The aim of the Lupin III series was to produce a comedy adventure series that reflected the traits of Leblanc's Arsène Lupin character. Originally the intention was to keep the blood ties between the two fictional characters secret, however Monkey Punch was convinced by others not to do so. He combined elements of Arsène Lupin with James Bond to develop the character of Lupin III and made him a "carefree fellow."
In the original manga, Lupin and his team typically work individually for their own goals. The author explained it is only in the anime that they frequently operate together, suspecting some unwritten rule that all five main characters have to appear in every episode. He believes that Lupin and Fujiko are similar to the characters of D'Artagnan and Milady de Winter, and describes them as "Not necessarily lovers, not necessarily husband and wife, but more just having fun as man and woman with each other". Inspector Zenigata was conceived as Lupin's archrival to create a "human Tom and Jerry". Monkey Punch said the appeal of drawing Lupin comes from the character being able to go anywhere without obstacles and being able to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. However, this is contrasted by the appeal of Zenigata's strict personality. The creator has said that he believes 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.
In typical anime style, Lupin's appearance is racially ambiguous and tends to oblique his origins. He has black hair plastered flat with what is either a widow's peak or a V-shaped bang. His trademark sideburns extend from ear to nearly the chin. Outside his preference for large and rather plain boots, Lupin is a sharp dresser. He typically wears a button-down shirt, tie, chinos and a brightly colored sports jacket - exclusively red in the manga, while in animation his jackets are various colors which color-code his TV series (green for Part I, a few OVAs and The Woman Called Fujiko Mine; red for Part II and most films & television specials; pink for Part III; blue for Part IV and Part V).
Lupin is acknowledged by virtually every law agency on earth as the world's number one thief. Often in his adventures, he and his colleagues, Daisuke Jigen and Goemon Ishikawa XIII, will take it upon themselves to foil other criminals engaged in more violent crimes. While first glance may imply Lupin as fun-loving, flighty, perhaps even "goofy", his surface facade overcoats a brilliant imagination and a thorough knowledge of a hundred varying sciences. Forever extemporizing and reevaluating, Lupin has been responsible for heists no right minded individual would believe possible. While arrested and jailed on numerous occasions, typically by his nemesis Inspector Zenigata, he has always managed to escape. He has a fondness for fancy gadgets from time to time plus hands-on experience in many skills a thief would find useful. His infatuation with Fujiko is perhaps his most significant weakness, as it lands him in undesirable situations most of the time.
While Lupin is a thief, he will go to great lengths to right injustice. While he sees nothing wrong with his chosen profession, he reminds anyone who asks that the people from whom he steals are people who can take the loss, and that there are worse people than he in this world. He also shows a chivalrous streak that compels him to help those less fortunate than he (especially attractive women). Furthermore, Lupin often takes it upon himself and his gang to stop criminals engaged in more violent crimes and leave them for Zenigata to arrest. He fancies himself a ladies' man, although his actual success with women is erratic. In Monkey Punch's original manga, Lupin is very much the ladies' man, though Fujiko is frequently beyond his grasp. His abilities with the opposite sex tend to fluctuate with the writer.
When not seeking fortune from his adventures, Lupin unwinds by a variety of pastimes. His most-witnessed hobbies are fishing, nightclubbing, gambling, being part of cafe society, and dating beautiful women. He's a connoisseur of international food and wine, drinks liquor, enjoys beer, tea, and coffee. He also smokes cigarettes and occasionally cigars and kreteks; in the manga he's seen smoking a briar pipe occasionally. His preferred cigarette is famous French brand Gitanes. Lupin is a celebrated race car driver, competing in several international events when time allows. He's also a skilled sleight of hand artist who loves to befuddle his opponents with various gimmicks: i.e., a cigarette which explodes into confetti, a gun with a spring-loaded boxing glove that clobbers the shooter, and bubble gum that becomes plastique after brief chewing.
Even though his gang's loyalty has been an issue, with Fujiko willing to betray and cohort Goemon promising to eventually kill him, Lupin will still drop everything to come to their aid in a helpless moment; further the team would rather face torture than to betray Lupin (or he betray them) to a third party. Curiously, this rule of loyalty extends also to Inspector Zenigata, who recipocates by never trying to kill Lupin. Lupin's vendetta against the Tarantula's in Island of Assassins was partly due to their shooting and nearly killing Zenigata.
In all, Lupin can best be defined as an intelligent guy with a child's fun-loving demeanor, laughing and quipping in the face of opposition with a handy trick always available to maintain an upper hand.
It appears Lupin loves to steal more than actually having the treasure he sought. There have been times he has had what he stolen lost or he intentionally threw it away. It appears Lupin relishes more of the challenge of stealing and thus is usually not that upset when he ends up empty-handed as long as he beat the security and stole the object of his desire away. There also have been times when Lupin only stole the object in question to give to someone else, such as if it rightfully belonged to them or they needed it more than he did.
Lupin has historically described himself as of mixed heritage, Japanese and French. His features, like most characters in manga/anime, are racially ambiguous and tend to oblique which ethnic side of the family he favors. His black hair is plastered flat with what is either a widow's peak or a V-shaped bang on the forehead. His trademark sideburns extend from ear to nearly the chin. Lupin is a snappy dresser with a blue shirt, cream colored tie, khaki pants and a brightly colored jacket as his typical running-around gear. He is often seen wearing various colors (notably jackets), which tend to color-code his anime seasons: green (1st TV season and the color used in a few OVAs and films), red (the second or Shin Lupin season; also the color chosen for most films and television specials) or pink (third season). Curiously, Lupin is often depicted as being cross-eyed and occasionally monkey-like, although these may be comic flourishes rather than actual characteristics.
Physically, Lupin is a man of average strength, but he can throw a surprisingly good punch. He is incredibly flexible and fast, and his manual dexterity is cat-like in precision and quickness, honed by years of stealth and subterfuge. His talent in the art of disguise borders on the superhuman, with him able to flawlessly impersonate any man or woman in face, voice and costume, sometimes in mere seconds. This skill is so complete that he can even fool close friends and family members of the impersonated party with only the slightest of suspicion hinted. His skinny body enables him to easily impersonate heavier subjects by padding disguises, usually filling them with gadgets and surprises in the process. He can even perfectly imitate voices. His favorite disguise has always been that of his archnemesis, Inspector Koichi Zenigata, which incenses Zenigata to no end. Another of Lupin's abilities is his encyclopedic knowledge of various topics, such as history, the different sciences, fluency in multiple languages, etc. He also shows amazing intuition and awareness of his surroundings. For unknown reasons, Lupin favors the Walther P38 as his principle firearm. He is shown to be an excellent marksman (although not as good a shot as Jigen), yet typically will not kill unless his life or the life of a loved one is threatened.
Lupin is a talented stunt driver, stunt motorcyclist and flight pilot. His favorite automobiles seem to be the Mercedes Benz typically painted yellow (he apparently has many since several SSK's have been destroyed during his encounters) and a souped up 1957 Fiat 500, most famously seen in The Castle of Cagliostro.
Lupin is a formidable escape artist, capable of cracking any safe or freeing himself from shackles in moments. He can even use his restraints to entrap his would-be captor before making his escape. Seemingly prepared for all contingencies, he can make his escape even when surrounded.
Despite his facade of reckless child-like antics, most notably his taunting enemies with silly faces and leaving notes of his next caper, Lupin's brilliance for tactics and originality belies any underestimations his behavior may have implied. In the Lupin III vs Detective Conan special, not only did he figure out Conan Edogawa was far more intelligent than he appeared, but had discerned his identity as Shinichi Kudō.
Lupin's ethnic origins haven't been specified; in "Green vs. Red", a dossier held by Zenigata indicates his place of birth as "unknown", however this particular work is not considered canon. He admits being French like his grandfather, but apparently lives in Japan. Inspector Zenigata often calls him Japanese and Lupin himself once called himself "half-Japanese, half-French" (2nd series, episode 118).
In Lupin the Third Part I, episode 13: "Beware the Time Machine!", Lupin tricks Mamo Kyosuke by dressing as a Japanese peasant and acting as though they are in feudal Japan. Lupin specifically states to Mamo that the ancestor whose face he most resembles was Japanese. When Mamo "meets" this ancestor (Lupin in disguise), Lupin states that he would like to marry some girl by the name of Marianne Lupin from France someday. This statement implies that Lupin was either aware of the family's history stemming from a Japanese ancestor marrying a French woman of the Lupin family and is using that information to further convince Mamo that he has gone back in time OR it could be Lupin making up something which is untrue to confuse Mamo.
Lupin described himself to an Imperial soldier as being mixed heritage Japanese. Goemon immediately countered by saying Lupin wasn't Japanese, but still worthy of respect.
Lupin speaks often of both his famous grandfather and his father, both of whom were thieves. He's forever quoting his grandfather's advice and has attempted to complete or repeat heists attempted by his ancestors with good or bad luck.
Lupin was voted the eighth most iconic anime hero by Mania.com. IGN ranked Lupin as the fifteenth best anime character of all time in 2009, placing him on the 16th spot in 2014.
After completing his involvement with the Lupin III franchise in 1980 Hayao Miyazaki wrote an article in Animage where he discussed his view of the series and the character. He stated that Lupin was "truly a character of his era" but that as the franchise progressed he had been overtaken by the real world. Despite this, Miyazaki still thought fondly of Lupin's early days. For the video game Persona 5, its creative team originally asked themselves how a character like Arsène Lupin III might win appeal in modern society.
- Yasuo Yamada (1971-1995)
- Kan'ichi Kurita (1995-current)
- Roberto Del Giudice (1979-2007)
- Stefano Onofri (2008-current)
- Loris Loddi (The Castle of Cagliostro first dub)
- Luigi Rosa (The Castle of Cagliostro second dub)
- Giorgio Melazzi (The Mystery of Mamo third dubg)
- Philippe Ogouz (1985-current)
- Marcel Guido(The Mystery of Mamo first dub)
- Tom Clark (Frontier Enterprises dub)
- Bob Bergen (Streamline Pictures dub)
- Robin Robertson (AnimEigo dub)
- William Dufris (Manga Entertainment Ltd. dub)
- David Hayter (Manga Entertainment Inc. dub)
- Sonny Strait (FUNimation dub and The Woman Called Fujiko Mine)
- Tony Oliver (Geneon and Discotek dubs)
- Keith Silverstein (Jigen's Gravestone)
- He was never named "Arsène" in Japanese media with only one partial exception. The Girl in the Twin Towers from Lupin the Third Part V where the name appears as a profile in the episode however said profile was also written in English.
- Before the Arsène Lupin copyright expired, most English dubs renamed him to "Wolf" or "Rupan" with the exception of the Frontier dub of The Mystery of Mamo who kept Lupin but renamed everyone else. If Lupin III was ever used, it had to be referenced as an alias on the packaging. In Germany, he was renamed to Hardyman. This did not affect Spain or Italy who kept his original name.
- In France, he's called Edgar de la Cambriole as Arsène was still under copyright in France when first localised. The Woman Called Fujiko Mine was the first series in France to use the Lupin III name as the copyright lapsed in 2012.
- In the Blue Jacket series he married Rebecca Rossellini for a heist and as the two have yet to sign divorce papers as Lupin is still officially her husband.
- Lupin's English voice actor, Tony Oliver, also voices Robert Dawson from Golgo 13: The Professional in the 1992 Streamline Pictures dub. Robert sounds similar to Lupin when he speaks in his calm voice.