Lupin the Third: The Secret of Mamo Review
Unless you are a Manga addict, I would guess that your main interest in this title comes about because you have seen Hiyao Miyazaki's wonderful sequel, Castle of Cagliostro. Be warned however, that Miyazaki's hugely enjoyable film was a bit of a variation on the original character of Lupin the Third as drawn by Kazuhiko Kato(Monkey Punch), which had been translated into two TV series and one delirious live action film, Strange Psychokinetic Strategy, by the time of its animated feature debut. In the original animated movie made a year beforehand, Lupin is a lusty, selfish and egocentric adventurer, and the action around him is somewhat more violent and grittier than in Miyazaki's sequel.
Dramatically, we join the action as Lupin is executed, and we are thrown into confusion instantly as we then join him and Jigen as they rob a pyramid with the dogged Inspector Zenigata in hot pursuit. Soon the luscious Fujiko has tried to steal their haul and Lupin is under attack on land and air across Europe. Promising his friends to stop getting tricked by her wiles, he breaks his word and is kidnapped on the orders of the mysterious Mamo. Throw in car chases, the US navy, cloning, and some preposterous science fiction and you've just about got this first feature length adaptation of the Manga comic.
Coming up for thirty years old, you need to not apply the standards of more recent animation to this film, but watching it alongside its sequel it's impossible to not comment that the technical quality in the areas of storytelling and the images is far superior with Miyazaki's work. This instalment is undoubtedly more sexy, less child friendly and bloodier, but it does go on for 20 minutes more than the story seems able to bear and it has a narrative that is far from coherent.
Lupin is a sex obsessed thrill seeker here, an anti hero who deserts his friends for a sniff of carnal delight. His motivations are wholly selfish - sex, survival and greed. The film shares his idiocy to some extent as well, as we are treated to a visual metaphor equating pushing the nuclear button with sexual arousal, and Fujiko is introduced in all her breastacular glory showering and soaping herself.
When the action sequences arrive, they are gritty with innocent bystanders hit by sprayed bullets and the payback visited on the baddies is violent and often mean spirited. Goemon gets a few nice moments to swing his sword, and there are surreal or science fiction based scenes which will surprise as the film's story gets hyper extended. Prosaic moments are sometimes supported by dull and looped animation which adds to a sense of unease with keeping the story ticking in between the fights and chases.
Unquestionably of a poorer quality to the next film in the series, but probably more true to the original character, Lupin the Third: the Secret of Mamo is well worth a spin if you are prepared for its more adult tone and forays into illogic. In that case, a romp with sex, chases, and amazing escapes should sound pretty good, and seen on its own this film will excite and enthrall.
Manga and Starz will forgive me if I point out that they have on occasion done the odd standards conversion in the past. Well, I do need to state that the main feature is presented here at the same length as the NTSC version and that this is an interlaced transfer. Still, the effects of bad conversions are not very evident and bar an overall lack of vibrancy and a couple of instances of combing, this presentation is not bad at all. Contrast is well done, detail and sharpness are excellent and this looks relatively untouched by boosting and edge enhancement.
The two mono audio tracks carry differing mixes of the non dialogue elements with the English track bassier and greater clarity and depth in the Japanese track. Both have been well mastered and are distortion free, and they are supported by English subs which translate the Japanese track only and include some errors of typing and grammar - e.g. "reviled" instead of "revived", "fain" instead of "feign".
The dual layer disc is about 60% used and loaded with trailers for other Manga releases:
Naruto the Movie
Stand Alone Complex series
Ghosts in the Shell: Solid State Society
The sole film related extra is a 27 picture gallery showing "conceptual art" which starts of with the individual characters and moves on to the important objects of the story. The main menu is backed up by theme music with poster art framing excerpts from the film in the centre of the screen. The sub menus simply use the same red and blue framing style with no animation.
If Castle of Cagliostro is all you have seen of Lupin the Third, then the debut animated feature will be an eye opener with its nudity and violence. Enjoyed on its own, it is a strong film which is a little too long and convoluted. This release seems to be a standard conversion so people who own one of the existing R1 discs may want to give it the cold shoulder and A/V purists will avoid too, for other Manga fans this may prove an entertaining acquisition.