Lupin the 3rd: Secret of the Twilight Gemini (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, April 26, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, April 30, 2002
What They Say
Directed by Gizaburo Sugii, the talented director behind both the Street Fighter II movie and Night on the Galactic Railroad, and featuring memorable theme songs by fan favorite voice actress and singer Aya Hisakawa, Secret of the Twilight Gemini is a prime example of why Lupin III has remained one of Japan's favorite anime characters for 30 years!
The classic gentleman thief Lupin III and his cohorts, the sharpshooter Jigen, the samurai Goemon and the buxom Fujiko journey to Morocco and the deserts of Arabia in search of a legendary diamond called the "Twilight Gemini," the key to a vast hidden treasure.
But, of course, they're not alone in their search. The tireless Inspector Zenigata is hot on their heels, a mysterious and beautiful desert gypsy is also in search of the treasure, and a ruthless mystery organization wants both the treasure and Lupin's head!
While I haven’t seen a lot of Lupin over the years, I’ve seen a few of the movies and a scattered amount of TV episodes. Enough to know that I really enjoy the archetype characters and the way they play off of each other. While Secret of Twilight Gemini is one of the more textbook plots out there, it’s the characters that keep you smiling throughout.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The show features a pretty simple stereo mix that doesn’t have all that much forward soundstage activity. It’s either simple dialogue or loud brash music along with lots of shouting that fills things up. Dialogue is crisp and clean and we noted no dropouts or distortions.
Originally airing in 1996 on TV, the special is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. And while it is pretty recent all told, the shows animation and overall feel manages to retain the same look as much older movies and TV episodes instead of being updated for today. There’s a few bits of dirt and scratches that show up early on, but as the transfer progresses things even out. There’s a bit of cross coloration showing up in a few isolated areas, but mostly you’ll notice some of the paint strokes showing up. On our uncalibrated TV/DVD player, we noticed lot more artifacting in several scenes, such as the train exteriors early on being particularly bad.
The cover art, while not bad, feels pretty flat. Using the Morrocan layout for a border, you get most of the cast in the background shaded in blue while Lupin and the female lead of the special in color in the front. The logo thankfully isn’t huge and overpowering, with the Lupin logo on top and an “uncut version” listed below, though most retailers seem to only carry the uncut version. The back cover provides a few animation shots and a couple of paragraphs about the show. The discs technical information is a bit hard to decipher as it only says dual-language but doesn’t specify the languages or subtitles, leaving the casual consumer confused. As with most Funimation discs we’ve seen, there is no insert.
These are the technical highlight of the disc and probably the best menus yet. Using lots of animation from the show and some excellent graphic design, the menu layout is very flashy yet nicely understated and quick to load. Moving back to the main menu from submenus changes which character takes up the background animation. Moving to the submenus has some solid transitions and there’s a great amount of consistency among the menus.
The extras are pretty weak in general, with the only real one being the character profiles to help flesh them out for newcomers to the world of Lupin. One nice thing that was executed here is that you can select the English voice actors profile and get a picture of them and a few words about them. You can move back and forth between the two very easily.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally a TV special that aired back in 1996, the Secret of Twilight Gemini is one of the more predictable storylines that Lupin has graced over the years. It’s pretty interchangeable with a number of B movies over the past fifty years, especially when you consider the setting of Morocco.
The show opens with Lupin meeting with an old boss of his from his younger days, who affectionately refers to him as Baby. Lupin doesn’t care much for the name but takes it at face value as one of the old mans more endearing traits. With the old man being bedridden and ill for years, Lupin knows he’s going to be asked to do something to either help clear his conscience or make right. The old man, Dolune, gives Lupin a large but oddly shaped diamond and tells him that it will lead him to great riches in Morocco. He’s told to take it as a gift from an affectionate friend.
Not one to pass up an opportunity, Lupin and Jigen head to Morocco to see what they can uncover. Lupin ends up getting there on his own after Zenigata and a ton of ICPO officers try to snare him on a train, only to be stymied by a mysterious group of assassins. Zenigata’s gotten some real push on the ICPO front from a new commissioner whose making Lupin’s capture the number one priority. So while Lupin escapes and begins to explore the city for clues, Zenigata’s trying to get help out of the local police who are otherwise occupied in dealing with some rebel groups trying to revive the past.
Things get into B movie mode as we learn about the “rebel group” that the police are after. An old tribe that was supposedly hunted out a hundred years ago, the Gelts, are about causing trouble. Their leader denies it’s them, but someone is doing things in their name. As we move into the story we learn of the elders son who spent time abroad only to come back and splinter off, creating a more fanatical group who likes white robes and strange facial masks to disguise themselves. There’s a tale of love found and lost in the past and of a royal family and heirlooms related to the Twilight diamond that Lupin has, as well as the other half of it that will unseal the entrance to great riches.
Almost from the beginning you can begin to plug and play who is who and whose manipulating whom. Add in a Japanese androgonyous assassin whose hired to kill Lupin, whose being stalked by Goeman for betraying their teachers path, and have Fujiko appear in her new blonde look trying to seduce the diamond out of Lupin and the gang is all here. Toss in the Gelt resistance fighter in the form of an attractive young woman who obviously has the other half of the diamond and a connection to the past and you’ve got a predictable show.
But with a show like this, or rather, with a cast like this, it’s the ride and not the destination that’s the fun part. Watching Lupin outwit those trying to catch him as well as having him actually get caught a few times works well. The characters always manage to play off of each other perfectly and this outing is no exception. But that applies more for those who have a familiarity with Lupin. Will those who’ve never seen any before actually be able to get into the character based on this or will they write it off as derivative of so many other movies they’ve likely seen?
Secret of Twilight Gemini may not be the best movie to start off with. Especially with it being the Lupin flick with the most nudity in it as well. But with the knowledge of much more to come, I was just happy to see some new Lupin material finally show up in the US and hope that it does well enough to start grabbing at those lengthy TV series.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles,Actor Profiles
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: C+
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 90
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Lupin the 3rd