Takeshi Koike

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 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 31: Japanese Animation Month: REDLINE 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 some female nudity and crude language. Viewer’s discretion is advised.

Here we go! It’s the beginning of Japanese Animation Month! Say what you will about the huge amount of schlocky anime that you see come out of the land of the rising sun, but when they put their creative foot down on the pedal, they will speed by you with some of the best animated experiences to come out from there. Seriously, think about it. How many iconic animated films have come out from Japan? You have films like Akira, Ninja Scroll, Robot Carnival, Memories, Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso, Ghost in the Shell, Wolf Children, The Garden of Words, Tokyo Godfathers, Paprika, Short Peace, Whisper of the Heart, and you get the idea. When they are allowed to make something diverse, interesting, and not held down by anime tripe, they can make some pretty awe-inspiring work. For the first title in Japanese Animation Month, I wanted to go with a more recent film that shows us what the 2008 Speed Racer film could have been if the Wachowskis knew at all what they were doing. REDLINE is a 2D animated film released in 2009 by Takeshi Koike, who has also worked on projects like the World Record segment from The Animatrix, the original pilot for Afro Samurai, a pilot for the Iron Man anime, and the OVA of Trava: Fist Planet. Yeah, you have quite the individual on your hands. REDLINE was originally supposed to appear alongside Summer Wars and Mai Mai Miracle at the 2009 Annecy International Animated Film Festival, but was pushed back, and missed the festival altogether. So, how good is REDLINE? Is it one of the best racing films of all time? Or should you slow down so the tripe police don’t give you a ticket for speeding? Let’s find out.

REDLINE stars our male lead, JP, voiced by Patrick Seitz. JP is a well-known human racer that for most of his career goes through races with a rigged machine to fail, and make loads of money for the mafia to work off loans and such. Luckily for him, after a few racers drop out of a special event, JP joins the roster of racers in the REDLINE, a special race that only offers the best of the best in terms of challengers. Unfortunately for them, they will also have to deal with the planet the race takes place on’s military and government, as it’s up to JP and a colorful cast of characters to make it through the race and try to win first place!

Let’s get into the driver seat and I’ll tell you my favorite elements of this animated film. The animation and character designs are just fantastic. The whole movie looks like a bright colorful comic book put into motion, and not as one of those stupid motion comics. It’s smooth, the designs are whimsical, and the characters all look like something from the F-Zero. All the characters look great, and are all very expressive. I think my favorite design comes from the main character, JP. Sure, he kind of has similarities with the typical male characters of current anime, but there is just something about him that stands out to me, compared to what you usually get in a male anime lead. Heck, I love him as a main character. He is confident, energetic, prone to crashes, and loves the feeling of racing at top speed. He’s a likable main character. The cars that everyone race in are definitely another design element that I love about the film. I think the cyborg racer is one of my favorites, since he becomes a part of his racing vehicle and his head looks like someone read The Mask comics and shoved an engine into the guy’s head. It reminds me of stuff like the already mentioned F-Zero, Star War Episode 1: Racer, Wacky Racers, and Fast Racing Neo. I also get a feeling like George Miller would make this, since it’s so over-the-top and entertaining.

For the racing itself, it’s stylish, fast, well-animated, and satisfying. It’s like if Fury Road’s chase sequences were animated, and had a huge dose of anime shoved into its veins. I mean, on top of colorful racers, they also have to deal with an over-the-top Power Rangers-style villain world trying to take them down. Who wouldn’t love something like this? Luckily, when you aren’t watching the eccentric animation, bounty hunters, hot ladies, and big cars, there are some small calm moments. There aren’t many of them, and they are simple, but when they pop up, it’s a welcome change of pace. In the end though, this film knows what it wants to be, unlike some recent big budget flicks that have recently been released.

Despite having some amazing qualities, there are some downsides to REDLINE as well. First off, don’t expect a deep story. It’s simple, and while that is great since this film knows what it wants to do with itself, this might not be the movie for you if you want deep storytelling and philosophically intriguing characters. I also didn’t care for the female characters in this film. They aren’t truly interesting, and are just hype- sexualized. It fits with the mood, and to be fair, not a lot of the side characters get a huge amount of development, but it’s something to bring up. Another thing to bring up is this little area in the film that is basically exposition and information dumping.  It introduces the other racers who you won’t really care about, and are basically there to show off even more flash and personality. It drags the pace down a bit, but you probably won’t care too much about it, since you will be distracted by goofy characters and slick, stylized animation. I also hate how a lot of Japanese animated films do this, but the ending is very abrupt. What is it with Japanese animation and not having a good ending? Granted, I guess the ending we got was enough, but it’s distracting when I have seen so many films do this.

REDLINE might be stupid sci-fi cheese, but it’s that good kind of stupid sci-fi cheese. It’s enjoyable, likable, a spectacle to behold, and shows off what Japanese animation can be when it’s not held down by most of the bullocks that comes with anime these days. I’m not going to say REDLINE is one of my all-time favorite movies or one of the best animated films, but this is a film that you could watch many times just for the pure entertainment value of it. It’s a movie you pick up for simple enjoyment and visual flair. Luckily, the film is not hard to obtain, since the multi-format version is about $10 plus shipping on Amazon.com. If you wanted to watch it for free and not feel crummy about it, tubitv.com has it for free, which is how I watched it. I love films like this, since it shows off how creative you can be with animation. For example, you can be over-the-top fun like REDLINE, or funny and touching like next time’s film review of A Letter to Momo. Thanks for checking out this review, and see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!