Movie: A few months ago, I reviewed Lupin the 3rd: Crisis In Tokyo and found a lot to enjoy with the movie despite some glaring flaws. This has long been the case of the characters in a Lupin release for me; they amuse but could be so much better. Essentially boiling down to the basics, the movie followed the usual handful of miscreants as they played their roles established long prior to the televised version and I've still enjoyed it since. Today's review is on a set of six episodes from the Lupin television series that was much more true to form then the movie, Lupin the 3rd: The Flying Sword. As always, the five main characters were Lupin; the master thief with an eye for attractive women and large sums of loot, Fujiko; the female femme fatale that appeals visually to Lupin and has a set of skills similar though based more on her feminine wiles, Jigen; Lupin's ally in crime and perhaps the best shot this side of Annie Oakley, Goemon; a skilled samurai whose sword is nearly as invincible as the man himself, and Inspector Zenigata; Lupin's main enemy who is always trying to arrest the master thief, never giving up.
The rear DVD cover put the six episodes like this: "In this volume, the always cool and sophisticated Lupin overcomes numerous perils along with his associates Fujiko, Goemon and Jigen. Lupin and his gang are robbed, beaten, jailed and entrapped by villains, officials... even seemingly benevolent billionaires! At each twist and turn they rely on Lupin's resilience and strategy to stay alive, but this time around Lupin's invincibility is constantly tested. With this kind of pressure, how long can Lupin keep his cool and stay alive?"
As a fan of Lupin's many exploits, this twelfth volume of episodes from the television show, complete with added in profanity and occasional glimpse of flesh that are typically not featured on the Cartoon Network airings, seemed to offer a more supernatural slant on the thief and his allies. The episodes were 59) Madame Prefers Them Hand-Dipped, 60) Holy Cow, 61) The Yam is Mightier Than The Sword, 62) Church of the Poisoned Mind, 63) Charity Begins At Home, and 64) Christmas At Tiffany's. Starting off with #59, the focus was on a ghoulish cast trying to subdue the heroes and make them wax figures since they were the best at what they did. This led into #60 where terrorists in the Middle East used an advanced weapon that caused people to kill themselves, nearly getting Lupin and Jigen in the process. Then came #61, where Jigen's stolen sword caused a whole lot of damage and destruction as the cast tried to get it back in the rightful hands of woeful Goemon. Mind control played a big role in #62 as Lupin seemed somehow immune to mental manipulation once more as his pals tried to kill him in Germany. With #63, one of the basic tenants of the Lupin persona that isn't often mentioned, his charitable nature, became a center point for a cute story. Lastly, in #64, Lupin and crew take a bet by the wealthy owner of the Tiffany's jewelry conglomerate to break in and steal her merchandise using some new technology, even while Inspector Zenigata was on full alert outside.
There was nothing new here in the Lupin saga to really stand out from the previous outings but at the same time, I can't deny that the episodes were more often appealing than not. Even when a storyline seemed contrived and a poor use of the potential of the set up, the characters were so blindly in tune with the typical Lupin story that I couldn't help but laugh. To be fair though; I didn't watch the entire volume in one sitting as I customarily do as spreading out the viewing over three nights (in between other shows) so as to not be burnt out too readily worked better for me. Lupin is often best suited as a series viewed a little bit at a time rather than plot based anime where seeing a season at a time works more intuitively. After watching just six episodes, I was ready for a break since many of the jokes seemed to tread ground so often used in the series.
I did like the fact that there were six full episodes though, especially in a time when so many releases have three or four as a standard. The extras may have been weak but given the choice, most of us prefer a lot of episodes over some chintzy extras that might be watched once (if at all). Still, I'm on the fence here since the bundled up episodes here were not exactly the best the Lupin universe had to offer. I'm going to rate the volume as a Rent It to anyone except for dyed in the wool fans of Lupin who'll appreciate the humor better than anyone although those new to the character will not have to wait long before understanding the characters, their dynamics, and the general ideas presented in the show, unlike other series more contemporary to our time.
Picture: Lupin the 3rd: The Flying Sword was presented in the original 1.33:1 ratio full frame color the episodes were shot in long ago for broadcast in Japan. Like all older anime, the animation style was nothing special (nearly cartoony in general) and the grain was readily apparent but the show was still looking better than it has on tape or on cable television (on the Cartoon Network). There were occasional moments when the material looked damaged more than usual but if you've ever seen an episode, you'll know what to expect (and probably be happy that the show looks so good for its age). I saw no compression artifacts when watching the DVD too.
Sound: The DVD sported a 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo audio track with the usual choices of the original Japanese or the newer English dub. I heard no separation in the channels so I'm led to believe that the actual audio was in monaural but processed in stereo to help clean it up. That said, a couple of moments during the dub sounded a bit off (in episodes #61 and #63) and the Japanese track appeared slightly off in #63 for a few moments. I actually liked both tracks equally although I'd prefer the dubbing be kept closer to the original source material in the future. Adding in nasty words just to add some "wow factor" among the younger crowd seems a bit lame in my opinion though like nudity, I'm sure it brings in a few otherwise unconverted souls.
Extras: There were some trailers and a paper insert only. While not exactly the most awe inspiring set of extras, the DVD also had six full episodes so I didn't mind much at all.
Final Thoughts: Lupin the 3rd: The Flying Sword was another cute outing with Lupin and friends. The humor was the focal point here and while I'm not ecstatic that the lead character is a criminal, the underlying premise was silly enough that I could overlook it enough to enjoy the character's exploits with his friends. With six full episodes from the long running series, Geneon has once again impressed upon the world that it stands as a solid company in terms of providing value rather than trying to soak the fan as far too many others do so often. The material for the episodes wasn't the strongest I've seen but volume twelve in the series of Lupin's television exploits was worth a rental to those new to the thief and perhaps even a purchase for fans (many of whom prefer full season sets).
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003 and Best Of Anime 2004 article or regular column Anime Talk