I really wish movie theaters would reopen soon. As fun as it has been to just stream a lot of new releases at home, there’s just something about going to the cinema and feeling the energy of a big crowd watching with you. There are also some films that I’ve recently seen that would have benefited by being on the big screen and something my moderately sized television screen won’t give it proper justice.
This is the precise feeling I had while watching Lupin III: The First.
There are a few things I have to mention before I move to the review proper. First, the version I managed to catch was the GKIDS English dubbed version. I generally prefer to get the original Japanese dub with English subtitles. The GKIDS English dub was actually pretty good but more on that later. Just take note that my rating was affected by this. Second, this will be a SPOILER FREE review. Anyway, on with the review!
Lupin III: The First takes place a decade or so after World War II. Lupin III has set his sights on taking the legendary Bresson’s Diary, the only item his grandfather, the first Lupin, was unsuccessful at stealing. The item is said to lead to a legendary treasure and it appears our gentleman thief isn’t the only one aware of it as there is another nefarious crew who is after it and it’s power. Along the way, Lupin III, as well as his on-and-off partners in crime, team up with Laetitia, an aspiring archeology student who has deep connections to Bresson’s Diary, in order to locate the legendary treasure.
The thing that really worried me before I started watching the film was the move to 3D animation. While I’m not the biggest Lupin III fan out there, I have watched a few episodes here and there so I’m familiar with the general style of hectic animation and hyper-stylized movements the characters have. I will say the animators did an extremely good job of capturing the look and feel of the original animated features while also adding a bit of their own unique style on their own. This also lends itself to the action scenes, which really look fantastic and much better than I could have ever imagined!
I really loved the character designs as they’re extremely detailed and they look extremely good. The animators went above and beyond what was needed as everything looks clean. I mentioned they added a few of their own flourishes as, while the returning characters do look like their 2D animated counterparts, a couple of the new characters introduced in the film don’t resemble the art style of Monkey Punch, Lupin III’s creator. Come to think of it, the female characters resemble a lot of the more recent Disney 3D animated features like Frozen and Tangled thanks to their use of big eyes. Then again, maybe it’s Disney who’s been imitating the anime look all this time?
As good as the 3D animation is in Lupin III: The First, there are still a couple of limitations to it. They simply couldn’t capture the more expressive facial expressions that traditional animation could produce. Basically, while they did a brilliant job with the face animations, you never see Lupin with some of his more goofy grins which he’s known for. There are also a couple of moments when the bodies lack a certain weight to them when necessary. It’s fine to see Lupin go floating around while he jumps. But when the baddies just seem to hang in the air just a little too long or fly a little too far, it just looks a little weird.
Another standout from Lupin III: The First is the soundtrack. The music here is on point as the jazzy style of all the tunes does fit with the jet-setting, snazzy and cool style that the film exudes. The worst song, oddly enough, is the song at the very end. It’s not even a bad song and it’s actually very soothing. My issue with is is that it just feels out of place with all the other songs from the movie. Obviously, the best song is the theme song. There’s something eternally pleasing about Lupin III’s jazzy big bang song as it sets the tone for his adventures. And just to make it even better, the film puts in a James Bond-like opening credits scene to enhance it even more!
I also love the plot of Lupin III: The First as it borrows a lot from the older Indiana Jones movies. It’s basically Lupin and the gang going from location to location and getting tangled up in action sequences akin to the ones a certain whip wielding professor would get into. Some of the action set pieces are astonishing and this is primarily I wished I was the movie in a movie theater with great surround sound as they had this epic feel that my television simply could not do justice to.
As I did watch the GKIDS English dub version, I will give them a whole lot of credit for making this one of the better dubs out there. Each voice actor does sound like how they would so they did suit the roles. Some performances like the guy who did Inspector Zenigata and Laetitia did a phenomenal job in bringing their characters to life. Lupin’s high pitched voice did feel a little weird but it’s was something I got used to really quickly.
I do have a few issues with the film, though. For one, we don’t really get a chance to see the side characters do a whole lot. You get a couple of scenes where Jigen can display his sharpshooting skills and Goemon cut things up with his Zantetsuken or Fujiko using her sultry moves to get her way. However, they’re more background characters here whereas Lupin and, to an extent, Laetitia are the main protagonists who steal most of the film’s scant 93-minute runtime. Some sacrifices had to be made but it’s sad they couldn’t give these amazing supporting characters more time to show their stuff.
Another niggling problem are the antagonists. They’re just plain ol’ bad guys and, while that’s fine and all, that’s their only characteristic. Also, there’s one specific bad guy who’s personality comes off as very inconsistent as they hint he’s going to have a change of heart and then immediately reverts back to being the same old baddie he was just before it. I get what they were trying to go for but it was just confusing as the payoff is super abrupt and it’s almost like no one really cares for what he did afterwards.
These issues are relatively minor compared to how everything else is. Lupin III: The First is a great watch for those who are fans of the anime or to those who just want to watch a rip-roaring global adventure featuring some endearing characters. It’s an easy recommendation for me.
Have you seen Lupin III: The First? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!