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!
Facts of the Case
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"
"Now Museum, Now You Don't"
"Who's Vroomin' Who?"
"The Sleight Before Christmas"
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 Rebuttal Witnesses
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!
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