Lupin III: The First (2019) feels like a person combined James Bond and Indiana Jones and made it into a 3D animation.
The film is based on the now 50-year-running anime (japanese animation) series Lupin III, which started in 1971.
The series is broken up into parts, similar to Bond films. There’s no big overarching story, it’s just the characters in different eras.
The anime series itself is based on a manga (Japanese version of a comic book) series of the same name, written by Monkey Punch (AKA Kazuhiko Katō).
The film, original manga, and anime follow the grandson of the legendary gentleman thief, Arsene Lupin, who was a character created by French novelist Maurice Leblance.
The grandson’s name is simply Arsene Lupin III (voiced by Tony Oliver).
He and his gang of like-minded thieves, including Daisuke Jigen (Richard Epcar), right-hand man and triggerman; Goemon Ishikawa XIII (Lex Lang), friendly rival of Lupin’s and an expert swordsman; and Fujiko Mine (Michelle Ruff), Lupin’s on-again, off-again girlfriend and master of seduction.
Together they travel the world trying to steal valuable artifacts all while always being chased by an interpol agent called Koichi Zenigata (Doug Erhotlz), who always just barely manages to fail at catching Lupin and his friends.
This film’s plot revolves around Lupin and company trying to unlock the secrets of the Bresson Diary with the help of a fledgling thief/archaeologist named Laetitia (voiced by Laurie Hymes). And they have to find whatever the diary leads to before the Nazis can use the treasure for evil.
The film, similar to the rest of the series, requires absolutely no prior knowledge of any previous parts of the story. A person could absolutely just watch this film with absolutely no idea who everyone is and would be fine for the most part.
The first thing to notice is that the animation is very well done. It almost looks like a Dreamworks film with how fluid and well-polished the animation is.
The story of the film, while not groundbreaking, certainly does what it sets out to do: tell a story that’s fun and full of adventure and laughs.
The action is entertaining, with all the big spectacle and flagrant disregard for the laws of physics one expects from this kind of film. It’s very quick and feels like an old 2D cartoon was transformed into a 3D cartoon.
The film’s comedy, while not always great, got quite a bit of chuckles and laughs out of me.
The score feels a lot like a classic Bond film with all the sax and big horn pieces.
The film does have its problems however. While Lupin, Laetitia, and Fujiko (to a lesser extent) get their moment in the sun, the rest of the regular main characters (Jigen, Goemon, and Zenigata) feel like they’re kind of just there, only contributing during action or group scenes.
Another problem that exists, but only for the English dub, is lip syncing. Now, it’s not old Godzilla movie bad, but it’s just off enough to distract a person from the film.
It’s a shame because they got back a lot of the previous American voice actors, and you can tell they’ve got these characters down pat.
The third act of the film, while still fun, goes a little overboard.
At the end of day, the film, while nothing special, also isn’t too bad either, and if a person is interested in getting into the larger series of Lupin III, it works as a pretty good jumping off point.
Lupin III: The First can currently be watched on Blu-Ray or DVD, iTunes, Google Play, and streamed by video-on-demand on Amazon Prime Video.