Lupin the 3rd - The Mystery of Mamo
Pioneer // Unrated // $24.98 // July 29, 2003
Review by Don Houston | posted August 30, 2003
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Movie: Anime fans have long been thought of as suckers by most anime companies, both foreign and domestic. Often enough, they used to release an episode or two as charged top dollar for it, not including any extras or even a properly subtitles version (preferring to sell more copies with a dub). Feature anime used to be viewed as a way to soak the fan even more, using old footage and threading it together as all an all new show and editing for reasons unknown (with no labels). These days, fans are far less tolerant of such shenanigans. In a movie that has seen more than it's share of past abuse, Lupin The 3rd: The Secret Of Mamo, the crazy thief finally gets the treatment he deserves.

Lupin is a master thief who roams the world looking for two things, sex and treasure. He's not exactly a noble guy since he steals, is a letch, and isn't really a great role model for kids. The movie was originally released in 1978 with the popular character of Lupin well received in Japan-there have been several television series, specials and movies made over the years about him. In this, his first movie release, Lupin is hired to steal a rare gem that may hold the secret to immortality. The one hiring him is a gal, Fujiko that he really wants to get to know better and she plans to pay him quite well. What he doesn't know is that she was hired to get the stone for a secretive guy known as Mamo. As Lupin tries to uncover the secret behind Mamo and the gem, he is chased all over the world, as he and his colleagues, Jigen and Goemon, remain one step ahead of Inspector Zenigata.

The anime style here was a bit unusual in that the characters don't always look the same. Modern day anime techniques eliminate most of that by using computers to keep the minute differences in the drawing to a minimum. Personally, in an over the top comedy like Lupin, I think the fluid/organic style works far better than the sanitized stuff we get these days. The drawings aren't overly detailed as well with the cast and backgrounds looking almost churned out much of the time. For most other series, this would be a problem but Lupin gets away with it since it's part of the charm. The voice acting varied a bit here but the English dub, combined with the improved sound track, made solid use of current technology-cleaning up the audio as much as the picture has been fixed.

On the down side to this version of the movie is that some of the trademark labels were removed. I remember the original having a "Jack Daniels" label on one of the bottles and a friend swears there was a brand name on a package of cigarettes, with a few other minor changes to boot. None of that impacts the show for people that aren't obsessive since the tone and themes remained the same. Considering that the original dvd release, long since out of print, is greatly lacking in both extras, picture, sound, and dvd transfer, compared to this one, I think most fans will be happy with this 25th Anniversary release. I'm rating this as Recommended since it is quite an improvement over the original release and it has such a large fan base. As a legacy title, it will appeal mostly to long time fans of anime more than those wanting the latest and greatest styles but they might like it too.

Picture: The picture was presented in 1.85:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen. For a 25-year-old anime release, this one looked just short of great. There was some grain and a few artifacts but compared to every other release of this show to date, it was vastly superior in every way.

Sound: The sound was presented with a choice of either a remastered 5.1 Dolby Digital English track or the original Japanese mono track. I liked both although there were some quirks in the optional English subtitles that were not the same as the English language dub. I had an old VHS copy of the movie and saw the original dvd release a few times and think the dub was improved this time in many cases. The 5.1 track made solid use of the format for special effects but a few voices weren't quite right. The original Japanese mono track was solid too.

Extras: The extras included a 10 page selection of material from the original Japanese movie program made in 1978 (on dvd), some conceptual art for the show, the "original coroner's report", lots of trailers, a double sided dvd cover, and a cool 12 page paper insert (my review copy didn't have one but I got a glimpse of it in a local store).

Final Thoughts: There were some adult themes and nudity here but nothing truly explicit. The show was entertaining even if it did lose focus in terms of story towards the end of the show (I'm not revealing any spoilers). I hope that Pioneer will show interest in other older releases if they are willing to treat it as well as this one. With a bit of luck, they'll lose the minor editing that a handful of purists fuss about. In any case, check it out if you have any interest in comedic anime.

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