Shelf Life Lupin III: Alcatraz Connection
by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,
By the time you read this, I'll be several days into my first appearance on the ANN Preview Guide. It's Saturday as I write this, and I think I've already watched as many premiere episodes in two days as I normally do in a season. It's fun in its own hectic way, and it's a good reminder of just how much variety there is in the anime world these days. Speaking of which, we've got a whole mess of new releases to go through this week. Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
Lupin III: Alcatraz Connection
On Shelves This Week
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Extra: We've covered this series a lot since it came out back in 2011. That includes two different streaming reviews, a few appearances on The Stream, and a Shelf Life review. It's also available streaming on Funimation and Hulu.
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Extra: Another new release without its own encyclopedia entry, but at least I can point you to a review of the previous collection with this one.
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Shelf Life Reviews
We're taking another trip into the Lupin-iverse (Is that a word? It is now!) this week with James' review of Lupin III: Alcatraz Connection.
Lupin the Third, both the character and the media franchise revolving around him, is a cornerstone of Japanese popular culture who hardly requires an introduction. Most anime fans have had some interaction with the snarky thief, be it through films like Miyazaki's The Castle of Cagliostro, Adult Swim reruns of the second anime series, or more modern interpretations of the character like Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. I've always been fond of the adventures of this ragtag group, so I was excited to dig into this Lupin TV special, produced over a decade ago but available for the first time in English this month. While Lupin's stateside adventure is certainly a fun one, it's still enough of a mixed bag that I can't recommend it without some reservations.
Let's start off with the good. What's always endeared me to Lupin the Third is the fun banter between the gang, not to mention their relationship with lifelong frenemy Detective Zenigata, and all of that is present in this TV special. Though Goemon and Jigen end up a little lost in the shuffle, there's still enough fun to please longtime Lupin fans. The central mystery of the special is also an entertaining one, with the Japanese cast and crew getting to poke a little fun at American politics and culture while building up a fairly compelling mystery that weaves in both Kennedy brothers, the FBI, the CIA, and some impressively ludicrous revelations about Alcatraz Prison itself. On paper, it's an excellent addition to Lupin's already lengthy list of adventures.
In execution, however, things get a little more muddled. The biggest problem boils down to the special's pacing, which takes a story that could be perfectly told in 60-70 minutes and needlessly stretches it out to 90. There are a couple especially egregious scenes, such as a trolley-chase that goes on twice as long as it needs to. It's meant to be the centerpiece action sequence, but the limited animation ends up making it feel extraordinarily tedious instead of exciting. Goemon also gets a pointless romantic subplot that grinds the story to a halt whenever it pops up. It eventually kind-of-sort-of becomes relevant to the main mystery at hand, but I'm certain you could cut out every scene involving Goemon's romantic misfortunes, and the story wouldn't miss a beat.
The production values are a little sloppy overall. A TV special isn't going to have the pizazz of a theatrical release, of course, but there were just enough animation gaffes and off-model transition scenes to be distracting. It doesn't hurt the movie too much when characters are simply quipping back and forth, but in scenes like the aforementioned trolley-chase and the ending's climactic showdown, those rough edges can go a long way in diluting the excitement of the action. I would be remiss if I failed to mention the score by Lupin the Third veteran Yuji Ohno. Where the animation can be a little lackluster, Ohno's music remains consistently engaging and catchy throughout. The jazzy pep of the score is a perfect fit for the movie's action and for Lupin in general, keeping me engaged when the pacing of the film otherwise threatened to drag things down.
Discotek's DVD release of Alcatraz Connection is pretty bare bones. It's Japanese audio only, and the sole extra is a set of brief liner notes that offer some superficial background information on the mobster culture and other references the movie delves into. The audio-visual quality of the disc itself is fine, though the 4:3 transfer might look underwhelming on larger HDTVs. The DVD retails for about twenty dollars from most retailers, so it isn't overpriced for what you're getting.
Overall, this is a disc that I would only recommend buying if you're a hardcore Lupin the Third fan. For more casual fans, this is the very definition of a Rental worthy release. It's a perfectly okay product, and if you're in the mood for a relatively light comedy-caper, it might be worth a couple hours of your time and a few dollars from your wallet.
That wraps up this week's review section. Thanks for reading!
This week's shelves are from Brittany:
"I have been meaning to send in pictures for awhile now, but there is always something I'm waiting in the mail. That hasn't changed and I'm about ready to move so I figured now would be the best time.
I have been collecting anime since the summer before sixth grade in 2006 while I was recovering from a drowning incident. I grew up watching Sailor Moon, Pokémon, and Digimon but I didn't become aware of what it was until then when I saw Fullmetal Alchemist and Inu Yasha on tv. The first anime in my collection was a random volume of Rurouni Kenshin, the first manga was Satisfaction Guaranteed, and my first figures were the Len Kagamine by Good Smile and the Leon/Lion Magnus by Kotobukiya (Not counting the figures that came with games). As for first game, I have no idea. It certainly has grown a lot since then, but it has slowed down in the recent years.
The fur ball Rajah, he likes to following me around no matter where I go. He is only a few years younger than me and I inherited him back in 2013 when my aunt passed away.
I apologize for the double stacking, I tried to uncover the ones that I could in second shots, and weird angles on a few of the shots. There is little distance between my bed and the white shelves and I am short. The only stacked Tales games are the Japanese Zestiria and Tales of Heroes Twin Brave Collector's editions and half of collector/limited edition game boxes had to be stored in the closet since there was no room for them, such as the Xillia ones. The ones hidden by the monitor next to Yuki Yuna are the premium editions of Umineko, Brave 10, and Darker than Black."
I feel your pain on the double stacking, I'm always low on shelf space myself. I really like how you've got some of the art boxes on display, thanks for sharing!
It just wouldn't be a Monday without me demanding more shelves to show off to the world. Send me photos of your collection at [email protected]!
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