stuff on the more commonly found soundtracks makes for fine listening material. But this raises a question: Why go through all the trouble to make amazing tracks of music for a show when those tracks barely appear in the show proper? This is a question I don’t have an answer for, and considering how long that second TV series is (150 or so episodes) those tracks may be more prominent in the later episodes.

I kind of doubt it, though!

It’s just kind of strange, you know? That second Lupin series has a fair amount of tracks that it falls back on to set the tone and define the show, so why not put those on your soundtrack? Putting the stuff that hardly appears in the show at all on the commonly available soundtracks strikes me as quite odd. One usually buys a soundtrack in order to hear music used in the show.

And you know what else strikes me as quite odd? The sound editing in that second TV series. The application of background music in Lupin III Part 2 can–at times–only really be described as scatterbrained. While they get it right in a good number of episodes, there’s a lot of episodes where the cutting together of music from the scene to scene, or certain insertions of random pieces of music, just strikes me as random.

For example, in one episode they cut together a lot of the show’s short 3-or-so second bits of incidental music into one thing to emphasize a certain moment in a scene. I can see what they were going for, but it just comes off as disjointed and strange, and I’m left wondering who thought this was a good idea. Similarly, in the Hatler episode there are numerous scene changes in the space of a few minutes, each with jarring changes of music between them for each scene. Nothing flows or meshes together–it’s just rough. Maybe it’s just Suzuki Seijun being himself, but this really jarring cutting of music is something that works against the show at points.

Maybe it’s just because the show is old, but I don’t remember Gundam having this issue. Of course in later Lupin outings this isn’t much of an issue, but the application of music in the second TV series is one of many technical setbacks that makes it such an uneven show in many ways. I do love the show, but certain parts of it really leave me baffled.


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