Lupin the 3rd TV Vol. #04: Thieves' Paradise (Mania.com)

By:luiscruz
Review Date: Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, October 14, 2003



The Review!
Thieves' Paradise turns out to be a parody fans paradise in five amusing episodes of Lupin the Third.

Audio:
I am an unabashed fan of the original Japanese voice cast, so my initial viewing session consisted of the Japanese language track. It was sharp and clear with no discernible problems. Dialogue and music blended well together with neither overshadowing each other. It will not provide a subtle or rich audio experience, but it sounds great considering it hails from the late 1970s.

The English audio track was also given a thorough listen; the audio is on par with the Japanese track. More importantly, I really like the voice cast they have put together for the series. While the Streamline dub cast will remain my favorite, Pioneer's cast is a very close second; Tony Oliver and Richard Epcar do a good job of capturing the flavor of Lupin and Jigen. Michelle Ruff nearly captures the sultry vibe of Fujiko. Jake Martin does a decent Zenigata though he needs to age the voice a bit. The one letdown is Goemon's actor always seems flat, and the voice just does not match the character very well.

Overall, the English dub cast does a great job though I wish they were given better material to work with. More on that below.

Video:
The video comes out well in some ways but is found lacking in others. The actual transfer looks great given the age of the source material. There is some grain present, but the most noticeable defects are nicks and scratches on the print. The colors are solid and bright to the point that you can spot the occasional hastily painted frame. Pioneer did a fantastic job bringing this series into the digital age.

There were some non-transfer related issues that I found disappointing. All of the episode title cards are only available in English; the original Japanese title cards are absent though the original Japanese title is presented via subtitles. Also absent are the original Japanese credit sequences; the end credits are replaced by an English translation. However, Pioneer does get a few kudos for crediting the Japanese cast and crew rather than the English cast and crew as Funimation has done with their recent Lupin titles.

This is one of my pet peeves that I continue to harp on; with DVD technology, it is possible to have the best of both worlds. You can create a disc where the original Japanese credits can coexist with an English translated version. While the actual transfer is great, these sort of edits make the video experience bittersweet.

Packaging:
Pioneer hits the bulls-eye as the cover art captures the flavor of the series very well. Against deep purple background, Lupin's profile takes up the right side of the front cover. In the silhouette of his Walther, Zenigata races towards you. A shot of Zenigata surfing after Lupin appears at the bottom along with the gratuitous but welcome shot of a reclining Fujiko.

The back cover features the requisite screenshots, synopsis, and disc details. The insert is only one page and features the front cover image with the reverse side listing the chapter breaks. Notably absent from the packaging is a volume number or episode numbers.

Menu:
Pioneer made a wise choice to have Nightjar produce the menus for the Lupin DVDs as they continue to produce perfect menus for the series. As the opening theme loops in the background, each character is presented in silhouette form. The menus are straightforward, easy to navigate, and have no delays when selecting items. They may be simple menus, but they fit the tone of the content on the disc perfectly.

Extras:
Pioneer has provided a gallery of line art (production sketches) from the episodes as well as a textless version of the opening. In place of the trailers for other Pioneer series, I would have preferred a textless version of the ending sequence, one of my favorites, instead. Rounding out the extras though not found in the extras section is the commercial for the PS2 game. When you hit "Play" from the main menu, the commercial will play before the first episode. You are fortunately able to skip past the commercial.

Content:(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One thing that makes Lupin the Third rank highly in my list of favorite anime is the diversity of its content. It can entertain you with action, slapstick comedy, parody, and more. The five episodes on this disc focus mainly on parody but does include some nice dramatic pieces as well. Opening up the volume is a great parody piece of the Pink Panther films. Lupin has managed to steal the fabled Black Panther emerald and now has Inspector Zenigata and the legendary yet bumbling Inspector Konaizo on his trail.

If you are a fan of the Clouseau films, this homage will have you in stitches as it combines the nudist colony from A Shot in the Dark with Lupin's overactive libido. The third episode Hell Toupee features a nice balance between parody and drama. Lupin and Fujiko are trapped in a castle by Hutler's troops after Lupin inadvertently embarrassed the diminutive dictator during a speech.

While Hutler does a botched impression of Charlie Chaplin's Great Dictator, Lupin and Fujiko come as close to saying "I love you" as they possibly can. Lupin attempts to find a way to save Fujiko from death while Fujiko continually refuses to leave Lupin's side even though it means certain death.

Goemon gets his dramatic moment, as he is out to avenge his master's death at the hands of fellow student Jinkuro. It was a decent insight into his background revealing that he studied the ways of the Iga ninja at one point. The Japanese folk tale of Urashima Taro even gets reworked into a tale that caters to Lupin's prurient nature.

All five episodes had some good chuckles but relied more on the parody of their particular subjects rather than slapstick humor. There is not a lot of action in the episodes as they focus more on Lupin's ingenuity to resolve matters. While not the most exciting batch of episodes, they provide a great mix of parody, homage, and character development. All of this is yours if you listen to the Japanese audio track with subtitles on; if you choose the English track, things are a bit different.

While the English cast does a great job acting, the material they are given ranges from bad to outright awful. The script for each episode attempts to liven things up by adding in modern references. Out of all the altered dialogue, only one joke was funny, and it was a rehash of a tried and true gag. The majority of the jokes are simply not funny, and it boggles the mind that someone is actually writing this material. There is too much disparity in having Lupin play Pong in one episode and referring to Shaquille O'Neal in another. The source material and the jokes just do not line up well. The English scriptwriter would do well to watch Streamline's version of Mamo and Cagliostro and learn how to balance the original material with updated dialogue.

In Summary:
Five fun episodes managed to balance parody, homage, and character development quite well. While I do not care for the English dub script, it should appeal to the audience it is intended for, and the English voice cast continues to do a fantastic job. Without a boring episode in the lot, you will likely find yourself taking this volume off the shelf to watch at least one, if not more episodes, on a regular basis.



Review Equipment
Mitsubishi 27" TV, Pioneer DVL-919, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and audio cable




Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: B-
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