Movie: If you enjoy anime, you're probably at least passingly familiar with a character known as Lupin the 3rd. He's the thief and lecher made popular by Monkey Punch in a series of long running manga as well as numerous television and movie specials. In the USA, FUNimation acquired the rights to most of the Lupin franchise, allowing them to slowly release their material over the course of the years to a lot of fans (not to mention the Cartoon Network). Well, today's review of Lupin the 3rd: Missed By A Dollar, was another title in the series that played best with the international scale of global politics rather than a vacant little plot involving something trivial as the series' episodes seem to do. This time, Lupin and company come across a set of rare artifacts that are said to hold the power to rule the world in the right hands so everyone will do anything for them. Before I get too far, here's some background on Lupin and company to bring everyone up to speed:
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.
Unlike the smaller scale of the television shows, this one used the backdrop of global economic warfare as a wealthy oil baroness intent on finding the artifact and using it to further her own gains (be it war, weapons, or whatever other aspects would bring in the most profit. Needless to say, when Lupin and company get in her way, she wants them eliminated, using a former KGB operative that isn't known for his charm or social skills. As Lupin gets closer to cracking the code (in Mayan no less), his enemies get closer to him and time starts to quickly run out as each group tries to outmaneuver the other. Thankfully, no one is better at fixing things to work in his favor as Lupin so check out the movie for this latest title distributed by FUNimation.
The voice acting was fine and the plot was like a larger version of the standard episodic Lupin tale so if you're a fair weather friend of the infamous thief like I am, you'll probably think a rating of Rent It is the best route to go. The extras were still fairly limited and there are simply too many possibilities to add onto a DVD these days to let a virtual barebones older show get rewarded as such. Still, fans of the characters will almost certainly enjoy all that they do here and this version was far nicer looking than the one sold as a bootleg online.
Picture: Lupin the 3rd: Missed By A Dollar was presented in the original 1.33:1 ratio full frame color as shot for release in Japan. The movie dates back to 1999/2000 so as far as the material goes, it was fairly new for a Lupin movie. The animation employed looked like corners were cut to save a few bucks but in all, it compared favorably with many of the recent Lupin releases by FUNimation. If you've seen any Lupin shows at all, you'll be happy to know that this ranked in the upper third as far as visual appeal goes but that really doesn't say a whole lot since the franchise has been spotty over the decades the characters have been around. Still, the DVD mastering was reasonably solid and I only saw a few compression artifacts.
Sound: The audio was presented with the same choices most of the releases from the company have been coming out, a 2.0 Dolby Digital Japanese track as originally recorded, a 2.0 Dolby Digital English language track that sounded very similar to the original, and a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surrounded English dub track that was remixed to provide some enhancement on the bass and rear channels, but also some minor differences in terms of separation and dynamic range. I thought the Japanese track sounded the most natural but the dub had some appeal too, especially the 5.1 track. In all, each track added in something of merit so the purists will be happy to listen to their preferred version and the dub bunnies can enjoy the dub tracks too, all with optional English language subtitles. .
Extras: There were some trailers, a photogallery and the usual character profiles of the cast for this particular movie (to help you keep up with the storyline better).
Final Thoughts: Lupin the 3rd: Missed By A Dollar was your standard television special Lupin affair, complete with big corporate conspiracies, ancient Mayan artifacts of unknown powers, and all the standard gimmicks as Lupin, Jigen, Goemon, and Fujiko try to outwit an industrialist billionaire named Cynthia as she uses all of the resources at her disposal to get what she wants. Lupin may be the biggest thief in the world but compared to Cynthia, he's practically a saint so the forces of the law are even dependent on his skills to save the day again (with luck, also pocketing some change for himself too).
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.