Lupin III: Tokyo Crisis
A show reviewed with a sizable headache and general sleep deprivation. As such you should take this review with a an extra size grain of salt, or you can choose to be impressed by the fact that this title still kept me entertained.
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'.
And what a twisty little story this anime has, even for a lupin movie. It begins with Inspector Zenigata escorting a rather precious cultural treasure. And whenever Zenigata is involved he's either after Lupin or protecting something from Lupin. The ensuing hi-jinks confirm this but the package does get delivered to it's new owner. He happens to be one of the richest and most powerful men in Japan and is opening a huge new theme-park called Aqualand. With the package being part of a Japanese antiquities collection.
Those who know Lupin will realise that he prefers money to antiques...so clearly the piece is more than it seems. Indeed the new owner seems to be interested in more than simply history. And if he has a plan of some sort then it just may be that Aqualand, a huge development, is somehow linked into the action. And then add in lots of other elements to complicate things. Lupin and Fujiko in competition, Jigen with a toothache, Goemon with his sword stolen to be a museum exhibit, there's lots happening. Even Zenigata gets into the action, with a young reporter assigned to write a story on him, and she's somewhat unusual herself.
I know it's a poor synopsis, but it really is hard to try and capture the quite lovely intricacy of the story. The main plot is actually fairly formulaic. The old collect the relics, find the secret, collect the treasure basis. However it's enough to keep the story moving and explain why everyone is involved. And then the various personality stories, scenes and interactions give it a lovely sense of energy and character. It's really enjoyable, well paced and firmly directed. It also means that when we get to the conclusion all the sub-stories start to resolve as well, which is lovely to watch.
Indeed I must emphasis this again. There is some great character work in this movie. Although the young reporter, seriously cute, steals a lot of the attention from the regular crew. One of the reasons for this being her voice actor, I realised I liked it, and that it was Megumi Hayashibara doing another impressive job, within the first 10 minutes. However some of the other characters get some good work too. We see Lupin's and Zenigata's apartments and get to learn some interesting things about them. While Lupin's snack of shaved ice with beer is something I must try. Goemon and Jigen get lighter stories, but have some nice moments, although Fujiko didn't do so well.
The other element of a Lupin movie is some clever and furious action. And, indeed, this movie does contain some nice action scenes. However it has the unfortunate habit of alternating between `serious' action, some of which is good, and `comedic' action some of which is very, very, silly. Each is reasonable in their own right, but they conflict rather than combine. Those enjoying the serious story will find some of the logic behind the silly action annoying. Those who want comedy action might find some of the serious parts out of character. Regardless there are some hugely illogical sequences which will offend. The designers either have no idea, or gleefully ignore, any sense of reality (especially aeronautics) in order to produce some quite over the top action. It's almost as if they felt obligated to be zany, or weren't sufficiently confident of the stories appeal.
Still, at the end of the day it's an enjoyable experience. All the trademarks of the Lupin series are in existence and handled well. The characters are respected, as cool and exciting as ever, and there is some nice interaction and synergy between them. Meanwhile Lupin's mastery of gadgets, physical skills, and ability to think fast on his feet are well displayed. The fast pace in general, some enthusiastic action sequences and a satisfying conclusion making this an enjoyable experience.
The animation itself is not amazingly impressive. It's willing to try for some complex scenes, and action, but doesn't quite have the money to back it up. As a result the coloring is often a bit simple and the general level of detail nothing special for a movie. On the positive side there's some good settings and background detail to make it clear the creators believed in what they were producing. The action tends to be even further simplified, and doesn't have enough frames to be smooth, but it generally works well. The voice acting is skilled and playful, with Hayashibara-sama showing her skill and making you feel for her character. The music is the Lupin trademark, although it was cool that the tune was used in other ways, say for instance Lupin's casual whistling while on the job.