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|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Japanese Wikipedia. (August 2012)|
In the Victorian vernacular, a gentleman thief or lady thief (called phantom thief in the East) is a particularly well-behaving and apparently well bred thief. A "gentleman or lady" is usually, but not always, a person with an inherited title of nobility and inherited wealth, who need not work for a living. Such a person steals not in order to gain material wealth, but for adventure; they act without malice. These thieves rarely bother with anonymity or force, preferring to rely on their charisma, physical attractiveness, and clever misdirection to steal the most unobtainable objects — sometimes for their own support, but mostly for the thrill of the act itself.
In popular culture
All are superb at stealing while maintaining a sophisticated front and/or a thief's code of honor: Raffles steals mostly when he is especially in need of money; Lupin steals more from the rich who don't appreciate art or their treasures and redistributes it (not unlike a modern Robin Hood); Saint Tail steals back what was stolen or taken dishonestly, or rights the wrongs done to the innocent by implicating the real criminals.
Western fictional characters
Notable gentlemen thieves and lady thieves in Western popular culture include the following:
- Professor James Moriarty, the archnemesis of Sherlock Holmes
- Leslie Charteris's Simon Templar
- Thomas Crown from The Thomas Crown Affair
- John Robie in Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief,
- E. W. Hornung's A. J. Raffles
- Carmen Sandiego (character)
- Edward Pierce from The Great Train Robbery
- Frank L. Packard's Jimmie Dale, aka The Gray Seal.
- Selina Kyle (Catwoman)
- Maurice Leblanc's Arsène Lupin
- David Goldman in An Education
- Sir Charles Litton/"The Phantom" in The Pink Panther (1963 film)
- Pierre Despereaux in Psych
- Rodney Skinner in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (film).
Eastern fictional characters
Notable phantom thieves in eastern popular culture include the following:
- Arsène Lupin III, from Lupin III (by Monkey Punch).
- Kaito Kuroba the Phantom Thief Kid from Magic Kaito and later Detective Conan (by Gosho Aoyama)
- Meimi Haneoka, who transforms into Saint Tail, a thief with acrobatic and magician skills, from Saint Tail (by Megumi Tachikawa)
- Dark Mousy the angel-like thief from D.N.Angel (by Yukiru Sugisaki).
- Kaitō Nakamura, a character played by George Takei in Heroes.
- Kaitō Daiki (海東 大樹), portrayed by Kimito Totani, a character who can transform into Kamen Rider Diend from 2009 Kamen Rider Series Kamen Rider Decade.
- Kaitō Reinya, a title character played by and modeled after Reina Tanaka, from the 2009 anime series Phantom Thief Reinya.
In real life
Christophe Rocancourt is a modern-day, real-life example of the gentleman thief.
Charles Bolles, a.k.a. Black Bart, outlaw of the American West, was known as a gentleman thief in the 1870s and 1880s.
D.B. Cooper, unknown hijacker who escaped with $200,000 in 1971. Said to be polite and well spoken.
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