Lupin the 3rd: Dead or Alive

by Joe Luscik

There are certain anime that everyone just knows when you say the name, and probably one of the best examples of that is Lupin the 3rd. Lupin is one of the oldest and longest running series of all time. For over 30 years and with over 200 combined episodes, movies and OVAs, Lupin is a true anime legend. Thatís why anime fans everywhere are in for a treat this year as four of his movies are scheduled for release, the first of them being Lupin the 3rd: Dead or Alive.

Lupin the 3rd: Dead or Alive has one noticeable thing about it that separates it from other previous Lupin features. The original creator, Monkey Punch is the director for Dead or Alive; this is something fans should be excited about because he finally gets the take the reins of his own creation.

This movie starts out with a nice, classic Lupin action sequence to get things started off right, and as we find out later, it also plays a small part in the movie. Of course, Dead or Alive being a Lupin movie involves him trying to get something, and in Dead or Alive, itís the treasure of Drifting Island. There is suppose to be a incredible treasure there, but no one has been able to get to it, partly because itís hidden and partly because of the security system that makes it virtually impossible to even get off the island alive. We soon find out that General Headhunter, the ruler of Zufu is also after the treasure, and apparently he has what seems to be the only means to get it. That would be the daughter of the man who created the island's defense system.

You know that with a name like General Headhunter this guy isnít doing any goodwill missions anytime soon. It becomes obvious when you see the lush palace that he lives in, compared to the impoverished living conditions of the people of Zufu. General Headhunter took control by killing the old king and his son, Prince Pannish, though we find out things werenít that easy.

We find out that Prince Pannish somehow lived, and he is building up a resistance movement in the nation to try and overthrow the General. We are also introduced the main female lead, Oleander, who was the princeís girlfriend. At first, she is used by Zenigata to try and capture Lupin when Lupin tries to rescue the daughter of the island's security system's architect, but later she is taken prisoner by the General to find out where Pannish is. The movie just continues from there, with Lupin having to get away from Zenigata, dodge bounty hunters, save Oleander, get the treasure, and just stay alive.

Dead or Alive has a great mix of action, comedy, and story. Lupin has almost become a genre of its own; when you watch it, you know what youíre in store for, and thatís just pure fun. Itís hard to find anything that tops putting in a Lupin DVD, sitting back, relaxing, and just laughing at the comedy, or getting excited over the action. Youíre in store for some great action with this movie. Even if the story might not be the greatest, thereís one thing that will always help out anything with Lupin in its title, and thatís the cast. The mix of Lupin, Goemon, Jigen, Fujiko, and let's not forget Zenigata, is one for the ages. One problem with this movie related to the cast was that during the middle section of the movie the action shifted away from Lupin. You have a big focus on Oleander throughout this movie, so much so that it almost overshadows everyone else. What seemed to be another lapse involved the daughter of the island's security system creator, who seemed almost pointless because halfway through she was saved, disappeared, and was never heard of again, leaving her playing only a very small part in the movie after it made her seem important. Even with these minor lapses, they are somehow able to bring it all together in the end, giving the viewer a very exciting and fulfilling climax to the movie.

As far as the animation is concerned, it has a slightly dated look to it, but it still manages to look good. Thatís one of the great things about Lupin movies. They donít need to be all fancy with CG and fancy computer graphics and effects; they just keep with the same successful formula, slightly improving the overall quality and detail as time goes on, and thatís something that I enjoy. The movie doesnít look extremely clean and polished, and the colors arenít the most vibrant like you see a lot more in animation nowadays, but the city can have a great rustic look to it, helping to show off the poor living conditions of the people, the environments look nice, and the action scenes look great. They keep with the Lupin look, and thatís what I want and expect to see.

Youíre treated to some great music here. Itís a jazzy soundtrack that ranges from suspenseful to fun. They play the music at all the right times, playing just the right type of song for the scene, and it stands out enough in the background so that you know itís there, but only enough to add to the mood of the scene. The jazzy sound of the music during the action scenes really jumps out in typical Lupin fashion, making the experience all the more enjoyable. The soundtrack isnít perfect, with some music that you could classify as cheesy playing during one of the romance scenes. Fans also get a nice dub cast. People used to the TV show will hear some unfamiliar voices, but they all fit the characters, except itís hard to pin down why Oleander has such a think accent when everyone else in the country doesnít.

Thereís one great feature on the DVD. and thatís an interview with Monkey Punch, the creator of Lupin and director of Dead or Alive, which any fan of Lupin will be thrilled to see.

Though Dead or Alive isnít on the same level as The Castle of Cagliostro or The Secret of Mamo, itís one of the best in the series and one of the most fun and enjoyable movies being released this year. There is just a certain charm and appeal about Lupin that has always equaled great entertainment. Lupin fans will be pleased with this release and this is a good one for people who just want to watch a fun movie.

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  • Lupin the 3rd: Dead or Alive

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    Bilingual DVD / 100 min.
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