The iconic “gentleman thief” Lupin III returns in an action-packed, continent-spanning adventure, as Lupin III and his colorful underworld companions race to uncover the secrets of the mysterious Bresson Diary, before it falls into the hands of a dark cabal that will stop at nothing to resurrect the Third Reich.
“Nazis, I hate these guys.” -Indiana Jones Lupin III: The First is unquestionably a children’s movie. It’s not even a family movie like something by Pixar or Studio Ghibli. It was written almost exclusively with children in mind, while also hoping to cash in on the nostalgia of older generations who grew up watching the 70s TV series or Castle of Cagliostro. The movie hardly tries to innovate at all, sticking with the tried and true formula of the familiar characters and stories that anyone even somewhat familiar with the Lupin franchise knows. The plot steals from existing stories with the subtlety of Lupin himself, that is, brazenly conducting its heist in front of everyone with no shame whatsoever. Lupin III: The First is basically the franchise’s take on Indiana Jones, with everything from archaeology, to Nazis seeking a superweapon, to even the alien technology from the Indiana Jones movie everyone wants to forget. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with taking inspiration from other works, when the movie is this derivative it feels like you’re watching a movie you’ve seen before with different characters. They may as well have called it “Lupin III: The Last Crusade” like those crossover Tom and Jerry movies. The only bit of deviation from the Indiana Jones films is the rather disconcerting plot about Hitler still being alive in South America, a fringe theory that’s about as ridiculous as Goemon slicing airplanes in half with a sword. The most distinctive feature of Lupin III: The First is its use of 3D CG animation rather than the traditional 2D animation of all the other Lupin anime. The CG actually did a decent job of capturing the essence of the characters and the world. That said, the animation wasn’t quite up to the high standards set by American animation studios like Pixar, Laika, and Dreamworks. There were times where the characters felt stiff or the lighting wasn’t quite right along with various minor but noticeable issues. This is understandable though as the 3D animation industry in Japan is still in its infancy and animators have a long way to go before catching up to their American counterparts. 3D animation may always play second fiddle to 2D animation in Japan, but that’s a story for another time. Lupin III: The First is a bold venture into the third dimension for the franchise, but everything else about it was rather conservative. For longtime fans of the series (disclaimer: I cannot claim to be one), the faithfulness to the original characters should be welcome and familiar. For brand new Lupin viewers it captures the core of the franchise in a more accessible (at least for western audiences) 3D animated space. For anyone in between, the typical anime fan who may be somewhat familiar with Lupin, I’d recommend just watching the classics like Castle of Cagliostro, or maybe some Indiana Jones movies. Or you could jam out to the OST. It’s pretty fire.
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