— Insp. Zenigata's signature yell as he approaches Lupin III
Inspector Kōichi Zenigata is one of the main protagonists of the manga and anime, Lupin the 3rd. He is an incredibly talented, yet often bumbling police officer who is affiliated with Interpol and has made it his life's goal to capture Lupin III.
Inspector Zenigata was conceived as Lupin's arch-rival to create a "human Tom and Jerry".
Monkey Punch has said that he believes that despite the fact that he ended the manga with Zenigata winning, the Lupin III story can never end but that if he had to, both Zenigata and Lupin would have to end as equals. They would either both fail, both win or both get very old.
Zenigata is based on a famous Japanese crime-fighting character named Heiji Zenigata. The character is a few hundred years old and was best known for throwing coins as a weapon. Zenigata's handcuff throwing technique is his own take on the character's choice of weapon.
In early points of the Lupin III franchise, he was directly related to the fictional detective, to the point where his full name was Heiji Zenigata VII, though his blood relation to Heiji Zenigata doesn't come into play as much as Lupin III's and Goemon Ishikawa XIII's relations to Arsène Lupin and Ishikawa Goemon, respectively. His blood relation with Heiji Zenigata would even be erased as he was renamed Koichi Zenigata.
His true counterpart, however, is Maurice Leblanc's Inspector Ganimard, who was Arsène Lupin's rival in the original novels by Maurice Leblanc.
- Further information: Koichi Zenigata/Gallery
Zenigata is often portrayed as a middle-aged man of average height. He has dark hair, typical of the average Japanese man although, in the OVA The Plot of the Fuma Clan, he had shaved his head when he joined a monastery. Depending on the occasion, the Inspector will either have his hair cropped into a flat-top or neatly styled into a comb-over, but most of the time he has a full head of thick dark hair. He also has his signature cleft chin, which is usually very pronounced. Zenigata is always seen wearing his signature khaki colored trench coat over a dark brown suit and a stereotypical Inspector's fedora. As with the rest of the characters, the color scheme of his attire slightly changes from series to series.
In Part 4, he was made to look younger, likely taking influence from the original manga, where Zenigata is not much older than Lupin, as he was a junior in college when Lupin was a freshman.
Zenigata is only slightly taller than Lupin, making if easy for them to disguise themselves as each other, despite Zenigata having a more muscular build. A running gag in Part 3 was that he was always completely dwarfed in height when surrounded by a crowd of Americans or Europeans.
In the first manga, Zenigata, who was concieved as Lupin's former classmate and therefore is suggested to be around his age, just looks like an older buffer Lupin in a hat, which carries over into the anime at times, depending on the art director.
Throughout the franchise, he has been portrayed as both a serious and competent police inspector and a bumbling, overzealous Lupin chaser. Although every incarnation of him has both of these qualities, the level of seriousness and incompetence varies. In the manga, he is quite often foul-mouthed, serious in terms of his duty and tries to present himself in some chapters as cool, although he has moments of being clumsy, such as bursting in only to be pulled onto a giant magnet in New Lupin III Chapter 43 and getting his hand stuck in a bottle in Lupin III New Adventures Chapter 30. At the beginning of Part 1 , he was far from a nice person; he was corrupt, opportunistic, self-serving, dangerous, obsessive and violent. Although he grappled with a soft spot for Lupin all through the series, he didn't hesitate to shoot at him whenever the thief pulled off a heist. By Part 1 Episode 14, he mellowed out a great deal and became more affable. In The Woman Called Fujiko Mine and spinoff movies, he is portrayed as more stern but also more corrupt, ambitious and contemptuous, like his early Part 1 self but taken to more of an extreme, whereas in the Red and Pink series as well as a majority of the TV specials and movies, he is much goofier, more boisterous but also nicer and more well-meaning. In Lupin the 3rd Part 4, Zenigata is more balanced between the two personalities while in Part 5, he was more serious and not as interested chasing after Lupin but still gets hotheaded at times.
Generally in the anime, he shares some personality traits with Lupin. He's relaxed in what others find a tense situation, obsesses over small details and has a thorough backup plan that he just chooses not to tell anyone else about.
Zenigata is widely respected among his fellow officers at Interpol as an expert criminal catcher. He was able to discover security flaws and took down countless gangs and criminals long before he met Lupin. This does not apply to his bosses where Zenigata often argues with them due to his obsession over Lupin and wants to do it his way while the boss wants to do it another way; or, in some cases, the boss is corrupt and Zenigata wants to do his job. The only exception is in Part 2 Episode 82 where Interpol refuses to rescue Zenigata because they think he's a failure.
Zenigata tends to be impulsive. This is probably due to his strong sense of justice and honor which others often consider old fashioned. Unlike most other officers in the police force and Interpol, he is resistant to bribery and is often offended when someone attempts to bribe him. At the beginning of Part 1, he was more deferential to his superiors, but by the end of Part 1 and throughout Parts 2 and 3 he became more insubordinate and outspoken. He would always complain about ICPO's stinginess, corruption, and immoral acts such as sending a zombie hitman and an assassin who shoots exploding bullets to take out Lupin.
In The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, he was somewhat corrupt and had sex with Fujiko in order for a valuable item to be protected. However, in the rest of the series, it's Interpol that's corrupt; throughout Parts 2 and 3 Zenigata has made offhanded remarks about how stingy Interpol are, how departments are run on a tight budget and how they hate putting people up on travel. In Part III Episode 34 he's had to sleep on the street because he couldn't even afford a hotel.
Zenigata is sensitive and cries often, usually when Lupin does him an act of kindness or is in mortal peril.
To say the least, he is single-minded and only ever thinks about Lupin. In Part 2 Episode 31 he finally falls asleep in a police car after a long period of insomnia and wakes up in a panic when one of the officer's casually mentions Lupin's name. His obsession with Lupin often leads him to doing things in great lengths as seen in Part 4 Episode 13, where he insists the local jail to do everything they could to make sure Lupin stays in check, and even adamantly spends a long period of time alone in an island that houses Lupin's sole prison cell.
Zenigata doesn't tend to drink or smoke as much as Jigen or Lupin but often goes on binges when in a state of depression. In Tokyo Crisis, he drinks heavily after being suspended from the force and has to be carried home by Mariya. Sometimes he is known to eat large portions of food to improve his mood. He is often seen eating either a cup or a bowl of ramen, he only stops eating when Lupin is about. Unlike Goemon who is only interested in Japanese food, Zenigata also eats burgers. In Episode 0: First Contact, after struggling to request for a hamburger in a diner, he managed to eat 10 burgers and in Part III Episode 2, he ate burgers at a restaurant in Paris with everyone looking at him to build up his physical and mental strength, he also requested for a steak. In the movie Lupin VS the Clone he wolfed down his food after spending a long time out in the Caribbean, lost and starving.
Because he does not spend much time in one place, Zenigata never bothers to clean up after himself and is extremely messy. His apartment, hotel rooms, and desk at Interpol are usually cluttered with cigarettes, papers, and empty bottles.
Zenigata is not dependent on his police badge. In the movie Lupin VS the Clone, after having been ordered to stop chasing after Lupin, he resigns and declares that he will chase Lupin as a citizen. While in Tokyo Crisis, he continues to investigate even after having been suspended.
In The Castle of Cagliostro, he is depicted as still being temperamental, but tries his best to stay professional, even when having to face rudeness from the Count. His interaction with Clarisse at the end of the film brings out his kinder, gentler side.
Early anime temperament: High energy, short tempered, gung-ho, & loopy. Manga temperament: Snide, malicious, contemptuous, & competitive. Koike temperament: Laid back, serious, calculating, composed.
Originally, Zenigata was with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police but joined Interpol after meeting Lupin. In Part 1 Episode 15, he was invited by the Commissioner to attend the conference in France on that he did after "catching" Lupin. His relationship with the Commissioner started pleasant however by the time of Part 1 Episode 23, he threatened to resign from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police since they clashed regarding on how to catch Lupin and his failure to do so. According to Part 2 Episode 1, after unable to catch Lupin as he left Japan, he was demoted to a police officer in Takahata Village until Mister X lured him back to attend the Sirloin to chase after Lupin.
In The Woman Called Fujiko Mine however his backstory is different. While in France, he turned to corruption after being assigned "a low paying, thankless job" because it "was the only way for a guy like me to make it to the top." However, he eventually reported himself to his superiors after witnessing Oscar risking his life to protect his one franc by jumping into a river. After pulling Oscar out of the water, he adopts the boy who grows up to be his second in command and lieutenant.
In some backstory moments such as Part 1 Episode 1, Episode 0: First Contact and The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, Zenigata originally wanted to catch Fujiko however once Lupin got his attention it became his main goal.
His obsession has unfortunately put a strain on his marriage and his relationship with his daughter Toshiko (however this has only ever been mentioned once, in the movie Lupin VS the Clone). In Part 2 Episode 100, Zenigata is asked if he has any sons or daughters, he states no. He is asked if he has any family and replies, "no".
In Red & Pink Jacket series, Zenigata occassionally complains that his tireless pursuit of Lupin has left him with no wife or children, that he wants both, though other episodes have chasing Lupin as his greatest pleasure in life. Lupin comments on this in Part III Episode 32, where he reminds Zenigata not to pin the lack of girlfriends on him.
Although perpetually unable to permanently detain Lupin, Zenigata has proven over and over again that he is extremely capable. He is shown to be able to take down every member of Lupin's gang with ease.
Zenigata's signature weapon is a pair of handcuffs that are often attached to a rope for long-ranged attacks. He can throw cuffs with almost unhuman accuracy and has never once missed, although Lupin can escape within seconds.
He is also skilled at hand to hand combat. In Dead or Alive, a group of soldiers confronts him while he is eating. He doesn't even get up from the table but still manages to incapacitate all the soldiers (then proceeds to leave money on the counter, stating that the soldiers will probably need some coffee when they come to). In Another Page, he quickly takes down two hitmen. In Angel's Tactics, he manages to fend off a hoard of Bloody Angels minions with Lupin, surprising even Lupin. He also defeats several at once using his handcuffs throwing technique combined with hand to hand combat. He's only beaten easily when he dithers or gets too reckless.
Although not shown often, Zenigata is also skilled at inventing gadgets. In Part 2 Episode 26, he creates a pair of thumb cuffs (known as Zenigetchas in the English dub) that manage to completely stump Lupin. In fact, Lupin himself is unable to escape them until Goemon slices them with the Zantetsuken. In episode 114 of the Red Jacket Series, he invents a train link that can not be uncoupled. In Farewell to Nostradamus, he creates the "Lupin Catcher", a metal detector-like device that beeps when Lupin is near and a chain of handcuffs to hold all four members of Lupin's gang at once.
Zenigata's ability to capture Lupin increases steadily as the series progresses. By the end of the Red Jacket Series, he has already come up with several, extremely inventive plots to prevent Lupin from getting his target. Whereas at the start of the Lupin the 3rd Part 1, Lupin often escapes him by very simple means. In the special Operation: Return the Treasure alone, he can catch Lupin 3 times. In Seven Days Rhapsody, he discovers that one of the riders in a horse race is Lupin in disguise and calls the bomb squad before removing Lupin's exploding mask. In Sweet Lost Night, he is able to predict all of Lupin's escape methods.
Zenigata has shown his skill on more than one occasion, leading the viewer to wonder about his true capability. In Computer or Lupin? from Part 2, he seeks Lupin's help in returning an item he stole and his passion allows him to easily defeat the gang who are impressed by his skill yet after helping Lupin, he goes back to his ways. In Find the Treasure of Lupin I, Zenigata realizes the gang's lives are in danger, so he creates and deploys a simple plan to capture them for their safety. Within minutes he has captured all three and has them handcuffed to a tree. Lupin comments on more than one occasion that it's a shame Zenigata is a cop.
Zenigata's obsession when he gets upset or close to Lupin seems to give him superhuman abilities. In The Hemingway Papers he is trapped in an underground cell but manages to break the door down when he gets angry enough.
Zenigata has incredible stamina and high pain tolerance. In the Lupin III vs. Detective Conan movie, he was able to move after twice being electructed by Lupin's shocky-shock sticker which was stronger that a stun gun. In the crossover, when he was hit by a tranquilizer that would floor an elephant for an hour, he only remained unconscious for about thirty seconds. In In Memory of the Walther P38 he seemingly died, but came back to life at the mere mention of Lupin's name. In Part III Episode 39 a group of neo-Nazis caused a tower to collapse on him and he only ended up in the hospital in bandages. In the movie Lupin VS the Clone he was caught in the middle of a missile strike and only managed to come out of it with his clothes torn. In Part 2 Episode 15 he emerges from a zeppelin crash slightly singed.
In Part 3, he once got so angry that he bent prison bars apart with his bare hands, & invented a scanner machine that could see through disguises. He also outwitted Goemon 3 times in one day & stole his water walking shoes. The Lupin gang seem significantly more intimidated by & afraid of him in this series than in Part 2, though he still has his fair share of episodes where he is quickly dispatched to focus on the villain of the day.
Throughout Parts 2 and 3 he has had the unique ability to express himself with his hat. His hat's brim will either flap up and down when he's excited, or turn downwards when he's feeling bashful.
Zenigata was voted the eighth-best supporting character in anime by Mania.com. Mania.com also put Zenigata as the 9th greatest anime detective.
Mike Crandoll of Anime News Network compared Zenigata's pursuit of Lupin to Wile E. Coyote.
- The name Koichi means "happiness, good luck" (幸) (ko) and "one" (一) (ichi), which literally means "One happiness" altogether.
- Koichi's surname Zenigata means "coin, .01 yen, money" (銭) (zeni) and "form, shape, type" (形) (gata), which literally means "Money-shaped" altogether.
- According to The Castle of Cagliostro Dictionary Book, Zenigata's birthday is on April 5 however in Bye-Bye Liberty - Close Call! his birthday was given as December 25, 1938 (which makes him almost 53 years old in the film) and came from the Saitama prefecture on his badge.
- Zenigata's former voice actor, Gorō Naya, also voices Leonard Dawson from Golgo 13: The Professional. Dawson sounds similar to Zenigata when he is in his angry state.
- His first name has been subject to a few changes.
- In the original manga, he was referred to as "Heitaro Zenigata" in two chapters.
- In early Lupin III media, his name was "Heiji Zenigata VII", reinforcing his blood relation to the fictional detective Heiji Zenigata. This was true for the Pilot Film, Part 1, and Lupin VS the Clone.
- Because of an error, he was accidentally named "Koichi Zenigata", which is still his name up to this day.
- By contrast, his ancestor was always addressed as "Heiji". This is because Heiji's surname might not even be Zenigata; stories such as The Golden Virgin imply that it's a nickname, due to Heiji's affinity for throwing coins.
- In the episode Part III Episode 3, it is revealed that his monthly salary is 338,363 yen (roughly $1427).
- The original Japanese audio of Part 2 Episode 24 shows he doesn't like James Bond. He says it's because spies are enemies are the police, but it's possible that it's also because, like Lupin, Bond takes whatever he wants without a second thought, and is a womanizer.
- A running gag in the English dub of the Red Jacket series would be that every time he got hurt, from falling on his face to hitting the door to getting showered in rubble, he would react with an understated "Ow."
- He is the only living main character at the end of Kazuhiko Kato's run of the manga, having killed Lupin and his gang by trapping them on a floating island with explosives beneath it.
- The end of Part 2 Episode 139 implies he died in Mr. Steel's body, and shows up alive in the next episode, back in his own body, with no explanation. Given that there's no consensus of public opinion about what actually happened to him at the end of the episode, it may be that he almost died and managed to get himself back into his own body in time without the help of the machine.
- The English dub of Part 2 plays up the "tsundere" aspect of his personality; in the dub of Part 2 Episode 32 he outright tells Lupin, whom he thought had died, that he loves him, then tells him he hates him a few seconds later and immediately apologizes for telling him he hates him.
- His Stefan voice in Part 2 Episode 85 is provided by Rokurō Naya, Gorō Naya's younger brother.
- The English dub of Part 2 portrays him as having had an unhealthy dependence on his mother.
- Sean Barrett's Zenigata is tightfisted and doesn't believe in tipping.
- Although in the 1990s he kept his name in various English-language releases, all references to him being Japanese were omitted during that time.