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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Lupin the 3rd: The Mystery of Mamo
Lupin the 3rd: The Mystery of Mamo
Other // Unrated // February 26, 2013
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted March 28, 2013 | E-mail the Author
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Lupin the Third - Mystery of Mamo DVD Review

Lupin the Third: The Mystery of Mamo is the first anime film produced in what would become an ongoing franchise of theatrical and made-for-television films. The film was first released in Japan as simply "Lupin the Third" as the feature title before finding a different subtitle many years later, which was then called "Lupin vs. the Clones" to differentiate it from Lupin films which follows its creation. This Lupin adventure dates back to 1978 and from there on it's a history game of countless Lupin titles in theaters, on DVD, and on television (with film and television mediums both finding a great degree of success).

The Mystery of Mamo is actually a title assigned to the film following the original circulation given to the early Lupin effort when it hit U.S. shores. That new title given to the Japanese release gives a lot more away right from the get-go (which has caused some fans in Japan dissatisfaction at the new title) and for some Japanese fans the  film is even referred to as Mystery of Mamo, because of the popularized American title.  

Based upon the manga from Monkey Punch and following the creation of the original anime, which featured an incredible array of talented artists (including the genius of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata of Studio Ghibli fame), this feature film effort is something quite different from the heroic spirit found with Miyazaki's interpretations of the character, as demonstrated with the effort The Castle of Cagliostro, which would follow the "Mystery of Mamo" release shortly thereafter and to the delight of audiences in Japan and eventually the rest of the world.


The storyline for this effort is simplistic. Without going into the details of how the plot unfolds, the basic underlining idea is that Lupin is offered a chance at immortality by a crazed scientist named Mamo who promises him an opportunity to join his ranks of youth forever, but the real issue found is that Mamo is creating clones. Lupin has to figure out how to stop Mamo's plan, which revolves around creating clones of the best individuals in the world and annihilating the rest. Thus the stakes are... well... the entire world, which hinges on the whim of the crazy and delusional scientist. Can Lupin save our entire planet's population? Fans can tune in to find out.

The revelation that this plot focuses around clones is a massive spoiler for the film, but it's also the backdrop of the plotline utilized for Mystery of Mamo, which otherwise stumbles around as Lupin, Jigen, and Goemon cross lands in their typical journeying fashion while Zenigata purses them.

Meanwhile, of course, there's a subplot involving Fujiko and her own involvement with Mamo, and it all is supposed to blend magnificently somehow by the time the credits roll. Does it succeed? That is another question altogether, and one that I personally do not agree with favorably. Lupin the Third: The Mystery of Mamo is a disappointing effort.

I consider Lupin one of my favorite anime characters, and while Miyazaki's take on the character is unquestionably my favorite take on this beloved anime character, I've also been appreciative of other interpretations before. This is just not that strong of an effort. If you look at the film from even just the narrative flow you can sense that this is more of a rushed effort without as much care given towards elaborating on the plot. Instead, the film substitute's good storytelling for weak humor, characterization, and animation. Each of these elements feels quite rushed and even unfinished at times.

The direction is by Soji Yoshikawa (who also worked on early episodes) and it is clear he was less experienced as a craftsman in comparison to Miyazaki and Takahata, and perhaps the rest. This was not a well-directed film and it stumbles often because of how disjointed it feels with animation that seems underdeveloped and under-utilized. This is one of the many differences between Mamo and Cagliostro. In Mamo, scene after scene there are moments where the line artwork seems incomplete and incompetent. This is something that would never happen to an effort by Miyazaki. There are so many moments where backgrounds seem obscured and side characters aren't even finished being drawn or animated.

The film jumps around a lot too, so it's something that would have been difficult to animate, and some may feel more forgiving as a result. Yet I found in disappointing and I imagine there are other Lupin fans who will feel a similar way in regards to the release of Mamo. The plot was ridiculous, and it felt like a bad B-movie with some cheap exploitation "thrills" that were so unneeded and unworthy of the Lupin name. I was appalled by how Fujiko was portrayed in Mystery of Mamo too - gone was the intelligent and charming sleuth who was equal parts companion and competition to Lupin, and instead was a poorly developed girl in distress, sexualized in a misogynistic way, and without anything cool to do.

Lupin the Third: The Mystery of Mamo seems to have a devoted fan-base, but I can't quite understand why. The charming and charismatic Lupin has been replaced by a character so underwhelming and ego-centric (beyond what is consistently found in this franchise) and everything just seemed mean spirited, incoherent, or undercooked. If that wasn't enough, virtually everything about the filmmaking seems to falter or disappoint from animation, storytelling, direction, to the essence of these beloved characters.

The biggest mystery behind The Mystery of Mamo is why this would up being such a frequently offensive and boring trip into "adventure" with Lupin. I was glad to see it end. The occasional side-trips into solid entertainment (such as when Lupin enters into a canvas environment of paintings in a surrealistic moment) don't even work as well as they could, and falter due to characteristically underwhelming animation, which I found to be a detrimental element of production disarray. The Mystery of Mamo comes up short-changed and so do the fans of everyone's favorite "master thief" with a heart for adventure.


Mystery of Mamo arrives on DVD with a worthwhile transfer preserving the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, featured in its original theatrical exhibition. The colors are a bit less robust than I would have expected, but the transfer is clean and consistently stable without any real issues with grain, damage, and other print inconsistences that I thought might crop up. This is a worthwhile transfer.  


The audio portion of this release is the greatest selling point: the film contains not one, not two, but four different English dubs. All of these English dub options are in addition to the release's Japanese audio presentation. Fans who ever hoped to see a "definitive" release with all of the different audio dubs will be pleased with this release, which contains Streamline's Dub, the Manga Entertainment dub, Pioneer's dub, and another English language track.

The original language option is my preferred choice due to it representing the original language option, and it is the option I utilized the most, but sampling the audio presentations proved that each track was serviceable for the film even considering some of the slight variances in sound quality.

On each audio track the dialogue was clear and easy to understand. The 2.0 audio isn't any revelation, but it gets the job done solidly and without any real problems on the disc. This presentation should be impressive for fans of Mystery of Mamo hoping to have all dubs.


It's technically included under my review of the "audio" section but it's essentially a bonus feature as well:  all four English dubs previously released in various formats or editions are included on this DVD release as well.

Fans who ever hoped to see a definitive release with all of the different audio options will be pleased by this element.

In addition to these English audio dub options, the disc also includes "Why Mamo Matters", an essay written by Mike Toole, liner notes written and compiled by the LupintheThird.com staff, an interesting interview (written) with voice actor Bill Dufris, and translations of the originally released movie program.

Final Thoughts:

The Mystery of Mamo is a disappointing Lupin feature film and it barely hints at the brilliance to come in The Castle of Cagliostro or in any of the other hugely exciting Lupin films worked on for the years to follow.  This release, on the other hand, contains a slew of English dub tracks, and other worthwhile written supplemental materials. Fans of the film will probably want to purchase the release but Lupin fans hoping for something else entirely to arrive should buy some other Lupin releases (i.e. skip the release, perhaps go straight towards purchasing the Lupin: Complete First TV Series set if you haven't already).

Skip It.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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