The much loved and long-running Lupin the 3rd series has made its grand debut in a CG movie with Lupin III: The First. Admittedly, I wouldn’t consider myself someone who is well-versed in this massive franchise as I’ve only seen bits and pieces of episodes here and there. However, I am somewhat familiar with the characters along with a couple stories, and have watched and enjoyed Castle of Cagliostro. I always wanted to give the series a fair chance and when I heard a new movie was coming out, I was interested. I was especially interested because the trailer showed me that this film had a lot of potential.
The story is relatively simple: Lupin is out to steal a World War II-era diary that belonged to famed archeologist Professor Bresson. This diary is said to be the guide, and key to, finding an elusive treasure called the Eclipse. Many people are after this diary, including a group of Nazis. Lupin’s grandfather had allegedly attempted to steal this diary once in the past, but was unsuccessful. Lupin manages to get his hands on it during a museum exhibition held in Professor Bresson’s honor. His plans are foiled by both a young girl named Laetitia and Fujiko, who are also after the diary. Lupin is arrested by Zenigata and then escapes. He then follows Laetitia and sneaks into her apartment where he gets to know her better and, eventually, finds out that she is a descendant of Professor Bresson. The two work together to not only decipher the secrets hidden in the diary, but also beat the Nazis to the treasure and stop them from getting their hands on it. The narrative itself won’t win any awards and you’ll likely see many of the twists coming from a mile away, but it’s executed well-enough to still be entertaining.
Lupin III: The First is a fast-paced adventure filled with action that never lets up. Some may say the film moves a bit too quickly at times, but personally I welcome it as it doesn’t spend anymore time than it needs to on most plot threads. I was admittedly a bit skeptical about the decision to animate this using CG. However, much to my surprise, the animators did an amazing job at not just creating a well-animated film, but creating a well-animated Lupin feature. The way the characters emote and ooze personality, it’s clear a lot of time and effort was put in to make sure every character feels familiar to longtime fans of the series. Seeing Lupin’s smug grin animated in this style genuinely got me excited to see what kind of crazy idea(s) this guy is about to come up with. The animation adds so much elegance to all of the chase scenes and stunts being pulled off by the cast that it’s a real visual treat.
Yuji Ohno graces us with a lovely, jazzy score just to further remind you that you’re watching a Lupin story, and it compliments Lupin’s crazy antics incredibly well. Both Goemon and Jigen also make appearances throughout the film, however, I would have liked them to play a bigger role in the story. If you’re new to Lupin the 3rd, their portrayal in this film won’t really tell you a whole lot about them as characters, despite some funny moments involving them. The new character Laetitia has the spotlight in this film and it’s mostly her interactions with Lupin, alongside her relationship with her grandfather, that drive the plot forward. For what it’s worth, she was likeable enough, however, I couldn’t help but feel like more could have been done for her to really steal the show. She’s introduced as someone who can potentially outsmart Lupin himself, yet is rarely given moments to truly shine in that way during the second half of the film. Some might say her relationship with Lupin, especially towards the end, is meant to be an homage to Lupin’s relationship with Clarisse from Castle of Cagliostro. I do think Laurie Hymes’ performance in the English dub as Laetitia was really great and made her arc feel more convincing and compelling than it otherwise would have. The English cast does a nice job at bringing the cast to life, which should come at no surprise considering many of the English voice cast including Tony Oliver (Lupin), Richard Epcar (Jigen), Lex Lang (Goemon), Michelle Ruff (Fujiko), and Doug Erholtz (Zenigata) have returned to reprise their roles as their respective characters in previous Lupin dubs. So if you’re a fan of their work in those older episodes and movies, you will likely be satisfied with their work here as well.
The GKIDS release of Lupin III: The First contains a decent amount of bonuses such as trailers, a CG model Gallery, “Yellow Carpet Premiere,” a Q&A with the English cast as they share their experiences working on Lupin, an interview with director Takashi Yamazaki, and an “Animation Breakdown” feature to give some insight into how a few of the scenes in the movie were made. These features are well worth checking out after finishing the film and add to the experience. I actually really enjoyed the Q&A with the English cast as it was a surprisingly lengthy feature and showed just how passionate that cast is about their work on the series. The Animation Breakdown was also a fascinating watch as they show you how they went from a simple storyboard sketch to the gorgeous animation you saw in the final cut of the film. If you purchased the gorgeous steelbook edition, it includes a 16-page booklet featuring some additional art. It’s a small little booklet, but it’s a welcome addition to the overall package. Overall, Lupin III: The First is a fun film and the home release has a nice amount of extras for you to enjoy as well. I recommend it to both long time Lupin aficionados and people who are new to the series.
Review copy provided by publisher.