Lupin III: The pursuit of Harimao's Treasure
Another sample of the sprawling, and wildly variable, lupin saga. Although, even within the normal range, this one is pretty weird seemingly having selected a strong style and focus. It's not particularly to my tastes though.
But first some general information for those unfamiliar with Lupin. This series actually derives from some french novels (and an animation) about a devious gentleman thief. This idea was `borrowed' for anime, albeit not with complete copyright approval, leading to some variation in western titles. Although the anime version is actually the descendant of the original Lupin and is a bit more wild, and physical in his manner. Yet he still has a good heart, and ends up helping people more often than not. Along with his trusted (cough) companions he travels the globe searching for legendary treasures to `borrow'.
The gang are good fun in their own right. There's the suit wearing, laid back Jigen who's a master with every firearm. He seems to be with Lupin as much for the excitement as the financials, and is probably the most loyal (and balanced) companion. Especially when you consider that Goemon, the neo-samurai master swordsman has promised to kill Lupin one day. While the femme-fatale, but also a talented thief in her own right, Fujiko often has strange idea's about the distribution of the spoils. Mind you, Lupins most faithful companion is probably inspector Zenigata of Interpol (or other police organization) who has devoted his life and talents to catching Lupin. Which Lupin seems to regard as an entertaining and friendly rivalry. This could be because Zenigata has a strong sense of justice, and can often be convinced to look aside when Lupin is obviously working for what is `right'.
The story begins with Lupin stealing something...no suprise there, he is the worlds greatest thief. In this case it's a little bit more complex. Apparently three statues, valuable artworks in their own right, hold the secret to the treasure of Harimao. Harimao being an infamous bandit who, during the war, stole huge amounts of money and materials from both sides of the conflict during world war 2. Indeed he was so successful that this may well be the biggest prize Lupin has ever gone after.
Not suprisingly there are other people with an interest in it. One of them being a retired english super-spy who fought with Harimao during the war. He's loyal to Harimao's memory, and sufficiently wealthy, that he's been content to let it rest. But seeing as he's recently incurred a multi-billion dollar debt the situation as changed. Even worse the people who inflicted the debt on him, a ruthless and well armed neo-nazi cult, intend to steal the treasure the moment he recovers it. And given that they're fairly brutal it looks like some action is on the way.
Which indeed it is. In fact the focus in this anime is pretty clearly on action sequences. It's a little bit james bond and quite a lot of indiana jones. There's multiple action sequences, quite lengthy and brutal for a Lupin anime, as the various forces clash. The ones between the agent and lupin being athletic and gadget dominated, while the neo nazi's bring heavy weaponry and hand to hand combat. And all of it is focused on finding and fighting over the three relics like some sort of crazed game.
And, at times, it's a bit of fun. But there's this terrible nagging feeling that the story is particularly stupid. The hunting of the relics, complete with exotic trap infested locales, is quite silly. The access of the neo-nazi's to huge amounts of weaponry, and the fact that Amsterdam doesn't seem to mind privately owned attack helicopters taking out targets of opportunity is even worse. And the story progression, and conclusion, goes straght over the boundary of belief. From the wider story, to the individual scenes, it all seems engineered for dramatic effect regardless of logic or sense.
Likewise the characters seem to have been `amplified' for effect. Combined with some attempts at humor, and some quite simplistic writing, this has the effect of presenting some characters quite like the ones we're familiar with, but not quite as good. They're a bit extreme, and a bit cliched, having quite clearly defined roles but not really making them work. Perhaps i'm being a bit harsh, but I found the experience quite unpleasant. Especially in the case of Zenigata who is almost entirely comedy relief, although fujiko and goemon also do quite badly. The character of the super-spy is also particularly corny and confused.
Then there's the action itself, it's...different. It's got really bright coloring and some quite dramatic artwork. Likewise the physical action is all exaggerated for dramatic effect. The camera whirls around, there's lots of agressive perspective and fast movements. At times this makes the characters themselves look fairly strange, almost simian at times. Combine this with the fact that the motion is often a touch `stilted', as if budget limited, and a lot of `freeze frame' moments and it is quite unusual. While at times it's good there are far too many sections where it doesn't work that well. The voices are reasonable, perhaps a bit over-done, and I don't recall anything about the music.