Lupin III: Zantetsu Sword is Burning
Wow, there's a lot of Lupin material around. I hope one day someone works out how all the pieces fit together, but all I know is that some are good and some are, well, not so good. This one comes from the period where they tried to make lupin the action hero type, and as a result it's eminently forgettable.
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 Goemon happily watching a 4 hour play based on his own family history. As a result he's really quite annoyed when the horde's of ninja start attacking. It seems that there are quite a few cultural relics in his past history, and some of these still contain power that would be of value today. Thus it falls to him to protect a part of the secret...and deal with a rather attractive human element from his much more recent past.
Meanwhile the rest of the gang have problems of their own. It seems that Lupin's grandfather became famous for one crime he never managed to complete. He had announced his intention to steal an ancient dragon statue, but unfortunately the thief who had already stolen it booked passage aboard the Titanic. A Chinese mafia boss, desiring the statue sets this as a challenge to Lupin, believing he can manipulate or threaten either service or the treasure out of Lupin. And, naturally, Lupin is always tempted by such a challenge...even if he and Goemon should find their individual quests more than a little related.
Hm, probably way too much spoiler information in that synopsis, but I really don't care enough to fix it. The main thing to mention is that this anime was produced during the period where they tried to turn Lupin from a thief and into an action hero. Thus he became an insanely capable fighter, able to evade endless bullets and possessed of super human abilities and gadgets. Meanwhile the stories had to be `epic' rather than sensible. And as a result all the subtle elements, such as Lupin's clever thefts, were lost. While Fujiko became simply a seductress and Zenigata comedy relief.
As you might have guessed from the above paragraph, or my tone in general, I wish they hadn't. There's so many stupid and annoying things that detract from the show as a result. Lupin's ability to survive any danger or damage, to always pull some trick to escape, and to always have illogical and overly powerful gadgets just makes the whole thing painfully stupid. And it is not an isolated occurrence but happens throughout. Indeed the writers get incredibly `lazy' and simply let Lupin pull another trick out of his hat whenever they write themselves into a corner. And, at the same time, they think they're being clever. Watching Lupin survive a dive at 13,000 feet, after his pressure suit has been destroyed, and do a sort of super deformed `compression' routine is not funny, clever or logical. It turns him into a caricature rather than a character.
Meanwhile the plot itself is, well, really stupid. To begin with simple things like physics or avoiding massive plot holes are not allowed to get in the way of an `epic' story. The core plot is just idiotic, the plan to capitalize on Goemon's past ridiculous and the conclusion offensively stupid. You'd have to be incredibly generous not to notice the weak writing on display here. And, while the cleverness is lost, the action is not nearly exciting enough to make up for it.
There are a couple of nice scenes, and I do like the various regular characters, but this is not the best way to meet them. The focus on silly gadgets, narrow escapes and stupid action breaking suspension of belief and reducing from the amount of character work shown. It's a tribute, in many ways, that some character manages to survive the poor handling on exhibit here. It simply hurts to actually enjoy a section and then have something idiotic shatter the flow and logic of the movie.
It's not helped much by the animation. This is not modern animation by any means, which makes the attempt to do an `epic action' film even more laughable. The characters look sort of odd, the movement and action is done as if the characters are made out of rubber bands, the frame-count is low and the design is awful. Mind you, I'm not saying the movie actually is that old...but the style makes it look even older than it is. Oh, and the color is flat and bland as well. There really is little value to a bad looking, badly written, action film. The voices are decent enough, although generally over-acted, and the music is inherited and fairly repetitive.