Reviewby Sean Broestl, Dec 13th 2005
Lupin III: Walther P-38
Lupin and the gang are dragged into the operations of a group of assassins called the "Tarantulas" when they are investigating a case of someone using Lupin's name. What they end up with instead is a murderer who uses Lupin's old gun, a brand that traps them on an island filled with poison gas, and the opportunity to steal more gold then they could possibly imagine. Of course, Lupin and friends are up to the challenge, and split up to try to make it in and out alive.
Deep down, everyone likes Lupin in some form – whether it's Lupin's reality-defying antics, Zenigata's gruff, Goemon's high-invulnerability, Fujiko's bust size, or just a good mystery. There's just something loveable and endearing about the show. Lupin has also kept to a very unique and stylish look throughout its life. It comes close to having a very “cartoonish” look, but retaining a very Japanese, very anime tone. Lupin the 3rd: Island of Assassins is certainly no different than its predecessors.
In a somewhat rare treat for Lupin fans, Island of Assassins has a longer run time than most of the Lupin anime out there.. This “feature-length” Lupin is a full 90 minutes long, and most of it will be spent on the edge of your seat. The action starts early, and never really lets up until the end. Island of Assassins is a dark, exciting ride that defies the usual expectations of the Lupin franchise yet doesn't stray far from what makes it great.
Of particular note is the tone of Island of Assassins. It's dark. If the themes Lupin TV interested you, but you found yourself turned off by the lightheartedness of it, then this is the show for you. Revenge and getting even are topics not often visited by the easy-going, heart-of-gold Lupin. Yet in this outing, Lupin is not out for a treasure, he's there to settle a score. In a historical twist, the score involves Lupin's own distinctive weapon, his original Walther P38. Of note, this is actually part of the movie's original title, Lupin the 3rd: In Memory of Walther P38.
It's not to say that “Island of Assassins” isn't an inappropriate title. There's lots of island, and lots of assassins. Both are quite central to the plot, and it's actually quite easy to forget what brought Lupin to the island in the first place: the near-murder of his ever-present pursuer Zenigata. Even then, Lupin isn't out to avenge him or anything, he's out to find the person using his old gun. The movie's original title may have proved to be too much of a mouthful for salespeople or maybe even for cover art.
Visually, the show has a lot of bang. The animation isn't as good as Castle of Cagliostro's, but it's still holds its own in many of the scenes. The fights are especially good, as they feature a lot of flipping, martial arts, and sharp implements. Supporting characters help a lot in this regard, since they're ninja-style assassins, they have an affinity for flipping all over the place anyway. There's also plenty of signature Lupin moments, the most prominent being the chase during the opening credit roll. Lupin chasing the assassins on a police motorcycle is a moment not to be missed, as it will likely put a large smile on your face. Long-time fans of the franchise will be able to just nod their head in knowing satisfaction.
Sadly, the chase is the one of the few classic Lupin fanservice moments. Island of Assassins is very much focused on Lupin himself, almost forsaking his usual supporting cast. The old favorites are still there: Zenigata, Goemon, Jigen and Fujiko all take part in some way, though fans may scowl at the small amount of screen time they get. Zenigata's appearance after the first scene seems largely for reasons of tradition rather than contribution. Jigen shoots some assassins, Fujiko complains to Lupin a couple times, Goemon eats dinner... Other than that, it's mostly Lupin's mug in the spotlight.
That isn't so bad though, especially with the modern Lupin character design. The character designs are still tall and lanky, but here they seem at least a little more appropriately filled out. The additional detail also helps in giving the show a darker, edgier look, which complimented the setting nicely. In particular, Lupin pulls off a serious look much better with these designs, and Zenigata looked much more appropriate for his Japanese heritage.
Along with the greater detail in character design, Island of Assassins doesn't forsake the great attention to detail paid to machinery in Lupin. In one scene, Lupin and company are required to fly a Harrier to their next location. In a nod to the military otaku in the audience, the Harrier takes off vertically, like it's supposed to. Little details like this go a long way in making the whole package feel a little bit closer to real-life.
DVD Extras on the disc are sparse, with only some character profiles and an image gallery. The character profiles were simplistic and provided only some basic information. The image gallery was hardly even production or promotional art. The majority of it appeared to just be screen captures. Granted, given the nature of this feature, it can hardly be expected that there's a lot of extra material to work with in the first place. Most TV specials like this generally don't have a lot of bonus material.
If Island of Assassins has a flaw, it's that it doesn't really give viewers much incentive to watch it more than once. The show's central mystery isn't exactly something that will leave the viewer with a sense of “wow, I never would have expected that.” Nor is there any real growth or maturity of the characters that will affect future adventures. Other than maybe knowing the bit of trivia about Lupin's original handgun, there's not much to take away from this outing. Once the mystery is unraveled, the replay value really dies too.
Excepting the rather slim extras, Island of Assassins is an entertaining romp. Such a large, uninterrupted serving of Lupin is a treat no to be missed. The show doesn't scream “must have,” but it's not by any means something that should be given a miss. It's classic Lupin fun in an extended-length, slightly updated format.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B
Animation : B-
Art : C+
Music : C+
+ Dark story but still classic Lupin, entertaining setup that keeps you guessing
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