The grandson of the world’s greatest thief returns to thwart some Nazis.
In the 1940s, French Professor Bresson was killed after discovering something that was sought by the Nazi think tank “Ahnenerbe.” His family was killed, aside from his granddaughter, Laetitia (Suzu Hirose/Laurie Hymes), who was adopted by the Nazi professor Lambert (Kōtarō Yoshida/David Brimmer). His famous research diary was lost for twenty years. Now, it’s the swinging 60s and the world’s most charming thief, Arsene Lupin III (Kanichi Kurita/Tony Oliver), is seeking to steal the Bresson Diary, which is the only treasure his grandfather failed to steal. Unfortunately, the Ahnenerbe group has survived the war and are seeking to beat Lupin to the punch. Along for the ride are Lupin’s associates: the sharpshooting Daisuke Jigen (Kiyoshi Kobayashi/Richard Epcar), the swordsman Goemon Ishikawa XIII (Daisuke Namikawa/Lex Lang), and the femme fatale Fujiko Mine (Miyuki Sawashiro/Michelle Ruff). As usual, they’re pursued by Interpol Inspector Koichi Zenigata (Kōichi Yamadera/Doug Erholtz).
I’m a big fan of Arsene Lupin, as I pointed out when Netflix released their show Lupin last year, but I am also a fan of Lupin III. While Arsene Lupin was the ultimate gentleman thief, Lupin III is a crass womanizer who is nonetheless the greatest thief in the world by virtue of his unmatched intelligence, gadgetry, and physical prowess. The series, created by Monkey Punch (the best pseudonym that doesn’t involve porn) was marked by its visual style, sense of humor, and frequent leaning on the fourth wall.
Having run for over 50 years and through six TV series and more than a dozen films, this film is a prime example of why the formula can still work. While Lupin is a criminal mastermind with skills to rival Batman, he always adopts the appearance of a rakish goofball who, more often than not, has a greater sense of morality than the people from whom he steals. Jigen is the more dour but ever-loyal partner whose ability with a gun borders on superhuman. Goemon can cut a building in half as long as the building has offended his honor. Fujiko, who is the focus of Lupin’s romantic efforts, will always stab them in the back if it benefits her, but will usually do the right thing in the end. Zenigata will chase them to the ends of the Earth, unless he needs their help to stop someone worse. This film gives the group a common enemy that everyone can focus on, because the bad guys are literally Nazis.
The action and theft sequences are among the best in the series and the animation style not only matches the feel of the original but enhances some of the faster-paced scenes. The humor is classic Lupin, which is to say the right balance of irreverent jokes and brilliant slapstick. The soundtrack is an updated version of the original series. The plot is, surprisingly, actually pretty solid and contains a lot of decent twists and even the occasional sincere emotional moment.
Overall, just a great movie and now I want to take a month or three to rewatch the rest of the series.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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