Movie: One of the things I've long appreciated about the Japanese is how they stick with characters that work so often rather than reinvent them at the drop of a hat as American companies have been known to do. Take the invincible Lupin the 3rd for example; a master thief with a perverted sense of humor who is always chasing women but never catching them, he embodies the spirit of the human male better than almost any character in the history of animation. Like most of us, he wants to get a healthy return for his efforts, women to recognize his manly greatness, and he enjoys seeing his enemies fall prey to their own inadequacies. Show me a man who doesn't have those qualities inside of him (be it deep or shallow) and I'll show you a woman. Seriously though, Lupin has been around for generations due to the affable manner in which he sets about living his life and like I pointed out in last year's review of Lupin the 3rd: Volume 12, even when he loses, he wins on some level. Well, today's review of the established anti-hero is Lupin the 3rd: Volume 13: All's Fair In Love & Thievery, a set of five more episodes from the popular series running from #65 to #69, a personal favorite (number at least). Here's a bit of background for the uninitiated:
All Lupin shows consist of at least five main characters: 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 way they interplay with one another so well shows that the original idea for the master thief was a sound one. Lupin chases riches and women throughout the globe, stumbling as often as not, due to the way in which the universe holds something against him. Still, he survives where others fail so his lucky charm of life must be blessed by someone "up there" and that adds to the fun of the show.
The episodes this time were 65) Return of the X-Factor, 66) Beauty and the Deceased, 67) Monkey Business King, 68) Games of Chance, and 69) Zenigata Getcha Into My Life. There were no underlying arcs this time and you could jump around from episode to episode in any order without losing track of anything. A few of them paid homage to other anime clichés and staples while most of them seemed to be made up as the director went along. The gang, sans Fujiko, started off the volume as they sought to rescue a kidnapped princess in a small, poor, foreign country. Their reward was pretty lame and that played into a silly, but cute, ending sequence with everyone's favorite inspector taking it on the chin (or in the mouth) after voicing his disapproval of the scheme. The other episodes seemed focused on series standards like magic, doppelgangers, and secondary characters begging to be taken advantage of. One involved the team getting miniaturized and used in a chess game as pawns of demons, while my favorite came last. Yeah, in a show that focused more on Zenigata than usual, he falls for a gal he's supposed to protect, leading to al sorts of consequences when he begs Lupin to save her from a deadly demise. Lupin's attracted as much to the prospect of putting one over on the Inspector as the accumulated wealth the gal controls so it was cute to see the pair set aside their differences as they very rarely seem to do.
In all though, I really didn't think the majority of episodes struck a resonance inside of me like some of the earlier ones have done (I haven't picked up the earlier DVD's since I keep hoping Geneon will decide they need proper reviewing or have a sale). Still, as a fan of Lupin I can't say they were bad in most ways, just somewhat below par for a series that has been a favorite for many anime fans. That they can now be obtained legally and uncut is a bonus for those of us that shun the typically lame fansubs found online, especially given the lower than usual price. I thought this release was worth a rating of Rent It for anyone not already into Lupin's exploits, though you needn't get them in order given the way the show is typically structured (the episodes rarely hinge on needing to see an earlier volume, unlike the soap opera style of most anime). It had some bright moments but the replay value was lacking enough to limit the value unless you find it on sale but check it out anyway.
Picture: Lupin the 3rd: Volume 13: All's Fair In Love & Thievery 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 cartoonish 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. Unlike Lupin the 3rd: Volume 12, this set of episodes didn't have any material problems with the synchronization on the dub track although a few weak spots on the original Japanese track did pop up in a couple of the later episodes worth mentioning. The dub itself was okay but I still had the impression that Geneon added in some adult cursing to set itself apart from the original. 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 still sure it brings in a few otherwise unconverted souls but would rather such devices be left alone and Geneon focus on providing exact translations in the future.
Extras: The only extras were some trailers and the usual paper insert. Normally, I don't care much about extras on the Lupin series releases since they contain so many episodes but this one only had five instead of six shows so I was getting on edge about it (hopefully, the folks at Geneon don't continue this trend without lowering the price a bit).
Final Thoughts: Lupin the 3rd: Volume 13: All's Fair In Love & Thievery was another reasonably entertaining volume in the series but many of you will find that a little Lupin goes a long way. There's a reason why the show airs on the Cartoon Network so early in the morning and that is likely due to the way in which so many of us fans have seen the show so many times in the past (it's been around forever in one form or another). Still, if you ration out the episodes and watch only a few at a time, the appeal of the show is undeniable so give it a look and pick up a copy if you're a fan like I am.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVD Talk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003, Best Of Anime 2004, and Best of Anime 2005 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.