Geneon // 1977 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // May 21st, 2003
The adventures get wilder, the scenery more exotic and the disguise is more Zenigata-like!
Lupin's adventures continue in volume two of the 1970s anime series Lupin the Third. This DVD has one less episode but one more extra than volume one. The episodes contain more humor and breadth, but test the limits of plausibility. The James Bond vibe is in full swing, and the camp factor goes up one order of magnitude. Hang on for the zany ride that is Lupin the Third!
There are spoilers in the following summaries, because it is hard to critique an episode without discussing specifics. Suffice it to say that if you liked the first volume, this one should do the trick for you as well.
"The Disorient Express"
Lupin targets a mob boss with an obsession for rare gems. When the boss boards a train to liquidate some of his dazzling assets, Lupin is ready. He and Fujiko go undercover, only to bump into Inspector Zenigata. They proceed as planned. Fujiko slips up and the boss gets wise to their scheme. Lupin must use his best efforts to rescue Fujiko and get off the speeding train. Great humor, a shootout, and a daring escape compensate for a weak ending: Lupin had the jewels but left them behind because he felt sorry for the mob boss? Get real...is Lupin a thief or not? Grade: A-
"Now Museum, Now You Don't"
When Lupin encounters a dying master forger, he agrees to help the man complete his life's work. The old man has been replacing his forgeries for the originals, and has one more to replace. Lupin tries to enlist his friends to aid the cause, but they refuse to work for charity. When Lupin pulls of the switch, he finds out the job has only started. This moody art heist has some real plot twists that keep you guessing. Jigen is in rare form, drinking hard and cursing Lupin under his breath. Grade: A
Lupin is captured and an exploding belt is placed around his waist. He must steal a file from Scotland Yard or Fujiko will get it, see? To steal the file, Lupin and friends all dress up like Zenigata, confusing the officials at Scotland Yard. When Lupin returns with the file, he switches the tables on his would-be killer by taking off the belt. This episode rapes and pillages the limits of believability. All the detectives at Scotland Yard have to do is scrape the latex off of Lupin's face to see who is really Zenigata. Also, if Lupin can get out of the belt so easily, there is no need for any of the episode to take place. Grade: C
"Who's Vroomin' Who?"
Lupin and friends journey to Monaco so that Lupin can participate in the Grand Prix. When Jigen and Goemon take Lupin out for a little action at the casinos, they lose their shirts. Now Lupin must race for a different purpose. But is the race a cover for a hidden scheme? Racing, gambling, and scathing one-liners are ruined by forced artifice. Lupin and friends actually get the loot this time, but gamble it all away to maintain the formula. Are these guys pros or undisciplined hacks? Also, the plot was going along fine until Zenigata was clumsily introduced. Does he have to be in every episode? It would have been a tighter plot without this needless distraction. Grade: B-
"The Sleight Before Christmas"
Lupin contrives to steal a famous bottle of wine to woo Fujiko. Through clever manipulations, Lupin gets into the wine vault...but it is a trap set by Zenigata! Don't worry, Lupin can escape on a whim by shimmying just so at the right time. There are enjoyable scenes, but this episode borrows too heavily from previous episodes, making the whole affair smell of rehash. Grade: C+
I was a little less enthused with this DVD than the first volume. There were some variations that added spice to the proceedings, but the realism was stretched just a little too far. In this DVD, Lupin is an art expert, a world-class race car driver, a world-class horse jockey, a crack pilot, and a master of disguise. Forgive me, but that is just too much.
Lupin the Third is still more creative than 90% of its contemporaries; Scooby Doo, The Smurfs, and Speed Racer were uniform as well. What Lupin the Third brings to the table is offbeat, biting humor, which has returned in full force. Jigen always wears a hat pulled down over his face. In "The Disorient Express," he is driving a truck alongside the train. Goemon looks askance and dryly asks "Can you see the road with your hat pulled down over your eyes like that?" It is a rare pleasure to see cartoon characters poking fun at their own caricatures. Later, Jigen gets roped into babysitting an old man. Lupin tells him there's a map in his pocket. Jigen Pulls out the map and says: "Damn you're cocky! Alright...freakin' Lupin..." These moments are a higher and drier level of humor than we're accustomed to in American cartoons.
The transfer is very good considering the age of the master. Fortunately, Pioneer provided the original opening this time, which allows comparison between the old and new. Below are screenshot comparisons of the old and new versions of the credits. You can see that the colors have more saturation in the new transfer. The black levels are more solid, the contrast is higher, and the softness has been removed. They accomplished this with a minimum of edge enhancement. Although the image is not as bright or clean as modern animation standards, you can see for yourself that Pioneer did a fine job with the digital restoration.
The stunning soundtrack is still grooving, the humor is sharper, and the antics are offbeat. The Lupin goodness is still with us in volume two.
The same fundamental problem with the subtitles remains. The translation doesn't make much sense, which means you basically have to listen to the English track. Anime purists will not be pleased with this approach.
I have new gripes, but they are more subjective in nature. One of my pet peeves is disguises. When the plot is going in along smoothly, why ruin the flow by pulling off a corny mask and revealing a secret identity? I think every episode involved a disguise, but only once was it an integral part of the plot.
They had to punt once too often. Lupin is surrounded by 50 armed police men, and he's in a net. But he slips out undetected, because he's really sneaky. Get it? (Wink, wink.) The cops are dumb buffoons and Lupin is super-sneaky. In one case, we don't even see how Lupin escapes. The camera moves away and he's just gone. I prefer a little more reason to my rhyme.
In essence, I wish they hadn't been so constrained by the formula. Does Lupin have to lose every big score, and does Zenigata always have to put him in cuffs? Even the famous Bond formula that Lupin the Third emulates broke out on occasion, giving us some of the best Bond movies.
If you liked the first volume, this one is a chip off the same block. The DVD is slightly less value because of the five episodes, but overall there are lots of laughs and great action to keep you entertained.
Lupin the Third, the court orders you to settle down. Zenigata, please grow up. Fujiko, stay exactly like you are. Case dismissed!
Review content copyright © 2003 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 1977
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Line Art Used in Production
* Original Introduction
* Trailers for Other Pioneer Animated Series
* Official Site
* Lupin the Third.net