Review by Sean Boelman
The first CG-animated adventure featuring the master thief of manga and anime, Lupin III: The First is the type of animated romp that is in such short supply right now. Quite campy and very fun, this will be a hoot both for those who are already fans of the franchise and those for whom this is their first introduction to the character.
The film follows Lupin III as he teams up with allies new and old to discover the secret behind a diary with ties to his family’s legacy and a treasure with the power to bring havoc to the world. While the adventure itself is relatively predictable, the tongue-in-cheek tone of the movie causes it to play out in a way that almost parodies the tropes to which it is abiding.
There are a lot of ridiculous twists and turns in the story, and while they may catch younger viewers off-guard, it is their outright absurdity that allows them to be entertaining to their adult companions. And in place of the action set pieces that usually make up the adventure genre, the movie offers over-the-top slapstick comedy.
Another thing working in the film’s favor is that it is genuinely funny. Admittedly, it isn’t the most highbrow of humor, but there are plenty of moments that are charming and will get a laugh from audiences young and old alike. There are a few great one-off jokes and innuendos, but the parts that will stick with audiences are the running gags.
That said, the movie does have a few shortcomings in its character development. Although the film does work well as a standalone, and there is enough exposition to let the viewer know where they are and who these people are, it mostly just throws you into the action. As such, it likely works better if you already have an appreciation for the eponymous antihero.
There is also some suspension of disbelief in regards to the cast. With the anime style that defined the animation of previous Lupin III outings, the European setting wasn’t too distracting. However, since the visuals have been Westernized significantly, there is a bit of a disconnect between the Japanese voice cast and the European sensibilities (although there is a dubbed version with a British voice cast).
Still, the movie looks pretty great. Director Takashi Yamazaki brings enough modern slickness to the film without abandoning the flair that makes Monkey Punch’s creation what it is. Even though this is a move largely made to cater to the tastes of modern youth, it still absolutely feels like a Lupin III flick.
For families looking for a fun and stylish animated adventure, Lupin III: The First is exactly what they need. Even though the creator is no longer with us, there is still plenty of life left in this franchise, so it will be exciting to see where it goes with this new style.
Lupin III: The First screens in theaters on October 18 and 21 before hitting VOD on December 15.