Lupin the 3rd TV Vol. #14: For Larva or Money (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Saturday, April 01, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, April 04, 2006



What They Say
Lupin and the gang travel around the world stealing the finest treasures. Cracking the unbreakable safe of "supernational" bank is just for starters, then the crew raise the Tokugawa Era's golden cannon from the deep sea by Japan.

In Los Angeles, the talented thieves chase the sacred sapphire called the "Eyes of Solomon." Then Lupin competes with the powerful American and Soviet Union teams in the World Robbery Olympics. Finally, the trio battle a human chameleon to steal back a diamond in South Africa.

The Review!
Another round of five episodes that stand alone have Lupin spending some time in the US which proves once again that the Japanese simply do not know our geography.

Audio:
For our primary review, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Considering its age, it's a very well kept piece that's done up essentially in mono, though enough of the sounds are played through both stereo speakers. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and there weren't any noticeable dropouts. These tracks aren't going to be real high usage for directionality compared to today's new releases, but this is definitely prime material from its time, which is what I want.

Video:
The transfer for these episodes continues much like we've seen previously, which means that they look surprisingly good for their age and have only some minor issues. The only thing that I can bring myself to complain about with the actual transfer is that some of the scenes are a bit grainy at times, but that's normal. Colors are solid without being over saturated, though there are brightness shifts inherent in older shows. Cross coloration is non-existent and aliasing is extremely low.

Packaging:
Split into three angular pieces with the top one being larger due to it including the continually awful logo, the character pieces are basically the same kinds of things we see in the opening sequence as it shows of Lupin, Fujiko and the love that is their car. The bottom of the cover has the branded volume name, this time with For Larva or Money. The back cover provides several animation shots from the show as well as a brief paragraph describing the premise. The episode titles are listed as well as the discs features and production credits. The insert for this release provides a breakdown of chapters for the six episodes and some colorful artwork while the reverse side has the basic credits and production information. On the downside, there's no volume numbering listed here nor are episode numbers provided. While the show is definitely very episodic, I still think it's a mistake to not include at least the volume numbering somewhere.

Menu:
A new menu is set for this volume and it's nicely done though I think I prefer the first one a bit more. Done in almost a shadow box like format, you get what looks like an unfolded piece of paper that has the selections and titles in various boxes while a shadow image of Goemon is across one of them while some of the action music plays along. Access times are nice and fast and with little here beyond the episodes, getting around is nice and easy. Unfortunately the players' language presets were not honored and the track dumped into an English audio with no subtitles.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Lupin's round of five episodes for this volume fare much better than the previous volume which had us feeling rather blue with our favorite thief. The show manages to get back some of its energy with these episodes and the capers, being a bit more realistic at times, are more enjoyable and accessible.

That said, Lupin continues to slay us in the way many anime series do when they spend some time in the US. Of course, this is likely true of any country that they dabble in outside of their own so everyone gets a chance to have fun with things like this. Lupin and the gang have a new caper that requires them to free someone named Clyde from the FBI prison that's in the FBI headquarters. Zenigata knows something's up when Lupin and the others turn themselves in but naturally they get to escape with the guy they want which leads to a fun car chase " to the state line. The police have to stop their pursuit since they can't cross state lines and right outside the cop's window is a sign that reads "<- Washington / Kansas ->". Yes, that's right, they go from Washington DC to Kansas. There's so many jokes to make politically about it that I can't even imagine where to start. The episode plays into a weird Bonny and Clyde kind of deal but it's just a manic piece overall with banks on wheels, myna birds and a very funky looking map of the US.

The Lupin franchise also proves with this volume that certain things are inescapable. I never thought I'd have to deal with the Shinsengumi in a Lupin episode but they manage to do it when descendents of certain members that have the same names to this day are looking to retrieve a massive golden cannon that was on board a ship that fell to the depths of the ocean some time ago. Lupin's brought in as part of a group to try and retrieve it for a split of the massive fortune and has to deal with some interesting challenges. The ship isn't stationary in the area it fell in as it actually gets caught up in some of the strongest currents anywhere and moves around to an area where it can be dredged up only once in awhile. The Shinsegumi nods are amusing depending on how many variants you've seen in the past as well as overall familiarity with it and the methods for retrieving the heavy golden cannon is surprisingly creative, though not something you can imagine being done without someone noticing and reporting it.

What really did me in with this volume is an episode that, once you get into it, is amusing because it actually references an older episode with a villain that Lupin supposedly killed, but it really is comical right from the start just on the idea that it's a big thief race. It's built around a big race that's been going on for a number of years and one where Lupin and Jigen have won the last two in a row together. The competition is a bit tighter this year with the arrival of a new thief entrant from the US as well as a gent from Russia who plays dirty. The show feels heavily like those old late 70's racing cartoons that had all sorts of Hana-Barbera characters coming together and racing. With everyone using pimped up race cars of the time with the same kinds of outfits and all that's associated with it, it plays up humor on a lot of different levels and the dub actually makes it a lot more amusing at times.

In Summary:
Recovering from the stumble that was the last volume, Lupin picks up with the laughs this time around with a number of solid episodes that hit up the comedy on a number of different levels. The mix of episodes is good, the variety within them works just right and most of the characters get a good chance to shine, though never as much as Lupin himself does. Between the mix of movies and TV episodes that have been out in the last six months, this continues to be a really good time to be a Lupin fan since even when the material is weak it still has a great charm about it.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: C+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Lupin the 3rd