Lupin the Third: Return of the Magician (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, May 11, 2002
Release Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002
What They Say
Thirty years have passed since the pilot for Lupin the Third premiered on Japanese television. Now, an all-new movie based on the classic series has arrived. Lupin is after the seven "Crystals of the Planet", crystals that have mysterious musical properties. But to unlock the secret of the crystals, Lupin must face a powerful enemy from his past - the magician known as Pycal.
For my viewing, I was only able to listen to the audio track in stereo. The audio is very sharp and produces a nice range of sounds. As for the music, it is simply the best soundtrack I have heard from the Lupin franchise in a long time. Every piece played captures the mood of the scene beautifully. Whether it is an upbeat Spanish guitar piece or the eerie techno theme of Pycal, the music becomes as much a part of the story as any of the characters. I hope to revisit the DD and DTS tracks when I have a stand-alone, region-free player.
The film is presented mostly in a letterbox format that fits a 4:3 screen with shorter pieces, like the end credits, are presented in a full-screen 4:3 format. Overall, the video is very sharp and clean; the night scenes are dark and moody while the day scenes contrasted by capturing the light, airy feel of the Greek countryside. The one drawback to the video is the use of CG animation. While the CG animation blends well with most of the scenes, there are some distracting sequences. The items using CG animation contrast against the non-CG elements; it feels like the animators were using CG in the scenes just for the sake of using it. The scenes could have easily been done entirely with conventional animation techniques. Fortunately, these distracting bit are few and do not occur during any significant moment in the plot.
The Japanese subtitles are white with black borders and are of a size that is easy to read. They are very well placed; shorter pieces of text are placed off to the far left of the picture and barely overlap with the film. Longer pieces of text are centered on the film but do not overlap significantly with the film.
Magnificent... This is the best word to describe this box set. The outer case contains a wrap-around shot of a nude Fujiko covering her breasts with a hand full of jewels. The background behind her is a metallic purple color containing various images from the movie and bits of text. An obi strip gives you the technical specifications for the box set.
As you remove the inner package, you are greeted by even more artwork. Each member of the Lupin gang is represented as a character on a playing card. They all hold one of the "Crystals of the Planet". The background is a metallic red containing images and text much like the outer case.
The inner package folds out into three sections. The left-most section holds the CD-ROM; the front of this section has a picture of Lupin and Fujiko against a night scene while the side holding the disc has a piece of textual artwork. The CD-ROM itself has a picture of Zenigata.
The right-most section holds the soundtrack CD. The CD has a picture of Fujiko. The front side of the section contains half of the metallic red/playing card scene mentioned above. The side holding the disc contains a close-up of the film's villain, Pycal.
The middle section holds the actual DVD. The DVD has a picture of the entire cast. The front side of the section contains the other half the metallic red/playing card scene mentioned above. The opposite side is a real treat. It contains two foldouts that expand into sections almost as large as the entire inner package when it is unfolded. On one side, the bottom fold-out contains a cast and staff list, summary of the film, chapter titles, and a message from the director interspersed with various bits of artwork. The opposite side contains a large picture of Lupin, Goemon, and Zenigata.
To complete this fabulous box, the upper fold-out contains instructions for the CD-ROM, a track list for the soundtrack, a message from Monkey Punch, and a picture of Lupin, Fujiko, and Pycal all holding crystals. The other side completes the scene that the bottom fold-out started with Lupin, et. al. In this part of the scene, the background is a large hanger where Jigen and a very naked Fujiko are seen.
The discs are very easy to remove from the hubs; there is no need to worry about damaging your thumb or the discs when removing them. Overall, this box far exceeded my expectations; if it were not holding the discs in place, I would consider framing it. Scans of the packaging can be found at http://www.lupinencyclopedia.com/anime.php3?id=gallery-29.
When the disc starts up, it goes directly to playing the film rather than starting at the main menu. When you do choose to go to the main menu, you are presented with a fabulous opening sequence that could be considered a trailer if it were shown on its own.
The main menu itself incorporates the music and animation from that opening sequence. From the main menu, you can choose to watch the film, enter the "Chapter" menu, enter the "Special Features" menu, or enter the audio menu.
The "Chapter" menu has a static background and has two sections that you can flip between. Each chapter section has its own music playing in the background. The chapter selections are short, animated segments from the chapter with the chapter title beneath it. The "Special Features" menu contains the box cover art of Fujiko as the background image while the enchanting harp music from the film plays. In an ironic twist, the audio menu is the only sub-menu that does not play any music in the background. Instead, it simply presents the various audio and subtitling options including the "multi-stream mode" choices.
Where to begin? The exquisite packaging of the box could be considered an extra, but that has been amply covered above. Let's start with the two bonus discs. The first disc is a CD-ROM containing an interactive game that can be played on either a PC or a Mac. In the game, you play Inspector Zenigata as he tries to track down Lupin throughout the various locations from the film. It is a puzzle game similar to the "Cagliostro" game released on the Playstation. You must talk to various characters and search for clues and items that will help you progress to the next stage and the next puzzle to solve. Once you have beaten the game, you receive a password that will unzip several bonus wallpapers available via the web site associated with the game.
The second disc is an audio CD containing the soundtrack for the film. As stated in the audio section above, the music for this film is amazing. The CD has seven tracks, and the only flaw to list would be that two of the tracks are very similar in composition.
The DVD itself boasts some great extras. After viewing the last chapter of the film, you are presented with a menu of three possible endings. The first ending features Zenigata, the second features Fujiko, and the final ending features the mysterious, harp playing sage. Once you have viewed a particular ending, you return to the main menu. To view the other ending, you must fast forward to the end of the last chapter; I have yet to find a working shortcut via my software player's "remote control".
On the audio side, the DVD contains a "multi-stream mode". With this mode, you can turn off a particular character's voice for the entire film. Only one voice can be turned off at a time, and you can only turn the voice off via the audio menu before you watch the film. I have not found a way to switch on or off various character voices during the film. Despite this limitation, one could conceivably produce an entire dub of the film.
Rounding out the extras are two TV commercial spots for the OVA, eight audio interviews with the cast and crew, a background art gallery, a production notes gallery, and a "short film". The interviews are with Monkey Punch, the voice actors, and the director of the film; while the interview audio is playing, a static picture is displayed next to the interview menu items. The questions being asked appear as text on top of the image. Most of the questions are geared towards how they feel about the OVA release and how they feel about Lupin reaching its thirty year anniversary. The short film is entirely text set against a musical score and various background images. My ability to read Japanese is limited, and the film is five minutes worth of text. I believe though that the short film is telling the tale of the seven crystals sought after in the main film.
Content: (possible spoilers)
This year, 2002, marks the thirtieth anniversary of the premiere of "Lupin the Third" on Japanese television. To celebrate this occasion, a new OVA was created bringing back one of the most memorable villains from the first series, Pycal the magician.
France... It is festival time, and a millionaire is holding a grand party at his mansion. He possesses one crystal from a set of seven known as the "Crystals of the Planet". Some of the other crystals have recently been stolen from their owners, and Zenigata is confident that Lupin is behind the thefts. He is also confident that Lupin will be attending the party looking to go home with the crystal as a party favor.
The millionaire naturally has confidence that the safeguards he has in place will stop Lupin from achieving this goal. Lupin naturally bypasses all the safeguards and makes off with the crystal. After the obligatory car chase, Lupin switches into a clown disguise to move about the people in the festival. Zenigata sees through this disguise and gives chase once again. In the middle of the chase, Zenigata suddenly breathes fire that engulfs Lupin. Escaping from this fiery predicament, Lupin dodges a hail of bullets from Zenigata and eludes his pursuit. From a distance, Lupin watches as Zenigata vanishes into thin air.
After hooking up with Jigen, they both drive across Europe into the Greek countryside until they reach some ruins where Goemon is engaged in a martial arts tournament. A strange, old man with a harp is overseeing the tournament. The three get together and begin discussing what the crystal's mystery might be. Fujiko eventually shows up and informs Lupin that Pycal is after her, Lupin, and the crystals.
What follows are the usual escapades one can expect from Lupin and his gang. Lupin and Pycal pull out their best tricks as they try to obtain the crystals and the secret they hold. Pycal eventually learns the secret leading up the final showdown in the ruins of an amphitheater. And, of course, Fujiko is in the mix making sure her best interests are being taken care of.
The film moves along at a nice pace slowing down briefly at points to give the obligatory exposition about the history of the crystals and what their secret might be. As with most Lupin titles, there are plenty of gadgets and action scenes to amuse the viewer. Oh, and there is nice amount of fan-service from Fujiko as well as some of the other incidental female characters. One of the more amusing scenes has one boy lifting up the skirt of a female festival attendee while his friend snaps a picture of her bare bottom.
While the film is a good Lupin title, I hesitate to call it a great Lupin title. It felt too brief despite being forty-eight minutes long. Perhaps my expectations were too high; but at the end of the film, I wanted more and felt like they could have given me more if they had taken a bit more time to expand the story, especially where they brought back the most recognizable villain from the series. Despite this, the film remains faithful to the Lupin spirit that has endured for thirty years. The extras, box art, and entertaining (but brief) film make this a "must buy" title for Lupin fans and for R2 collectors in general.
Japanese language Dolby Digital 5.1,Japanese language DTS 5.1,Japanese subtitles,Limited edition set,Three unique endings to chose to view,Eight different audio interviews with the cast and crew,Two television spots,Background art gallery,Production sketch art gallery,Short feature,Audio CD of the film's soundtrack,CD-ROM (hybrid PC/Mac) interactive game
Pentium II 400MHz, Samsung SD-604 DVD-ROM, WinDVD 3.1, generic monitor
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A+
Menus Rating: A+
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: All
Region: 2 - Japan
Released By: Vap Video
Running time: 48
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Lupin the 3rd