Lupin the 3rd: Green vs- Red

The Other Side of Animation 43: Lupin the 3rd Special Part 3: Lupin the 3rd: Jigen's Gravestone Review


(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP: There is cursing and female nudity. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Enjoy the reviews!

Here we are, the final part of this three-part Lupin the 3rd special. If you had to ask me what elements make the Lupin the 3rd franchise great, it would be rather simple. You have to have a solid heist, a creative and fun execution of said heist, great interaction between the main characters, and be a lot of fun to watch. It might sound simple, but you won’t believe how many times something that seems so easy, could be so horribly messed up. Green vs Red was a prime example of this whole ordeal, because it focused so much on one element, but forgot to give just as much focus to the other elements. It resulted in a boring story, and an experience I feel like isn’t worth the price of entry. At the very least, due to a franchise that has been around for over 40 years, there are plenty of specials and films to look at, and for me, one of the better gems of the franchise comes in the form of Lupin the 3rd: Jigen’s Gravestone. This special was a spin-off two-part event that rides on the coattails of the 13-episode series, Lupin the 3rd: The Woman called Fujiko Mine. Jigen’s Gravestone was released back in 2014 in Japan, and was recently released by Discotek Media with their very first dub job. This special can also be seen as a starting point for the newest TV series that you can watch on Crunchyroll if that is your thing. So, how good is this special? Well, let’s put on our best blue coats, and check it out.

The film takes place after The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, but before Lupin the 3rd: Part 4. It once again stars our loveable thief, Lupin, voiced by Keith Silverstein, and who now dons a blue jacket. He is with his partner- in-crime, Jigen Daisuke, voiced by long-time voice actor, Dan Woren. During a job to obtain a precious stone, the plan goes belly-up. The two escape with the stone, but it just so happens that they are in a country known for its high-class security. If making a challenging escape wasn’t bad enough, the two of them are being stalked/hunted by a hitman named Yael Okuzaki, voiced by Jamieson Price. By the way, this is all going on with a background story of two nations, East and West Doroa, trying to make a peace agreement, and the queen of East Doroa was assassinated during a concert while in West Doroa. Is there a way to stop this madness, and what does the sub-plot with Fujiko Mine have to do with the overall situation?

One of the best elements of this special is how focused it all feels. There is pretty much one plot of Lupin and Jigen trying to find out what is going on while avoiding Yael Okuzaki, and uncovering the fiasco that was the assassination. It leads to some great action sequences that are intense. It’s always good to see the heroes struggle. When you have characters that are over-powerful, you don’t feel like investing your time with them, since you know they will always be okay. The best part about any film or any kind of story is having characters you can relate to. It’s like watching early Steven Segal films, the lead-in Sword for Truth or Damian Wayne in any of the current DC animated films. They are strong characters, but since nothing can’t stop them or cause them to struggle, you lose interest. This is also pretty shocking in terms of the struggles you see in Jigen’s Gravestone. Jigen is one of the best, if not, the best sharpshooter of all time. He can take down anything with a well-placed shot from his revolver. However, this movie brings in the hitman Yael Okuzaki, who actually beats him. Think about it. The best sharpshooter in anime/animation history loses a fight against someone better than him. Granted, you find out how Yael is able to be so good, later on in the special, but you get the idea. Even the ever agile Lupin gets knocked around. Sure, everything wraps up nicely in usual Lupin-style, but I was kept invested with the characters and the story until the end. I actually enjoyed the chemistry between Lupin’s light-hearted attitude and Jigen’s more stoic stubbornness. Yael is also a cool villain. He uses a special sniper rifle that is just the bare minimum of weight, and can shoot at extremely precise targets. Not only that, but he is also a great duelist, and drives a hot rod with a chain gun in the engine. He is a pretty imposing figure each time he is on screen.

For an hour-long spin-off, the special has some great and expressive animation. I love this look from The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, and what is similar to the style of the newest TV series. It updates the visuals with thicker lines and smoother animation, while having more retro/exaggerated anime designs. The ending theme song Revolver Fires is also delightfully cheesy in terms of being a very James Bond-sounding theme song. The voice work is also well-done. It’s Discotek Media’s first dub, and the actors they hired were great. Keith Silverstein (Vector the Crocodile in the Sonic franchise, and Robin from Batgirl: Year One) is a good Lupin, the ever-popular Dan Woren (Roy Fokker from Robotech, Rene D’Anclaude from Armitage III, Byakuya Kuchiki from Bleach, Jagi from Fist of the North Star movie, and Chapel the Evergreen from Trigun) does a solid job as Jigen, and Jamieson Price (Jelly Jiggler from Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo) is intimidating as Yael. The other actors from this special, including Kirk Thornton, Richard Epcar, and Cristina Vee, all do good jobs in their roles as Mamo, Zenigata, and Fujiko Mine, but they aren’t really the focus of this special.

I have a few problems with this special. First off is the pacing. The overall special is paced well enough to keep you invested, but for one reason or another, they cut the special in half. This means you get to hear the cheesy ending theme twice. I feel like there was no reason to do this. This isn’t The Hateful 8 in regards to length where you needed a mid-point break. It’s an hour long, I think if people can sit through the length of an Orange Is the New Black episode, they can sit through this. I also found Fujiko’s role in the film to be blatant fan service. Her role in the film isn’t entirely pointless, since where you see her is connected to the overarching plot, but she doesn’t add anything to the story. She doesn’t even help out in the end against Yael. This film’s story isn’t even about her, it’s about Jigen and Lupin’s first real heist gig together. This special was so good at keeping the focus on the two actual leads. They don’t even bring in Goemon, and Zenigata only comes in at the very end in a post-credit scene. I don’t mind Fujiko as a character, she is quite good and has an interesting relationship with Lupin, but you could have omitted her and her nude fan service, and the story would lose nothing of importance. I guess it would be better than just putting a female-in-distress in the film in place of Fujiko, but again, you would lose nothing. They could have easily replaced this with more time to develop Jigen and Lupin’s relationship.

Even with these gripes, Jigen’s Gravestone is a great little gem of an action flick to watch. Sure, it has some flaws, but after watching Green vs Red, this is Castle of Cagliostro levels of greatness. If you feel like owning either the DVD or Blu-ray version, you can get a copy off of Discotek Media’s website. It used to be up on Hulu, but apparently Hulu hated old anime, and doesn’t have it up there anymore.  We can hopefully see this on Netflix in the future, along with the anime Hulu removed. Now then, next time, we go from hidden gem, to a surprising little flick like The Angry Birds Movie. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the review, and see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 42: Lupin the 3rd Special Part 2: Lupin the 3rd: Green vs. Red Review


(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Recently, there have been a slew of films released like Ratchet & Clank, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where a lot of “defenders” or stubborn fans, pick your poison, say that those films were made for “true fans” of the license/property. Well, these comments have led me to ask a question, “How much can fan service save a film?” I mean, we have seen this before where a film will mostly be for fans of the franchise with all the in-jokes and references. However, let’s be real, and not kid ourselves. Fan service can only go so far before you realize the movie is terrible. It’s like, how you can only go so far with a great cast, amazing animation, or near-realistic CGI, if the other elements of the film don’t work, then the movie is bad. I know you can make the argument of what defines “bad”, but seriously, if you are all flash and no substance, you aren’t going to last long. It’s why a lot of these films or projects based on popular properties don’t end up as overall good movies. Studios spend so much time making sure the fans of the source material enjoy it, they forget that you need to be a good movie. This is why I chose the Lupin the 3rd TV special, Green vs Red. This TV film was made to celebrate the franchises’ 40th anniversary. If you are a huge fan of the franchise, you will get all the winks and nods to the legacy of the iconic anime character. Sadly, if you are not a fan of the franchise, and want to see a film that is just as good as Castle of Cagliostro, then you are going to come up short. Let’s dive in, shall we?

The plot is rather complicated, so excuse me if I don’t give a super-proper plot summary. All over the world, a slew of thieves have shown up, all proclaiming to be the infamous Lupin the 3rd. While this is going on, a young man named Yasuo, a pickpocket and chef, one day obtains the iconic green jacket of Lupin the 3rd at a small little dive that he works at. Yasuo then gets wrapped up into another plot about obtaining the notorious Ice Cube, a new contraption made by a company called Night Hawk. Can Yasuo find out what exactly is going on, and why all of these imitators are popping up all over the world?

I don’t really have a lot of nice things to say about this special. First off, and this is pretty much a sin for not just anime, but animation in general, it’s boring. Why is it boring? Well, it tries to focus too much on being fan service for the fandom rather than focusing on a logical story. The whole Ice Cube subplot becomes very third-wheel, since it’s more about Yasuo’s transformation into the new Lupin, than obtaining the Ice Cube. Sure, I like the fan service and references to past Lupin series/movies/whatever, but to be the main focus when you have two other plots that should have been the focus, is a major problem. Is it cool that you see the red, green, and pink jackets? Yes. Is it cool that you get to see a lot of the differently designed Lupins? Yes. Is it great to see some of the winks to The Castle of Cagliostro and how the film loves this specific version of Lupin? Heck yes! But, it can’t be the only thing to carry this movie. The film also wants to have this, quite frankly, self-indulgent theme of how Lupin isn’t a real person, but more of a state of mind, and the representation of freedom and how everyone wants to be like Lupin. Listen, it’s nice that you wanted to be philosophical and all, but that isn’t the reason why you watch Lupin the 3rd. You watch anything from this franchise for the comedy, the interaction between lovable characters, and the fun, if goofy action that is pretty much a light-hearted version of anything spy-related. Like I said, the fan service distracts and takes over the time that could have been used on the characters from the actual franchise. While Jigen, Fugiko, and Detective Zenigata do get screentime, Goemon sadly shows up for a few lines and that’s it. It feels like they were at some kind of crossroads with how to handle this special. They needed to please the fans from young to old, but they needed a plot as well. I guess I wouldn’t have minded if I actually liked the characters they decided to focus on, but they were so boring and forgettable. They could have also not taken the plot through a Pulp Fiction-style execution, since the plot was already hard enough to follow.

I have to be honest; I found the art direction extremely bland. Sure, the main characters look alright, but the fun of the franchise was its art style. It was exaggerated and cartoony. Green vs Red looks like generic anime that tries to have the retro touch that makes Lupin the 3rd so memorable. That’s why the newest series, including the Fujiko Mine prequel series and the Lupin the 3rd: Part 4 series, work because the designs are so diverse than what you normally see in anime.

Okay, I think I have railed on this long enough, what is good about this special? Well, as much as the fan service and references get in the way, I do like seeing all the little things, like all the differently designed Lupins and the nods to Castle of Cagliostro. It makes me smile, even though the overall experience is flawed. While I do not like the self-indulgent philosophical elements, I do respect that they tried to do something deeper than a simple hour-long clip show showing off the franchise. The brief, but final showdown between Lupin and Yasuo is pretty neat, since they actually do a different art style for those brief seconds of action. Too bad more of the film couldn’t be like this or the giant robot scene.

As much of a fan as I am of Lupin the 3rd, I think this was a trainwreck. Not the worst movie I have seen, since that would mean no effort was put into this, but it’s still a mess of fan service being glorified, boring characters, and a sloppily put-together story. How would I have recut the whole film? Easy, keep the focus on the Green vs Red gimmick. Have Lupin encounter someone who looks exactly like him foil his heists, only to find out that someone made a clone of him. Skip the pompous college textbook philosophical elements, and have it be a great fun adventure. Unless you want to own everything Lupin the 3rd, you can pretty much skip this film. However, if you must have it, you can obtain a DVD copy by going to Discotek Media’s website, since they are the ones who are distributing it here in the states. Green vs Red shows what happens when fan service takes over the more important elements of a film. I don’t want to end this three-part special on a negative note, so let’s take a look at the recent spin-off special that was possibly a gateway to the newest TV series with Lupin the 3rd: Jigen’s Gravestone. Thanks for reading, I hope you like it, and see you all next time!

Rating: Lackluster