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Who’s on Second? Lupin the III or The First? And Landing on Home Video

null 23By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Limited Screenings
Japanese Language with Subtitles
October 21

Please local listings for showtimes

Coming to Digital
December 15, 2020

Steelbook, Blu-ray and DVD
January 12, 2021

Lupin the Third joins the long line of anime heroes given the CGI upgrade, and honestly, he looks terrific! This master thief’s legacy will continue for as long as Monkey Punch wants. Whether or not it’s on hold since he passed away last year, I’m sure other directors have ideas on how to continue this gentleman thief’s adventures for years to come. But for anyone new to this popular character, I recommend checking out The Castle of Cagliostro (Netflix link) before seeing this movie.

Simply titled Lupin III: The First, this outing shows how this family line continues on their quest for the Bresson Diary. It was thought to be lost, but it has since been found. The actual book is tucked in a very elaborate clock-like tableau that, if opened, reveals notes to some ancient treasure even Alexander the Great would want. Well, maybe, but to say too much will ruin the reveal.

The franchise has never followed a particular chronology. Fans have pieced together a timeline to where each television series, original video animations and films fit in. This latest is perhaps the first (to my recollection) to offer a specific date because it takes place ten years after the fall of the Third Reich. Hitler’s quest for holy artefacts to win the second world war offers a reason for why Geralt (Tatsuya Fujiwara) exists. His desire to resurrect the past is furthered with Lambert (Kôtarô Yoshida), an angry professor type who should belong in the Hellboy universe. Together, they want the book’s secrets.

However, Arsène Lupin III (Kan’ichi Kurita) and his crew are just as interested in this journal. With Chief Inspector Zenigata of Interpol (Kôichi Yamadera) always on his tail, anyone familiar with the basic formula that keeps this franchise amusing knows how the story will go. This modern update is certainly filled with classic moments which range from this thief somehow losing his clothes, making grandiose escapes, and winning some innocent girl’s heart. In this film, it’s a doe-eyed Laetitia (Suzu Hirose), a young lady whose love for the past can unlock the tablet.

The first two acts are terrifically executed in bringing everything that makes following Lupin the III’s exploits to life. It’s the type of modern movie-making update this franchise truly needs. The CGI gives an added dimension which elevates the film production to Hollywood blockbuster levels.

We have that feel of James Bond action style sequences Tom Cruise can approve of, and when the narrative turns Indiana Jones, the concept takes a slight turn for the worse. It has the vibe of The Last Crusade and that fourth movie. Lara Croft could do better. I’m not just being reminded of the second outing from Cradle of Life. Generally, I find not going that route of mysticism best left to fantasy epics than in heists.

It’s tough to make a Lupin the III film without his cohorts doing what they excel at, which is typical for their adventures. Some movies are better at character development than others when gunman Daisuke Jigen (Kiyoshi Kobayashi), swordsman Goemon Ishikawa (Daisuke Namikawa), and fellow thief Fujiko (Miyuki Sawashiro) are concerned. This movie simply regards the first two as side-kicks and only Fujiko gets some depth.

Despite the slight narrative flaws, this movie is an entertaining romp. Anime voice-over veteran Tony Oliver returns to voice the Lupin, and he’s very respectable in this role. The cast who worked in past films are also back! I could go see this movie again theatrically, in its original form (Japanese dialogue with subtitles) or opt for the the Region 2 home video release–which has a very cool faux reproduction (flat-cardboard than layered) keepsake. But that release is limited edition and won’t have subtitles that the North American release GKIDS/Shout! Factory‘s digital and home video release has. It’s coming for the holiday gift-giving season!

Both have the same extra featurettes. Plus, I’m fairly sure it’s sold out by now.

SteelBook, Blu-ray & DVD Bonus Features:

SteelBook copies ordered via will receive an exclusive 18×24” lithograph, while supplies last.

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