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Just because you can’t catch the world’s greatest thief doesn’t mean you aren’t the world’s greatest detective.

Inspector Zenigata is a made-for-TV film following the only man in the world capable of keeping up with Lupin III: Inspector Koichi Zenigata.

The film begins in Japan where, in a very Lupin-esque crime, a painting is stolen–with a security guard killed during the escape. Even more damning, a Lupin III calling card has been left in place of the painting, leaving Lupin as the police’s only suspect. And of course, where there is Lupin, Zenigata follows.

From the start, one thing is clear: The Tokyo Police care little for Zenigata. After all, he has made a career of failing to capture Lupin. At best, the Police Commander in charge views him as an incompetent meddler–one they have to at least entertain due to his rank.

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Of course, when Zenigata announces loudly that this is not the work of Lupin due to the body count and the sloppiness that implies, the Commander makes a few sarcastic comments about his competency (which Zenigata takes on face value as praise) and boots Zenigata out the door with two cops to babysit him and keep him out of the way of the “real cops.”

The first thirty minutes of this film deal with this case and are built to show one thing: Zenigata is very good at his job. While the police at large hunt for Lupin, Zenigata spends time going over the crime scene–testing the assumptions made by everyone else. Through solid detective work, he quickly figures out where the painting is, who stole it, and beats said criminal in a fight without breaking a sweat.

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As the purest possible interpretation of Zenigata, the Inspector happily gives all credit to the Tokyo Police–not because of political maneuvering or the like, but simply because that is what he truly feel to be true. He is a man that believes in law, order, and the goodness of people. The idea that a another police officer would be out to get him is unthinkable–they are on the same side after all.

However, his comments about the high competency of the Tokyo PD also act as a taunt, attracting a higher class of criminal who wants to put the police–and the world famous inspector–in their place. With bombs planted throughout the city, Zenigata and his two assistants are forced to play a quiz game where the lives of the normal people in Tokyo are the price of wrong answer.

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Plot aside, the real star is the acting of Ryouhei Suzuki as the titular Zenigata. Playing a character so ingrained in the Japanese consciousness is tough; when that character is animated, it is doubly so. While the over-gravelly voice he gives to the character can seem a bit much at times, it is in the mannerisms where the character comes to life. The way he stands and the gestures he makes feel ripped straight out of the anime–and the way he runs, with the bowlegged stance common in Lupin III characters–is truly spot on.

In the end, the film is about Zenigata as an inspiration. He refuses to give up, no matter what comes, and only hopes that others will do the same. The moral is simple: You only truly fail when you give up–and if enough people alongside you refuse to give up, you’ll win in the end every time.

It’s just that, like in the case of Lupin III, that final victory may take a while.

Image Source: スタンリー@金曜ロードSHOW! 公式 on Twitter

Inspector Zenigata aired on NTV in Japan. Two other stories, Inspector Zenigata: Pitch Black Criminal File and Inspector Zenigata: Pure Red Investigation File, are set to air on WOWOW and Hulu respectively.

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