『Last love song』（Garnet Crow）
The start of our last love song...
I pray this will be it.
"Last Love Song" (Garnet Crow)
While it would take a bit of time, I could theoretically have read the original French version of today's book, but why bother with that if I can read a cheaper Japanese version much easier?
The suicide of her father leaves Cora, Princess of Lerne, with much sadness, which is only partly relieved by her father's parting words, which were full of loving advice for the future and one particular observation. Cora's father said he knew that one of the four men who have of late devoted themselves to the beautiful Cora, was the infamous gentleman-thief Arsène Lupin and if she would ever be in danger, she should turn to him for help. And as her father had predicted, the help of Lupin is indeed needed. A series of incidents surrouding her start with a daring attempt to steal her massive wedding dowry from an airplane from England to France: two of the money bags fall inside the "Zône", a less-fortunate and rather rough neighbourhood just outside Paris. But before a trio of ne'er-do-wells can get away with the loot, they are apprehended by a mysterious man affectionally called Captain Cockadoodle by the local children. But the theft of Cora's dowry is just the beginning of the adventure, and Captain Cockadoodle (or as he quickly confesses, a reformed Arsène Lupin). assisted by Joséphin and Marie-Thérèse, two of the brightest of the "Zône" children, try to figure out who and why someone is targeting Cora in Maurice Leblanc's Le Dernier Amour d'Arsène Lupin ("The Last Love of Arsène Lupin", 2012).
2012? Yes, Maurice Leblanc, creator of Arsène Lupin, passed away in 1941, but Le Dernier Amour d'Arsène Lupin is his only novel originally published in the 21st century. This last adventure of the famous gentleman-thief was originally written in 1936, but was never published. The manuscript remained with Leblanc's family and while the existence of the story was already known from the late 80s on, Leblanc's son did not wish to publish the book. The book was later once again discovered by Leblanc's granddaughter and the book was first published in 2012 in France as the last Lupin novel, with the final publication being identical to Leblanc's original story (no extra editing).
And because Arsène Lupin is quite popular in Japan, three different translations of the book were published there in the same year as the original French release! Hayakawa published a 'normal' translation, while Popular continued their series of rewritten versions of the Lupin novels for a juvenile public (Done in the style of translator Minami Youichirou, who originally supervised this particular series: I have reviewed two of his Lupin adaptations here and here). I however chose Tokyo Sogen's version of the book, which was released last of the three. What is interesting about this version is that the head editor made special efforts to make the book more readable: the French version (and the Hayakawa translation) are precisely like how Maurice Leblanc wrote the story, but critics have commented that the story is a bit rough around the edges. The Tokyo Sogen version fills the gaps with a slightly extended translation (adding information not explictly mentioned in the original version), making the book a lot more readable. The head editor agreed that for posteriority, preserving the story as Maurice Leblanc wrote it was a good choice for the French version, as well as the Hayakawa translation, but as Tokyo Sogen was late with their version anyway, they decided to concentrate on making it a translation that was a lot more easier to simply enjoy.
While I am more a fan of the Lupin short stories, I still enjoy the grand adventures of Lupin's novels quite a lot (my favorite of the novels are 813 and Les Dents du Tigre by the way). I doubt many will consider Le Dernier Amour d'Arsène Lupin Leblanc's masterpiece, but nonetheless, it was an entertaining ride. The book kinda sets you on a false scent in the first part, as you'd think the plot would be about the mystery of who of Cora's four devoted male friends is in fact Arsène Lupin, but his identity is revealed rather early. What follows is an adventure where Lupin outwits his unseen opponents through clever ruses like we've so often seen, and enjoyed before. The plot also involves Lupin's ancestor (who fought under Napelon) and eventually involves parties that can be considered 'big' even in terms of Lupin's other adventures, so I think that any fans of the swashbuckling genre can easily enjoy this novel.
I also liked how we were presented a slightly older Lupin this time though. While not really old (Lupin is always young!), we do see a Lupin who has settled down a bit, and who is generally a lot less reckless or arrogant compared to his appearance in his earliest adventures. He is still recognizable as Lupin, but he manages to pour his limitless energy into bigger things than just theft in Le Dernier Amour d'Arsène Lupin and that works quite well actually: we have already seen hints of this community-focused Lupin in other novels (Les Dents du Tigre for example) and it's simply fun watching the gentleman-thief teach children of the "Zône" how to swim or how to stand up against injustice. And as the title suggests, this adventure signals another major point in his life as he settles down more permanently.
As for the Tokyo Sogen translation, I think it was a job well done. I haven't read the original version, so I don't kow how much was improved over the original, but at least this version never felt incomplete, and with figures and extra notes included, I thought that the strategy of publishing their book later, but with a bit more effort in smoothing out the experience, was well thought-off.
Overall, Le Dernier Amour d'Arsène Lupin was an amusing adventure starring a slightly older Lupin. It is never as memorable or exciting as Lupin on his best, that I have to admit, but if you ask me straight if I enjoyed the book, then I have to answer with yes, I really did enjoy the book. If you've already gone through the other books, then you really shouldn't miss out on Le Dernier Amour d'Arsène Lupin.
Original title(s): Maurice Leblanc 『リュパン、最後の恋』