Lupin III: Legend of the Twilight Gemini
There might be only one great Lupin movie, but this movie convinced me that there's more than one good movie out there. It also gains in offering some interesting variations on the familiar characters.
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 and 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 polic 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'.
Be warned though, Lupin material, while having the same source, has been produced by many hands and in many formats. As a result they're highly variable in style and quality.
In this sample Lupin has been called to the bedside of grandfather Lupin. While confined to his bed through (very) ill-health he still seems to run large sections of the french black market. Although in this case he wants to give lupin a `present'. The present being a valuable pink diamond, albeit strangely shaped it's worth big money. But grandpa Lupin says that the real value is that it is the key to the legendary treasure of the Gelf's, a nation that was destroyed many years before. Lupin is wise enough not to trust his grandfather entirely, but the promise of big money proves enough to lure him to Morocco the explore the possibilities.
Needless to say things quickly get more complicated. Zenigata is hot on his tail, as apparently are various other groups. And at least one of the groups, the one with all the cool military toy's, wants wolf dead. And things are fairly complex in morocco itself. While the Gelf kingdom is destroyed various factions and opponents still live on and agressively compete. And with the possibility of retrieving the hidden treasure the game is deadly serious. Lupins addition to this environment only stirring things up even further. It also seems that grandfather Lupin's involvement and interest in the legend may be deeper and more complex than Lupin expects. In this tangled mess working out friend from enemy, truth from lie and finding the truth of the legend will keep Lupin busy and us occupied.
While it's not a totally novel story, and some of the elements are depressingly familiar, it's told really well and develops nicely. Willing to keep us guessing as new facts emerge. And all of this is played out in the interesting environment of a back-woods arabic environment to give it an exotic edge. It's also strongly character based, with many interesting people and good dialogue considering it's short running time. If you like adventure on the wrong side of the law (but not morality) then you'll probably quite enjoy this.
It's also interesting in how it differs from other lupin movies in so many ways. To start with the level of action, and adventure, is relatively low. This is not the `super-human' lupin dealing with super-opponents and huge special effects. This is a clever and capable thief involved in a fairly real-world affair. This Lupin actually loses fights, or find himself powerless, and relies on his companions for support and assistance. And those companions are fully realized individuals in their own right. It almost feels like the `early' days, with the characters looking young and somewhat inexperienced. This is very interesting in a `familiar yet different' sort of way.
The production is interesting as well. At a guess i'd say it's older animation, due to flat color and low line detail. At the same time it's very good animation, with a good appearance and excellent feel for character. All in all it's still a pleasant and attractive watch. As an added bonus the various `femmes' in it look lovely. And unlike some of the other Lupins there's quite a lot of fairly explicit fan service. Indeed the movie seems aimed at a quite adult level, with some explicit violence, cruelty and torture by the quite believably cruel bad guys.
Actually, given some further searching, it's probably because this is a `TV special' which leaves the animation somewhere between TV and movie level. Or perhaps this is just truer to the look of the `TV' Lupin? As for other production elements the music is good with some suprisingly catchy (arabic inspired?) vocal tracks. The voices are also interesting, skilled enough but quite different from what movie watchers might expect.