If it seems like I'm posting a lot of drawings from the same shot... that's kind of the point. If you click on any of the images, you should be able to press the 'left' and 'right' keys to move back and forth between every picture in the post. The individual drawings themselves are great, but the way they relate to each other spatially is what really makes them so amazing to me. I haven't posted every frame, but I tried to get what I felt were the key poses.
It's immediately obvious that this series has a higher budget than the second series. There's much more movement and the designs are more detailed (but still not overly so).
Episode 2 has a fun story, with Zenigata going through a wide range of extreme emotions. While the animation is competent, it still lacks the vitality that the later episodes have, except for a few scenes, particularly Zenigata in the airport (shown below). This animator does a great job of capturing Zenigata's tiny reptilian brain struggling to process the information it's receiving. This level of blank-eyed stupidity and blind enthusiasm is what I aspire to with my Fester Fish character. I also love that the next shot after he runs off is a smash cut to dozens of handcuffs flying through the air (not shown in the post). Check out these brilliantly stupid drawings:
It's interesting how the first few episodes start off more polished and naturalistic, with very little of the loose, wacky drawing style that shows up later. It's not a budgetary thing, because the later episodes are just as fully animated, it's just that the entire visual style goes bananas. Normally, at least in Western cartoons, the opposite is true. The character designs are completely different in the beginning, with Lupin having a weird afro and smaller eyes, and Goemon not even looking remotely Asian. Throughout the first dozen or so episodes, it gradually gets crazier and crazier until we start to arrive at the style the series is known for.
The rest of this post is from episode 11, featuring animation direction by Tatsuo Ryuno and Hidetoshi Owashi. It definitely has the most consistently wild animation up to this point. There's a great chase scene full of funky posing, and even the cars are animated in a really kinetic way. I also like how one of the villains has a pacifier in his mouth throughout the episode.
Here's the thing that made me laugh the hardest in this episode-- Fujiko is at the door exiting a room after she's handcuffed Lupin to the bed. Then she turns around and gasps, and it abruptly cuts to Lupin screaming at her as he runs across the room towards her, dragging the bed with him. Really jarring cuts that seem like a mistake always crack me up. The animation and the situation are both funny, but I think what really gets me is the way Lupin starts wailing just as it cuts. Yasuo Yamada, and Goro Naya, are amazing in this series (voicing Lupin and Zenigata respectively). All the weird stories and slapstick allows them to really cut loose, giving their most high-energy performances anywhere in the franchise.
I'm going to cover the series in chronological order, even though I've watched a few of the later episodes already. There will be more coming soon!