Rupan III: The Fuma Conspiracy (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, May 02, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, July 22, 2003
This is the spiritual successor to Cagliostro, a fun film that will keep you grinning.
For my primary viewing, I listened to the Japanese audio track with some spot-checking of the English dub. For a title from 1987, the dialogue, sound effects, and music were all sharp and balanced very well.
The show is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio. I pulled out my laserdisc for the show and give it a quick scan after watching the DVD. What a difference new technology can make. While the colors on the LD were soft and muted, the colors on the DVD were crisp and bright with no noticeable authoring defects present in the transfer. Some scenes did feel a bit too dark, but comparing those scenes against the LD showed that little detail was lost to the darkness. There were some spots that showed some print damage, but the picture quality overall is outstanding for a show of its age.
The subtitles were the standard multi-colored AnimEigo fare, but they were the best subtitles I have seen so far on an AnimEigo disc. The subtitles were just large and colorful enough to read easily without detracting from the action on the screen.
AnimEigo decided to use different artwork for the DVD release than what was used for the LD release. The usual text and disc information is printed on the back cover along with a smaller version of the scene on the LD front cover and one of the scenes from the LD back cover. The front cover is a combination of the other LD back cover picture and some cel work from the film itself. While it is a bit more serious than the LD cover art, it is an adequate representation of the content inside.
The only insert for the disc is the recipe card liner notes for the film consisting of the opening song translation and a brief note about historical Japanese currency. This barely takes up one side of the card making the insert look very sparse. In this case, I would have preferred to have the liner notes as an extra on the disc itself or have chapter titles listed on the back of the card.
Before you get to the menu, there are two Japanese corporate logos you must sit through; you cannot skip them, but you can skip the AnimEigo logo that appears after them. Once you arrive at the menu, you are presented with a blurry still from the movie with the menu options overlaid. When you select a menu option, a gun sight appears over the option and that portion of the still is made clear. There is no background music for the menu, but none is really needed. You are here for the film itself, and the menus do a great and quick job of getting you right into the film.
The only extras on this disc are an image gallery and "bios" for the Japanese and English voice actors. However, the bios consist only of a listing of the actor's film credits overlaid on a picture of the character they voice. There is no actual photograph of the actor or useful biographical information. I was hoping for at least a birth date and a small photo. Still, you get a good flavor of where you might have heard the voices before.
The image gallery is small and consists of stills from the movie itself. It is a shame that AnimEigo could not flesh out this section a bit more with pencil sketches and such. With so few pictures and all of them directly from the film, this section feels as sparse as the liner notes.
Both the image gallery and bio section function differently than what you might see on other DVDs. Rather than being a still image section, each image and bio is a chapter on the disc lasting a few seconds; this leads to a small problem if you decide to you the chapter skip button to scan through them quickly. When you get to the last bio, hitting the chapter skip button takes you back to the front-loaded corporate logos. This is a minor annoyance though since one is not likely to go through the extras numerous times.
Content: (possible spoilers)
Fuma Clan revives the fun atmosphere and spirit that was seen in Cagliostro. Our tale starts off with Goemon preparing to marry his love Murasaki. This marriage will unite two powerful clans, the Ishikawa and the Suminawa. Lupin, Jigen, and Fujiko are all there to celebrate his nuptials. Murasaki's grandfather, the head of the Suminawa clan, prepares to complete the ceremony by handing over his clan's most prized possession, an ancient urn. Whenever Lupin is around though, something is bound to go wrong; this time, a band of armored ninjas disrupt the ceremony and attempt to steal the urn. Lupin and the gang manage to foil the theft, but the ninjas make off with Murasaki leaving a note behind telling Goemon to bring the urn to a location in exchange for her life.
As the opening theme song plays, the scene shifts to a temple not far away from the wedding. Zenigata believes he witnessed Lupin's death and is deep in prayer and meditation for Lupin's soul. His prayers are interrupted by Kazami, a local police inspector; he shows Zenigata a picture of Lupin at the wedding... a secret prayer of Zenigata's has been answered! Lupin is alive, and Zenigata is determined to catch him once more.
>From Murasaki's grandfather, Goemon learns that the urn is the key to a valuable Suminawa treasure buried deep under the earth; the men who took Murasaki are ninjas from the Fuma clan. The Fuma clan has been trying to steal the urn and the treasure for over 400 years. Of course, Lupin overhears all of this and extricates the urn from the old man's keeping. But, his motto is always help the babe first and vows to help Goemon rescue Murasaki. As they take off to the rendezvous with Zenigata hot on their heels, the stage is set for an action-packed chase to see who can unlock and unearth the buried treasure.
While the story is nothing revolutionary, the film is executed very well. The exposition of the urn's history is brief and sets the rest of the film up very well. What really brings this story to life are the action sequences; each one flows into the next portion of the story very well making them feel like a vital part of the narrative. The car chases are reminiscent of Cagliostro as Lupin's Fiat and the police cars squeeze through every imaginable crevice of a Japanese town, including the halls of a Japanese hot spring resort. Goemon is not left out of the fun either as the film gives us some great swordplay. The final battle between Goemon and the Fuma boss is wonderfully and fluidly animated.
What really separates this title from the rest is Murasaki's character. She is hardly the usual "damsel in distress". She refuses to be a helpless bystander and actively works with Goemon and Lupin to find the treasure before the Fuma clan does. And she manages to flirt with Goemon while doing it as well much to his embarrassment. She was a fun and energetic character that could have easily become the fifth member of the gang.
While this title has held up very well over time, new Lupin fans may be a bit confused by two items. First, the fact that our loveable, lanky thief is called "Rupan". Briefly, copyright lawsuits by Leblanc's estate caused the Japanese licensors to force US companies to use something other than the name "Lupin". AnimEigo's contract requires them to use the "Rupan" moniker. A lengthy explanation can be found in the LupinTheThird..net FAQ.
Second, the voice cast sounds vastly different from other Lupin titles which is to be expected since it is an entirely different cast. Budget concerns caused Toho to come up with a different line-up of voice talent for this film. The voice of Lupin for this title is Furukawa Toshio, best known as the lightening-fearing Moroboshi Ataru. While it is a bit difficult to not think of Ataru at times during the film, he fills in admirably for Yamada Yasuo in his first and only time to voice Lupin. The rest of the cast does a great job as well, though Zenigata was a bit too gruff sounding for my tastes.
If you enjoyed Cagliostro, do not pass this title up. The plot has the same pacing and fun-filled attitude that has made Cagliostro an anime classic. You will probably find yourself pulling this title off the shelf along with Cagliostro as part of a Lupin double-feature.
Mitsubishi 27" TV, Pioneer DVL-919, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers
Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B-
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: AnimEigo
Running time: 73
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Lupin the 3rd