When it comes to anime, shows that run a long time tend to have a certain degree of popularity. Here in the States though, it seems that Lupin the Third has garnered more of a cult following instead of mainstream fanfare. It never quite made it to the echelon of Dragon Ball and it's not as revered among the populous as Naruto is. Nevertheless, Lupin the Third is a series with a lot to love and it's safe to say that it doesn't get all the attention that it deserves.
Because of this, the chances are pretty good that some of you may not have seen the show before and don't know what it's all about. Essentially this is a fun-loving, crime themed show with Lupin; thief extraordinaire and master of disguise, as the titular anti-hero. Each episode/movie features Lupin going after a particular artifact or trinket for fun and riches. He's a carefree and talented bloke who doesn't sweat under pressure and has a penchant for getting himself in loads of trouble. He also shows his sensitive side too, often stopping to help someone out or save a life.
Joining Lupin is a band of loveable characters that appear with almost every heist. Jigen is Lupin's right hand man and sticks by his boss no matter the situation. He goes with the flow and doesn't get flustered, especially when it comes to lining up a shot with his trusty pistol. Also teaming up with Lupin (most of the time) is Goemon. This quiet rogue-like samurai frequently appears to have his own agenda but still partners up with the dynamic duo quite a bit. His serious tone and silent nature allow for some funny situations though more often than not he just shows up in the nick of time to cut something with his sword.
The next major character isn't exactly one of Lupin's sidekicks so much as adversary and love interest. Fujiko often tags along with Lupin and Jigen but for the most part she has her own agenda. She typically takes her own jobs and does whatever she can to scoop Lupin of the loot and give him a much needed tease of some kind. Fujiko is an equally powerful character in the show and provides a gratuitous amount of fanservice thanks to her exceedingly large breasts.
Hot on the trail of Lupin is his respected nemesis Inspector Zenigata. In every case it seems that Zenigata is always there to try to apprehend the world famous thief. Sometimes he's successful but Lupin always has a knack for getting out of a tight situation. The Inspector is also portrayed as a bumbling idiot at times who often gets in his own way. Quite often though, he's brilliant and a near match for Lupin's genius.
With such a wily cast of characters in place it's no wonder that Lupin the Third absolutely pops in every episode. Still, collecting this show is something of a chore. With different anime series under its belt and a wealth of movies trying to track down each and everything with the Lupin name attached to it can be something of a chore. No complete compilations or DVDs have been released (to my knowledge) so fans are left to scramble around while trying to piece together episodes. At least FUNimation seems to care about the weary Lupin fan. The second in a pair of movie boxed sets has recently been released and contains five more films that are definitely worth checking out.
Farewell to Nostradamus
The first disc in the collection dubbed "Final Haul" features Farewell to Nostradamus. This Lupin movie was originally released in 1995 and features a plot involving the lost writings of Nostradamus (duh!).
The movie starts out with Lupin being pleased with himself after scoring a rather large diamond. Thinking he's Mr. Smartypants he hides the diamond in a stuffed animal but on the flight home the goods get stolen by a bratty little girl. He follows her through the plane and discovers that she's under the watchful eye of the love of his life, Fujiko! It seems that she's the daughter of one of the richest men in the world who also has presidential aspirations. A blurb about $50,000,000 perks Lupin's interest enough to see what Fujiko has up her sleeve.
Another part of the plot involves a cult of sorts who live by Nostradamus' predictions. They have been garnering followers all over the world with ridiculous claims from false scripture. Finding religious fanatics isn't their only goal though because after a short while they actually kidnap the girl that Fujiko was watching; demanding that her father resign from his presidential run. Their reason turns out to be the fact that the presidential hopeful has a copy of the true Nostradamus papers locked away inside a vault. If they got out it would damage the sect beyond repair and as you can imagine the bad guys won't let that happen.
Farewell to Nostradamus was a lot of fun and it took plenty of liberties with the plot. It had some discussion about political and social commentary but remained lighthearted and entertaining throughout. The ending was a tad cheesy but overall this one doesn't skip a bit from start to finish.
Island of the Assassins
The second film featured in this collection is Island of the Assassins (or In Memory of the Walther P-38) for you diehard fans out there. Out of every Lupin adventure that I have seen I can easily say that this one was the most violent. It also added a fair amount of depth to Lupin's character and provided some insight into some of his history.
At the start of the film Lupin is investigating a party but is discovered by Inspector Zenigata and his squad. Before he can arrest Lupin though some ninja-like assassins strike and he himself is shot by a Walther P-38 (which is a gun that rings a bell with our anti-hero). As Zenigata recovers in the hospital Lupin and Jigen head out to a mysterious Island of Assassins in order to figure out what's going on. Unfortunately, they get more than they bargain for and Lupin winds up being poisoned by a tarantula tattoo.
You may ask how a tattoo can be poisonous but there's actually a good answer to that. The tattoo is imbued with a powerful poison that natural gasses on the island stems off. If you leave the island you die unless you are carrying a tank filled with the gas. Because of this Lupin gets pulled into the ranks of assassins and faces death at every turn. That's when he hears about the Gold that is passed out to assassins after a completed job. And of course you know that Lupin simply can't resist something tempting like that.
Crisis in Tokyo
Crisis in Tokyo is a Lupin film circa 1998. In it Lupin is trying to steal a pair of Japanese photographic plates because they apparently show their way to some treasure. The "treasure" turns out to be something much different than he originally thought that it would be but that's just a twist that happens later in the adventure. The thing about this movie that did it for me didn't have much of anything to do with the big plot. Humor played such a big role in Crisis in Tokyo that practically every other scene had me in stitches.
For starters Jigen has a toothache for the entire episode. He keeps pissing and moaning about it and eventually goes to the dentist to have it taken care of. Of course that doesn't happen thanks to Lupin who comes crashing through the wall in his car (long story). For the rest of the adventure Jigen keeps grumbling about his tooth until it finally gets knocked out. Sorry if that spoils it for any of you.
The other funny bit in Crisis in Tokyo involves Goemon and his missing sword. He "misplaces" it at the bad guy's place though it turns out to be because of a lady friend just as Jigen taunts him about. Needless to say without his sword Goemon feels naked and useless. Thankfully he can still karate chop things and make them work again.
The Columbus Files
Directed by Shinichi Watanabe (Excel Saga), The Columbus Files was another feature with a lot of personality. Fujiko gets Lupin's attention with talk about the Columbus Egg which is a rare and legendary treasure that harnesses a ton of energy. She seems to have all of the information that they need and they're just a few steps away from achieving their goal. Unfortunately she gets struck with a severe case of amnesia and forgets everything.
You would think that Lupin would use Fujiko's amnesia as an opportunity to get into her pants but he's actually a classy guy despite the fact that he behaves like a hound dog at times. Instead we get to see how deeply he cares for Fujiko as he risks his life to save her. Jigen, Goemon, and a girl named Rosaria tag along as well though what they discover is more than they ever expected.
A typical Lupin bad guy is also after the Columbus Egg though he wants to use its power to control weather and thus the world. High aspirations to be sure but there's also something more sinister and superhuman behind his ambitions. In the end it's a showdown against a freak of nature who takes the drug steroid to the next level. This was another prime example of classic Lupin storytelling with a fine balance between humor, action, and plot.
Missed by a Dollar
The final Lupin film in this collection is Missed by a Dollar. Well, originally it was called $1 Money Wars but FUNimation changed the title to make it more appealing during translation. The story behind the title is that Lupin is at an auction and gets into a bidding war over a ring. He loses the auction by a buck which naturally leads to some frustration. Of course Lupin isn't going to sit around feeling sorry for himself so he promptly sets out to steal the ring from the winner.
On the surface the ring is pretty bland with no real features to make it worth the price tag that it fetched. Considering that the ring leads to an even grander treasure with powerful historical value it's easy to see why Lupin wanted it in the first place. Sadly things go wonky during the getaway and our hero is "killed". In natural Lupin fashion he returns from the dead with an attempt to come out on top and stop the bad guys from taking over the world. Again, this was a typical Lupin movie and it hit all of the notes that made the series as continuously popular as it has been.
These films are presented with their original aspect ratios intact. Farewell to Nostradamus receives a 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen treatment. Island of the Assassins gets a full frame presentation and for that matter so do Crisis in Tokyo, The Columbus Files, and Missed by a Dollar.
With quite the range in production dates the video quality found within this collection varies somewhat though. Each feature contains elements of grain and compression with a few hints of shimmer popping up every now and again. The amount of these image flaws varies depending on the year of release but to be honest neither gets bad enough to the point that it ruins the experience.
Just like the video presentation the audio is kind of a mixed bag of quality but for the most part it's pretty good. Each film is presented with a range in audio selections. Every movie gets a 5.1 Dolby Digital English track as well as a 2.0 Stereo English track. As far as the original Japanese is concerned Farewell to Nostradamus and Crisis in Tokyo receive mono tracks while the other three get 2.0 Stereo treatment. Overall the quality is fine and each selection performs as well as you'd think it would given the technical specs. Lupin the Third is another one of those rare shows where I've always felt that the English language dub was better than the original Japanese. It's a rare thing but the cast for this show puts enough heart and charm into it to make every track work.
For the most part the only extra features that you'll find in each of the five episodes here are Character Profiles, Image Galleries, and Trailers. Farewell to Nostradamus has a Q&A session about Nostradamus and The Columbus Files has a little feature all about Columbus. Unfortunately that's all that you'll find. With the enthusiasm apparent in the English dubs I was hoping that there may have been a commentary or two provided but sadly that's not the case.
With five fantastic Lupin the Third movies in one small package ignoring this release should be a crime worthy of Zenigata's wrath. Each film here is iconic Lupin in every way in terms of story, humor, and charm. If you're a fan then I'm sure you have a personal favorite that you'll find in this bunch (probably Island of Assassins). If you have never seen Lupin before you owe it to yourself to check out the show. This is about as classy and enjoyable as anime can get.
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