Lupin the Third’s Loving Farewell to Its Last Original Voice Actor, Kiyoshi Kobayashi

Lupin the Third’s Loving Farewell to Its Last Original Voice Actor, Kiyoshi Kobayashi

The Lupin the Third franchise is as much defined by its ensemble cast as it is Lupin himself. The sixth television series kicks off with a spotlight on Lupin’s oldest companion, the unparalleled marksman Daisuke Jigen, but it’s no ordinary character-centric episode. Instead, it comes on the heels of the announcement that Jigen’s voice actor, Kiyoshi Kobayashi, is finally hanging up his hat and holstering his magnum at the age of 88, after 50 years playing Jigen. The story told is a loving tribute to Kobayashi-as-Jigen and Jigen-as-Kobayashi. 

“I’m Getting Too Old For This”

“Episode 0”, as it’s called, revolves around Jigen contemplating finally retiring from a life of constant heists. He laments the changing times, especially the way technology has lost the kind of romanticism found in his trusty Smith & Wesson Model 19. Jigen ends up having heart-to-hearts with each of the core characters, even ones with whom he has icier relationships such as Inspector Zenigata and Fujiko. In the end, Jigen shows that an old dog’s still capable of some ingenious tricks, and he goes off to meet Lupin to share some whisky. As Lupin waits for him, Lupin switches from his blue jacket that has been ubiquitous in recent TV series to a green one—the original color of jacket Lupin wore when the first TV series hit airwaves back in 1971.

Send-Offs Like This Are a Rarity

Kobayashi is the last of the original Lupin the Third cast and a living legend of the industry, and deserves all the praise and accolades that have come his way. However, to have an actual swan-song episode for a voice actor is so incredibly uncommon in the anime industry that I can’t actually think of any other instances. It’s not unusual to have a voice actor quietly step down from a role they’ve had for decades with a successor lined up. Indeed, as celebrated as their performances are, the rest of the original cast from 1971 didn’t quite have nearly as dedicated a focus as Kobayashi receives here.

Dual Meanings

The episode is touching as a metacommentary because there are two conversation tracks happening: one between the characters and one between the actors. For the Lupin gang, they’ve been turning the world upside down for half a decade, and that history is special in how well it’s endured. For the voices, there’s a sense of the newer generation paying their respects. It makes me wish I could see tributes like this happen more often for industry veterans. Of course, in some cases, it’s not possible. Voice actors like Keiji Fujiwara and Yasuo Yamada (the original Lupin) have passed away suddenly and tragically. The fact that Kobayashi is able to have this moment is something to be thankful for.

The Next Stage

Jigen is now being played by Akio Ohtsuka, himself a highly experienced voice actor famous for roles such as the titular rogue doctor from Black Jack and Wamuu the Pillar Man from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. He always gives excellent performances, and his Jigen is sure to be no exception, but he’ll likely never be as closely associated with the character as Kobayashi is. Time may prove me wrong, but Kobayashi’s Jigen is timeless nevertheless.

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