Chisa YokoyamaBanjou GingaNachi NozawaChafurin
Lupin III: Dead or Alive
Included in: Lupin III
Medium: film
Year: 1996
Director: Monkey Punch
Original creator: Monkey Punch
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Actor: Eiko Masuyama, Goro Naya, Kanichi Kurita, Kiyoshi Kobayashi, Makio Inoue, Minami Takayama, Tohru Furuya, Banjou Ginga, Chisa Yokoyama, Nachi Nozawa, Shigeru Chiba, Chafurin, Ikuo Nishikawa, Kenichi Ogata, Mahito Tsujimura, Misa Watanabe
Keywords: anime, Lupin III
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 95 minutes
Website category: Anime 1990s
Review date: 30 April 2011
I don't like Lupin III, but I didn't mind this particular film. I wouldn't recommend it, but I wouldn't tell anyone not to watch it either. From me, that's praise.
My problem with Lupin is that the hero's a thief, the grandson of Arsene Lupin. I object to stories that nudge me in the ribs and go, "Lupin, what a lovable scamp, eh?" Here though, there's no attempt to convince me that stealing is morally neutral, or that our heroes are charming and funny. Instead we simply have four badass professionals trying to rob some violent, powerful people. There are machine-guns, helicopter chases, rocket launchers and a soldier getting decapitated by the villain for being the bearer of bad news. The action sequences are good, we see blood and you could call it brutal and hard-edged.
The bad guys are General Headhunter and his snake-like sidekick, who recently seized power in a country of indeterminate ethnicity and executed most of the royal family. Meanwhile their national treasure is nanotechnology, which so far has been used to build a defence system of intelligent regenerating spear-vines... and nothing else. Where are the hover-cars and teleport booths, then? We're also told that nanomachines are "the most ultimate precisive device in human history." Eh? It's still a good McGuffin, though.
All the women are buxom, but there's no nudity except from, oddly enough, Lupin himself. Twice his clothes get revealingly ripped.
As for the story, it's the usual placeholder stuff. Lupin gets some character points, continually saving a sexy detective who's trying to arrest him and towards the end being shown to have been moderately heroic, but Fujiko, Goemon and Jigen are their usual selves and no more. I liked the way they allowed Lupin's nemesis, Detective Zenigata, to be both clever and badass in this one, though. The movie's attempted emotional depth comes with the sexy detective and her freedom fighter boyfriend, which is watchable.
I had trouble understanding Lupin's voice actor, though. The original guy died and they brought in a comedian who's trying to copy him, but it's not the same.
Lupin III is one of anime's mega-franchises and it's been around so long that there's a Hayao Miyazaki Lupin III film (The Castle of Calgiostro) from the days when he was still doing TV anime. They do a new TV special every year, but this isn't one of those. It's a full theatrical movie. Its claim to fame among Lupin fans is that it's written and directed by Monkey Punch himself, the creator of the original manga, but don't get too excited about the "directed" part. Monkey Punch only stepped in because no one else was available, then found the experience exhausting and left almost all of it to his assistant director. This will be his first and last directorial credit and from now on he'll be just a manga-ka again.
Overall, it's okay. I didn't dislike it and it's pretty good at what it's trying to do, so I suppose I'd call that a success. It has the reputation among Lupin fans of being a gritty and slightly dour affair that's only interested in being an action thriller. There's no comedy. The cast aren't charming. There's also no sexual content, not even from Fujiko, despite all the big-breasted women in tight tops. By Lupin III standards, it could have been much worse.