Lupin the 3rd: Jigen's Gravestone

166: Lupin the 3rd: Goemon's Blood Spray Review

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(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/camseyeview. 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! This is a very violent special. You will see limbs fly off, blood, and visions of beheading individuals. There are also some sexual tension and minor pot smoking. This is absolutely not meant for a younger audience. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Hope you like the review!

When you have such an iconic cast of characters like Lupin the 3rd does, it’s always a bit concerning when the film decides to focus on just one of them, and that one isn’t Lupin. Sure, you can make an interesting story or experience with someone like Fujiko and Daisuke Jigen, but then you have Goemon. From all of my years of loving Lupin the 3rd, Goemon has been one of the more frustrating characters on which to focus a story, because of his stoic samurai character. He’s kind of boring, and only gets fun when he uses that sword to do over-the-top sword slicing stuff. That’s why today’s review is probably going to be the best way to form a story around him, Lupin the 3rd: Goemon’s Blood Spray

 

Directed by Takeshi Koike, Goemon’s Blood Spray is the second of specials that connect back to the Fujiko Mine mini-series that may or may not take place at the very beginning of the Lupin the 3rd timeline. Listen, with continuity for this franchise, you just have to wing it, and not think about it so hard. Anyway, let’s dive right into this little gorefest. 

 

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The story takes place after Jigen's Gravestone, as we see our gang of likable thieves stealing from a Yakuza-operated casino ship. While on the ship, Lupin, dubbed by Keith Silverstein, Jigen, dubbed by Dan Woren, and Fujiko, dubbed by Cristina Vee, are just there to steal the money. Goemon, dubbed by Lex Lang, is there to protect a Yakuza boss from harm. Unexpectedly, a third party is thrown in the fray with a killer known as Hawk aka the Phantom of Bermuda, dubbed by Kirk Thorton. Hawk is sent to kill Lupin, Jigen, and Fujiko. Goemon tries to defend the three and fails to do so, but they are then saved by Inspector Zenigata, dubbed by Richard Epcar. Can Lupin and the gang avoid the killer ax swings of Hawk? Can Goemon redeem his failure to take down the giant killer? 

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Like I mentioned above, while Lupin, Jigen, Zenigata, and Fujiko are in the film, much of this film's focus is on the lone swordsman, Goemon. So, how do you make a character, which is usually untouchable, vulnerable? It's rather simple, set the story with Goemon before he's the unstoppable swordsman that he is in the main series. The plot is fairly basic in this film as it places Goemon against Hawk, and the main goal and drive of the story are for Goemon to achieve that level of swordsmanship that can put him on the same level or higher than Hawk. It's a very samurai-style film, but it fits. A lot of that is because the special knows what it needs to focus on and to have a threat that can propel the story forward. One of the best parts about this special is Hawk. Along with Jigen's Gravestone's Yael Okuzaki, Hawk is one of the deadliest threats in the Lupin the 3rd universe. He's big, strong, stoic, unmoving, and versatile with his two axes. He's not a dumb or typical hired hitman villain either. Due to being an ex-military soldier, Hawk can and will adapt to the situation at hand. Even using bullets on him does not work. I love that he looks like something out of a Hong Kong or early 70s/80s action flick. He would fit perfectly in films like Commando or any of the action films Hong Kong was putting out at the time. 

So, since this is pretty much Goemon's story, what do the other characters have to do? Well, a lot of the plot that involves Lupin and Jigen starts and stops at the cruise ship heist at the beginning, and then becomes the targets of Hawk. Fujiko doesn't have a whole lot to do, and I think that's good. The problem with the last special within this Lupin continuity was that she did little, and was mostly fan service. In this film, she bails at the halfway point while Goemon is training. Zenigata has a bit more to do this time as he tries to not only capture Lupin and Jigen, but also find out why Hawk was there in the first place. The rest of the cast are setups for Goemon's story, including the gang of yakuza that Goemon was protecting back on the ship. 

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Animation-wise, it's on par with the last special. The darker outlines, slicker designs, and action sequences are all beautiful to look at and watch on screen. The movements are so fluid, and you are constantly hooked to see how the fights pan out. Like I also said above, this is a very violent film. Not early 90s anime violent, but you will see limbs fly, blood spray, and Goemon get a part of his arm sliced like a Deli slicing roast beef. You will be getting action sequences that can be compared to the ones you see in Sword of the Stranger. The dub cast is also pretty spectacular. We have the returning cast of Keith Silverstein as Lupin, Dan Woren as Jigen, Richard Epcar as Zenigata, and Cristina Vee as Fujiko, but the two newcomers, Kirk Thorton and returning Goemon voice actor Lex Lang are wonderful additions to the cast. Kirk brings this weathered and tired portrayal to Hawk, and Lex brings his A-game and his best Goemon performance to date. Of course, this wouldn't be a Lupin special if it didn't have a pretty cheesy rock song at the end of the special by Rob Laufer. 

 

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So, what did I not like about this special? Well, while it is stripped down, I would have loved a bit more connection and explanation about who hired Hawk to kill Lupin, Fujiko, and Jigen. They don't explain it, despite this special being a sequel to Jigen's Gravestone. Was it Mamo who sent Hawk after the gang? What happened to Hawk after the fight with Goemon at the end? I think turning this into a 90-minute feature would have helped flesh out the story more. I still love the plot, but it needed to either cut more or expand more. 

 

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In the end, Goemon's Blood Spray is a thrilling violent romp, reminiscent of some of anime's best action films. I highly recommend picking up the recently released Blu-ray from Discotek Media. It's very entertaining, violent, and it made a usually tough character to make interesting, well, interesting. It's still not Castle of Cagliostro, but I consider it one of the best specials out of the Lupin the 3rd franchise. Now then, we shall move from the blood-soaked lands of Japan to the shivering mountaintops as we look at DreamWorks and Pearl Studios' Abominable

 Thank you for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to like and share this review! You can also be a patron for my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time! 

Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 85: Japanese Animation Month 2 Part 3: Lupin the 3rd: Dead or Alive Review

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(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!)

Well, it’s been a while since we have seen our favorite anime thief, Lupin the 3rd. As much as I love talking about this franchise, and not shy to say it’s one of my favorite anime franchises, I always want to choose specific films/specials from the series, since I don’t want to do every single film from the series. At the very least, not yet. That’s why to close out Japanese Animation Month 2, I am going to review Lupin the 3rd: Dead or Alive. This 1996 animated film is notable for a few things. For one, the director of the film is the creator of the franchise Monkey Punch, who hasn’t directed a film from the series before. The film is also considered by many of the fans to be one of the absolute best films about the lovable thief. So, is it as good as the fans make it out to be, or is The Castle of Cagliostro still the king of the films?

lupin02Lupin is back at it again, and this time voiced by Sonny Strait. Alongside his buddies Daisuke Jigen, voiced by Christopher Sabat, and Goemon, voiced by Mike McFarland, their goal in the film is to try and find this treasure that’s held on a deserted sunken ship. The downside to this is the fact that the ship has some kind of highly advanced defense system that keeps people from getting close to it. This means that the quirky thief must find a way to get past the defense system which seems to be connected to the country of Zufu. The good news is that finding the solution to the problem shouldn’t be a problem for our daring thief. The bad news is that the solution is being guarded over by the country’s current leader, General Headhunter. Not only that, but Inspector Zenigata, voiced this time by Phillip Willburn, is on Lupin’s case, and helps reinforce Headhunter’s already strong military force. Of course, shenanigans ensue as Fujiko, voiced by Meredith McCoy, also gets thrown into the situation, and the team now has one of their toughest opponents yet. Can they find a way to get the treasure, and avoid the eye of Headhunter and Zenigata? What about the female accomplice that they end up teaming up with? What exactly is the treasure?

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Let’s start with some of the good elements to the film. This is a very action-packed film in the franchise. It not only starts out with a prison break that’s a lot of fun to watch, but Lupin and his friends are kept on their toes during the entire film. I would argue that a lot of the intense action from this film is all from General Headhunter. He’s probably one of the most intimidating and imposing villains Lupin has ever had. He might be a bit one-note, but this guy is ruthless. Usually, Lupin and his gang always have the upper hand, but this time, they really, and I mean really, struggle. Endless goons and men armed with guns keep Lupin and his friends on their feet, and it was rather refreshing to see our heroes face such a challenge. I have mentioned before in my review of Jigen’s Gravestone that you want to watch the lead characters be stopped by a challenge, and overcome it. This hurdle we see our heroes go through makes much of the action intense and fun to watch them bob and weave through the enemy to find their way to the treasure. It gets even tougher when Zenigata is actually competent in this film.

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That’s probably the next thing to talk about, the interpretation of the characters. Most incarnations give Lupin, his friends, and the overall series a fun and light-hearted tone, with some good physical comedy and fast-paced action. This film has a slightly more serious edge, with less of a focus on comedy. I know a lot of people have said that it’s closer to how the manga was and how the original series was intended, but I can understand the more serious tone being a bit off-putting to more casual fans of the franchise. I think it works, since you still have some of the over-the-top sequences you should be familiar with from the franchise, and even with a more serious tone, it still feels like Lupin the 3rd. It’s still Lupin the 3rd, with all the hijinks and likable characters that you have come to know and love.

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In terms of animation, it’s good for what it is, a film based on an anime. Characters move pretty fluidly, and when the highly advanced security system sequences kick in, it looks fantastic. The designs are also worth noting, due to how non-cartoony they look. I mean, in terms of how the characters usually look. Everything feels a bit more “realistic”, but they still have those familiar designs you have come to expect. They just aren’t going to be the exaggerated versions you see like in the most recent anime series. It can be a tad distracting, since one of my favorite aspects of the series was how everyone looked. It made the anime stand out, and they still do here. I think it’s also nice to see two characters in this film, Fujiko and Inspector Zenigata. It’s yet one of the few films I have seen where Fujiko is actually helpful, and isn’t there for just pure fan service. It’s also nice to see Zenigata in a more serious light. Usually he is the buffoon that thinks he can capture Lupin, but never can. This time, he’s not holding back. He actually becomes a major threat to the characters. I enjoyed the voice cast. I think everyone does a solid job at their respective characters, even if I personally prefer the cast in The Castle of Cagliostro or the Geneon dub. Sonny Strait does a good job making a likable Lupin, Kyle Hebert is an intimidating villain, Chris Patton does a good job as Headhunter’s right hand, Phillip Wilburn does a hard-edged Zenigata, and you get the idea.

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If I had to complain about something, it’s with some of the tropes that come with feature films based on anime. The secondary leads are not very interesting, and are there to just get the plot going. It’s not their fault, but it’s a trope that I don’t personally care for. I also don’t care for the more sci-fi elements of the film. I don’t know, for some reason, I just don’t think sci-fi fits with the Lupin the 3rd universe. The security system in the film seems more like something from Patlabor than Lupin the 3rd. The only reason it’s in the film is because the tech used in the defense system used gold as a fuel source.

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While I don’t personally think it’s better than The Castle of Cagliostro, Lupin the 3rd: Dead or Alive is still a fun action movie to watch. Currently, Funimation has a DVD out for it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Discotek Media picks it up in the future, since they are distributing some of the Lupin the 3rd films that Funimation released back in the day. If you love the thief, and want an intense action adventure, then I highly recommend you check this film out. Well, Japanese Animation Month 2 was fun, but next time, it’s time to dip back into the well of DC animation with Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. Thanks for reading, I hope you all enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go see it!

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!