Friday, January 18, 2013

Lupin the Third: The Mystery of Mamo (Review)

Director: Soji Yoshikawa
Company: TMS Entertainment
Year: 1978
Country: Japan

Fujiko isn't impressed, Lupin, and neither are the critics.

The first Lupin the Third film was only released a year before The Castle of Cagliostro, but is vastly different. It may be more loyal to Monkey Punch's comics, but it is certainly not as well executed as Cagliostro. The movie opens with Inspector Zenigata investigating Lupin's execution, but it turns out the body is a clone. The real Lupin later tries to flirt with Fujiko, his on-and-off romantic interest. Fujiko is not fooled by his antics (its obvious he just wants to get it on with her). She feigns interest in order to steal the Philosopher's Stone off of him. Then she delivers it to her mysterious benefactor named Mamo, but the stone Lupin gave her turns out being fake. Lupin is eventually captured and brought to an island where Mamo is holding Fujiko captive.

This where the movie starts to get really weird. Mamo is the most bizarre and underwhelming villain one could possible think up. He is a blue-skinned dwarf who clones various specimens of extinct species and deceased famous historical figures. Mamo is obsessed with living forever and wants to create an ideal world were only he, and few other people he deems worthy, can live in. Fujiko tires to convince him that Lupin is worth saving, but Mamo is not convinced. (Mamo is obviously quite jealous of Fujiko's and Lupin's relationship.) Lupin and his friends manage to escape, but Fujiko is captured again. Lupin and his allies must rescue Fujiko and stop Mamo's devious scheme. 

This is our villain, a blue dwarf in a wig. Sorry no refunds.

This film has several issues. The villain, as mentioned before, is not very believable and either comes off as laughable or as an old pervert. Is Mamo really so deprived that he has monitor Fujiko on a video camera while she bathes? (Either that or else some of the animators are also perverts.) His motivation is to destroy the world in order to create a better one for himself to live in? How cliche. Then there's Fujiko. She is often a very interesting character in other incarnations of Lupin the Third. However, here she is captured a bit too often and comes off as weak and is even more manipulative than usual. And yes, she is supposed to be a femme fatale, but that doesn't justify constantly having her wear partially ripped outfits or the shower scene that lasts for nearly two minutes! Then there is the film's climax, where, in the twist everyone saw coming, Mamo is revealed to be a clone himself. The real Mamo is then revealed to be a giant brain in a jar (Wait, what?! Who wrote this? This is supposed to be an action comedy flick, not a cheesy Sci-Fi B movie!) The brain nearly escapes on a rocket ship (I'm not making making this stuff up), but Lupin attaches a bomb to the rocket which explodes.

Fujiko, get some clothes...

What?! I didn't pay to see a surrealist film!

There are a few good things about this movie, though. For one, the character designs and art direction are a lot of fun, being very retro and off-beat. This is due to the animators following the style of the original manga more closely than usual. There are also a lot of great conversations between Lupin and Fujiko as he unsuccessfully tries to woe her. A lot of dramatic tension occurs between Lupin and his partners, Jigen and Goemon, as they try to convince him to forgot Fujiko, and they even part ways at one point. (Again, this is hardly ever seen outside of the manga). Plus, all of the chase scenes and wacky humor are often amusing.

The art style can be hilariously demented. 

Keep him away from the surveillance cameras please. 

So how can I even begin to describe this movie? The characters are well developed, for the most part, and it can be entertaining sometimes. However, the second half of the film completely switches genres and the amount of fan service from Fujiko is ridiculous. On top of all this, it's like a bad acid trip towards the end. If you want to see Lupin the Third at his best, watch the Castle of Cagliostro, not this movie. (Unless you need to find a movie for a drinking game.) Ah well, it could have been worse, at least it wasn't that pink jacket Lupin film.

Gah! Go away Pink Jacket Lupin! Nobody likes you and your horrid animation!

Rating: 2/5*

*About the Dub: It's terrible and it definitely does not make this movie seem any better. Most of the voice actors are way too loud or obnoxious, killing any subtlety that was in the original Japanese. One of the worst offenders is Zenigata, who speaks in very bellicose manner and ends comes off even stupider than he is supposed to appear. Lupin's voice actor, Tony Oliver, is ok, but can come off a bit too shrill or cartoony at times (then again Lupin is very goofy in this film). The only other voice actor that does a decent job is....uh....Well, they all tend to grind on your ears at some point.