Lupin the 3rd: The mystery of Mamo

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 Lupin the 3rd Special Part 1: Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro 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!)

Welcome to part one of the Lupin the 3rd special! This is where we look at films/specials that are all about our favorite thief! After such an enraging experience of watching of Norm of the North that will be topped by two other movies, I think it’s time to talk about one of the top 3 greatest animation icons of all time and has no equal, Hayao Miyazaki. Ask anyone who is into animation who this guy is, or heck, ask any film lover who this guy is, they will tell you that he is a one of a kind animation god. He executes stories and characters like no other, and has a creativity that animators and studios wish they could copy. Sure, not all of his ideas work, and his grumpy old man attitude can be a tad tedious, but those are just minor nitpicks since, when it comes to movies, I would watch anything he has done. I wanted to pick out a movie to talk about from him since his films are so special. I was thinking about talking about a TV show he worked on called Sherlock Hound, since it’s a wonderful hidden gem series that anyone should check out, but I haven’t watched all the episodes, and I want to make sure I see the whole thing before writing a review about it. I mean, how stupid would it be if critics wrote reviews of films or shows that they didn’t fully watch? So, what did I choose to review of the great Hayao Miyazaki? Well, I thought, “why not watch his directorial debut with Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro?”  This 1979 film was the second film based off of the Lupin the 3rd franchise, and came out essentially a year later after The Mystery of Mamo. It’s an interesting fact to know that we can thank a lot of the current characteristics of Lupin the 3rd and the gang, because of Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli partner/co-founder, Isao Takahata. It really does show off the best elements of the franchise, and cuts away all the tripe that would otherwise plague most anime these days. And if you are curious, this does mean I’m going to be talking about Lupin the 3rd more often now, because there’s so much to talk about with this franchise. Let’s get started on this great underrated gem.

The story once again revolves around our hero Lupin, voiced by David Hayter, and his best friend and partner-in-crime, Jigen, voiced by John Snyder. After a successful heist at a casino, they realize the bills are all forgeries. Lupin then hatches up a new plan to head toward a country where the forgeries might have originated. During a pit stop on the side of the road, Lupin and Jigen encounter and try to save a princess-in-distress named Lady Clarisse, voiced by Bridget Hoffman. After a creative car chase, they find out that she is the soon-to-be bride of the Count of Cagliostro, voiced by Kirk Thorton. Can Lupin and his friends find out about what the heck is going on and solve the mystery within the Grand Duchy of Cagliostro. By the way, the actors I listed are from the Animaze/Manga Entertainment dub. This film has a Streamline dub and the already-mentioned Animaze/Manga Entertainment dub.

So, what is so great about the second canonical film of the Lupin the 3rd franchise? Well, I find it to be a superior film to The Mystery of Mamo, and a lot of the Lupin the 3rd films/specials combined. Let’s talk about the designs for the first part. The art direction/animation has a lot of Miyazaki’s fingerprints. The characters are much more expressive, the lines are smoother, and the animation is actually quite fluid for the time. And that is saying something, since The Castle of Cagliostro came out essentially a year after The Mystery of Mamo. As much as I love the Lupin series from that period of time in the late 70s, the first movie’s animation wasn’t really movie quality. Everything here just feels more impressive in terms of the technical and animation side of the film.

Luckily, The Castle of Cagliostro is not just great animation from 1979 and has some really fun action sequences. The car chase that pops in at about five minutes into the movie is one of the best moments of any action/adventure film. It’s over-the-top, intense, there are stakes, and it put a smile on my face from beginning to end. There are many great scenes, from breaking into the castle to the climatic fight between the Count and Lupin in the clock tower. Another element that is lovingly executed is the slapstick. Unlike Go West!, the slapstick is restrained and is used only when the mood calls for it. It results in the comedy between the characters hitting its target, and makes me smile and laugh every time the quirky moments happen. The voice acting is top-notch. I think the Animaze/Manga Entertainment dub of the film is also pretty iconic and at the same level as the Geneon dub of the original Lupin the 3rd show. They get some pretty good actors for these parts, big and small, including David Hayter (Solid Snake from the Metal Gear Solid franchise), Kirk Thorton (Jin from Samurai Champloo), Bridget Hoffman (KOS-MOS from Xenosaga), John Snyder (Raoh from the Fist of the North Star animated series), Kevin Seymor (Tessai and Shijima from Ninja Scroll), Dorothy Elias-Fahn (Meryl Stryfe from Trigun) and the fantastic Michael Gregory (Professor Gill from the original Kikaider anime series, Laughing Bull from Cowboy Bebop, and Brilliant Dynamites Neon from Trigun). They all do fantastic work bringing the characters to life. One of the elements I love about Miyazaki’s interpretation of the Lupin cast is how he cuts the fat with everyone. Lupin isn’t as perverted as he is in the show, Fujiko isn’t seen as a great thief/sex object for Japanese sex jokes, but an actual great thief/character, Jigen is pretty much the same, and for what little time Goemon has on-screen, he is pretty humorous. I love the franchise, but I find some of its more anime trope-laden elements to be crude at best, and painfully distracting at worst. It’s like how in Lupin the 3rd: Jigen’s Gravestone, if you took out the scene where Fujiko is naked or just take her out entirely, you would lose nothing from the overall plot. I get why the Lupin cast is how they are, due to the time period they were made, and I still love them, but some of its elements either don’t age well or don’t translate well into other cultural mindsets.

If I had to pick apart a few things I didn’t like about the film, it was probably be because of the intense work schedule and elements that had to be taken out due to the said stressful work schedule, but I found some of the plot elements could have been handled better. Like, there is no mystery as to where the forgeries are coming from, since Lupin knows exactly where they are. While the plot element of Lupin knowing the countess from the past is charming, it could have been taken out. I also wish Goemon had more time on-screen. He had only 14 lines. Yeah, when you have a samurai that can cut a plane in half, you shouldn’t be underutilizing him.

In the end, The Castle of Cagliostro is one of the best adventure movies around. It’s fun, with likable characters, great action, and, for the time, amazing animation. Sure, it does have a little bit of fat it could trim from the plot, but for a first-time movie for Miyazaki, it’s pretty much spot-on. Not many directors can say their first movie was a huge hit. You can get either a DVD or Blu-ray version of this film from Discotek Media. I wish they did a combo pack, but overall, it’s a fantastic movie that I think anyone can enjoy, and not just fans of the franchise. Speaking of fans of the franchise, let’s dive into why making a film only catering to fans can be a bad thing with Lupin the 3rd: Green vs Red. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the review, and see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 34: Lupin the 3rd: The Mystery of Mamo 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!)

Parental Warning: There is some partial male and female nudity, but nothing like Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black levels of nudity. Just be aware of this if you decide to watch this movie. Enjoy the review!

Well, Japanese Animation Month might be over, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take a look at some more Japanese-animated movies! I wanted to tackle something different in terms of famous Japanese animated films, since I want to save Hayao Miyazaki and Mamoru Hosoda’s films for special occasions. I then thought about all the movies based off of popular anime that are out there. They mostly are of low-quality, since they don’t really connect to the plot, have villains that will be found nowhere or even mentioned in the main TV series, and will have plot elements that would have been helpful in the main show’s story. And you won’t believe how true that statement is. Find a long-going anime series, pick out one of the films from said series, and watch them. This is why I wanted to choose a film from a long-running anime series that actually works, and that’s where one of my favorite anime characters of all time comes into play, Lupin the 3rd. The famous series began as a manga way back in 1967, and has spun off multiple TV series, TV specials, video games, live action adaptations, and movies. My first time experiencing the franchise was when it was on Adult Swim’s anime block on Saturday, and the very first episode I watched was A Bouquet of Bills Blossom in Rio’s Sunset, which was episode 2 of the second Lupin the 3rd TV series. The overall series is like a cartoon-ier take on heist films, where the episodes revolve around some kind of heist or job that Lupin and his crew are going to pull off. It’s a really fun, if a tad dated series that I could recommend to any new anime viewer. I decided to finally take it upon myself to check out and review the first full-length movie based off of the franchise, The Mystery of Mamo. The Mystery of Mamo was released in 1978. It was directed by Soji Yoshikawa, who worked on Tomorrow’s Joe, Armored Trooper Votoms, City Hunter, Cyborg 009, Future Boy Conan, and The Mysterious Cities of Gold. It had a pretty positive reception, but as someone who doesn’t watch a lot of anime anymore, what do I think of this? Well, let’s find out.

The gang is together once again after the mysterious rumor is circulated around that someone who looked like Lupin the 3rd was killed. Of course, by the stubborn nature of Detective Zenigata, voiced by Dan Lorge, this turns out to be false as he finds Lupin, voiced by Tony Oliver, to be alive and well. Lupin’s next heist is to find the philosopher’s stone. The twist that comes into play about this is because the heist is actually part of a bigger plan to find out about a mysterious individual known as Howard Lockewood aka Mamo, voiced by Paul St. Peter. Can Lupin the 3rd find out what is going on, with the help of his friends like the firearm specialist Jigen, voiced by Richard Epcar, the samurai Goemon, voiced by Lex Lang, and Lupin’s love interest/rival Fujiko, voiced by Michelle Ruff? Well, you will have to watch the movie to find out.

One thing I will say about having movie tie-ins with Lupin the 3rd is that the series was more or less just a series of heists that didn’t connect to one another, so really, the problems that a lot of shows have that I listed above don’t appear here. You can watch this and not have anything glaringly wrong with the TV series. As a first movie, the overall execution isn’t that bad. You still have a big heist, the finding of the philosopher’s stone, dealing with a mysterious little person, car chases, action, and the great interaction that has made these characters stand up through the passage of animation and time. I actually respect that this movie also tries to be a bit more with its themes, by being more philosophical with topics of identity, mortality, love, and honor. On top of the action and offbeat humor and exchanges, the film also gives time for the characters to talk and develop a little more with one another. It’s great when you find not just animated films, but films in general, that let the audience breathe, relax, and watch characters grow. Some of the action is quite impressive and fun to watch, with some scenes that inspire sequences you see in the next Lupin the 3rd movie, Castle of Cagliostro.

With that being said, I think its overly ambitious story becomes a bit too much for itself, since the last third is just bonkers. I personally think Lupin the 3rd, or at least during this time period of the franchise, doesn’t blend well with philosophical themes. It tries to reach for higher moments than most animated films during this time, but to me, it falls flat, and the big twist about who Mamo is doesn’t help either. Speaking of Mamo, I found him to be a boring villain. Not to say he wasn’t evil or anything, but his personality was not interesting. Another element that falls flat is the animation. It is the same quality of animation you see from the TV series of that time. It feels cheap, and it really pales in comparison to Castle of Cagliostro. I know that isn’t fully fair, but when the two films came out a year from one another, and the second one has famed director Hayao Miyazaki behind it, it’s hard to not compare the two. I also found the more perverse side of Lupin to be an annoyance, since The Mystery of Mamo carries the joke of Lupin always wanting to “Marvin Gaye” and get it on with Fujiko. It’s not that it isn’t funny, but to some, I can see them not liking the aggressiveness of Lupin, since in Japan, his womanizing sleaze is part of the comedy of the show. It’s just an example of humor not translating well into another culture. If you like this kind of stuff, that’s fine, and more power to you, but the partial nudity seen in this film could have been taken out without it affecting the film or story. I also found it odd that the film just ditches Goemon after a certain scene. He just vanishes for the rest of the movie. It’s like how the princess in Disney’s animated Robin Hood film isn’t seen for the third act, and then pops up at the very end. You are told why he leaves, but to not come back until the very end is odd to me.

The overall film might be a bit complicated, and it might not reach those big philosophical goals that it aims for, but The Mystery of Mamo is still a solid enough action adventure movie. If you want to buy this movie because you like action/adventure animated movies, or want to get into Lupin the 3rd, Discotek Media has the definitive edition of the film with a huge amount of content, including the different English dubs from the Streamline dub to Manga Entertainment’s dub. That is the one I watched, since the voices from Manga Entertainment’s version is what I personally think of whenever Lupin the 3rd comes to mind. It might not age as well as Castle of Cagliostro, but there is enough here to warrant a purchase and a watch. Well, how about we take a break from Japan, and let’s go over to Spain and look at an underrated GOYA award winner with Nocturna. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked what you saw, and see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it!