Anime Corner: Lupin the 3rd: The First Review

First! Wait, can you do that when ‘First’ is literally in the title?!

What’s the Story?

Lupin the 3rd, gentleman thief extraordinaire, has put his mind to correcting a part of history, namely the Bresson Diary. It’s the one item that his grandfather failed to steal so many years ago and that simply can’t stand. They say that whoever manages to unlock the mechanical case that holds the diary will be led to a treasure beyond their wildest dreams and because of that Lupin isn’t the only one with plans to steal it. For starters there’s rookie thief Laetitia and for seconds we’ve got a group of Nazis. This caper will take Lupin across continents, from Paris to Mexico, have him facing off against gravity-defying traps and struggling to survive aerial combat. When all is said and done though, who will the first to reach the treasure?

The Review:

3D animation has come an awfully long way from the days of jerky movements and plastic textures, and there are times I have to remind myself of that. I’ll admit I’m a stan for 2D animation and I always will be, I grew up on Disney films and 90s anime, it’s just a part of who I am. The technology behind CG animation is continually evolving though, with each film I see the textures get a little more realistic, the lighting more natural and the motions more fluid, so much so that they put early CG films to shame. That brings me to this film, Lupin the 3rd: The First, which I can say, hand on heart, is one of the most gorgeous-looking films I have ever seen. I still remember seeing the teaser trailer and being impressed, then the clip of the car chase landed on Youtube and my jaw hit the floor. The perfectly timed speed of the action, the expressive characters, the lighting and texture of everything was just…I don’t like using the word perfect, but that’s exactly what it is. So, how does the rest of the movie stack up?

Well, it’s pretty much perfect too, at least in the animation department. Every action sequence, and there are a fair number of them, is fluid and perfectly paced with some gorgeous sweeping shots and the kind of madcap hijinks you expect from the Lupin franchise. It’s a thrill ride and when the film does slow down to give us a few character moments or just some time to breath, it perfectly captures the expressions of the characters. It’s the little things that impress me, the way Fujiko sticks out her tongue when she’s caught and trying to be cute. The way Laetitia sidles up to Lupin after she’s clearly started to fall for the roguish thief, right before being interrupted. The way Goemon protectively clutches his sword or how Jigen calmly puts out a cigarette before pulling some of the most badass marksmanship you’ll ever see on screen (seriously go watch that car chase clip on Youtube).

Okay, enough gushing about how this film looks, let’s talk about the actual story. I still consider myself kinda new to the franchise, having only seen Castle of Cagliostro, Part 4 and part 5 at the time of writing this review, but this feels like a fairly standard entry. Lupin is after some item that he tries to steal, only to have it stolen out from under him and the quest to get it back leads him on to a bigger adventure that ends with a doomsday machine and fighting Nazis. There’s various hijinks and capers along the way, all pulled off with the style and exuberant energy I’ve come to expect from this franchise, but there’s nothing really new here. I called all the ‘twists’ well before the film got to them and there’s no real character growth or exploration. I would have thought a bit more would have been made of Lupin trying to complete his Grandfather’s legacy, but outside of a few bits of dialogue and one sequence where he dons his hat and cane, it never really gets talked about.

Then again, I don’t think this film was ever truly trying to be deep or meaningful, it just wanted to be a fun ride and in that it succeeds with aplomb. Honestly this film reminds me a bit of the Indiana Jones franchise (maybe it’s the fact that Lupin is fighting Nazis this time, or it could be the sequence where he has to work out a series of traps to reach the treasure). It’s a well-made adventurous romp with plenty of action and comedy and no need to delve too deeply into the characters. You know who Indy is. You know who Lupin is. Sure we could have a deep character analysis on either one, or we could just watch them run around being themselves and punching Nazis. Either option is perfectly acceptable.

The Verdict:

In the end, Lupin the 3rd: The First is an adventure romp, full of action, comedy and a little bit of heart. The story is pretty straightforward and easy to guess where it’s going, but the downright gorgeous animation more than makes up for that. This film is a joy to watch from beginning to end and if you’re worried about being a newbie to the franchise, don’t. You can jump straight into this without any real context and you should have a blast. As much as I love 2D animation, if Lupin wants to make the jump to 3D then I more than support it with this level of quality. Here’s to many more Lupin adventures to come!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

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