Shelf Life
Lupin III: The Legend of the Gold of Babylon

by Paul Jensen,

Before we jump into this week's new anime, I've got a little bit of housekeeping to take care of. I'll be taking next week off, so you won't see a new column on the 24th (don't worry, nothing's coming out that week anyway). We'll be back with a "year in review" the week after that, and then everything will be back to normal for 2019. Now that everyone's on the same page, let's take a look at the last new releases of the year. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Lupin III: The Legend of the Gold of Babylon

On Shelves This Week

Blue Seed - Complete Collection BD
Discotek - 600 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $49.95
Currently cheapest at: $32.47 Right Stuf

Synopsis: When shape-shifting monsters attack Earth, humanity's hopes for survival rest on a girl descended from a special bloodline and a rebel from within the enemy's ranks.

Extra: We don't have any formal reviews for this action-horror series, but our user ratings have an average of 6.9 out of 10.

Elemental Gelade - Complete Collection BD
Discotek - 600 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $49.95
Currently cheapest at: $32.47 Right Stuf

Synopsis: A rookie sky pirate named Cou encounters a girl from a race of people with special powers, and vows to protect her as she goes on an important journey.

Extra: We have a couple of old DVD reviews for this one, and you'll find the first of those here.

God Mars - Complete Collection BD
Discotek - 1560 min - Sub - MSRP $69.95
Currently cheapest at: $45.47 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Takeru Myojin and his fellow members of Crasher Squad fight to defend Earth from an alien warlord, but Takeru's connection to the aliens means the planet will be destroyed if he's ever defeated.

Extra: Our user ratings for this early 80s series have an average of 6.2 out of 10, but that's about it for our coverage apart from a very brief mention in The Mike Toole Show.

Hells DVD
Discotek - 117 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $19.95
Currently cheapest at: $12.97 Right Stuf

Synopsis: After realizing she's trapped in a demonic academy, high school girl Rinne Amagane must find a way to escape and return to the land of the living.

Extra: This movie came out on Blu-Ray last month, but we haven't added any new reviews or other coverage since then. User ratings are still sitting at 7 out of 10.

Lupin III: The Legend of the Gold of Babylon DVD
Discotek - 100 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $19.95
Currently cheapest at: $12.97 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Lupin heads to New York in search of ancient tablets that lead to the treasure of Babylon, but he'll have to dodge Zenigata and mafia hitmen along the way.

Extra: If you want to know more about this movie, just scroll down. Its Blu-Ray version is the subject of this week's review.

March Comes in Like a Lion - Part 3 BD
Aniplex - 275 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $159.98
Currently cheapest at: $129.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: As Akari, Hinata, and Momo continue helping Rei see the good in life, he begins to look for way to help them in return.

Extra: This set covers the beginning of the show's second season, and we have episode reviews covering both seasons. The full series is available streaming on Crunchyroll.

Takunomi. - Complete Collection BD
Sentai - 150 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $49.98
Currently cheapest at: $32.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: After moving to the big city for work, Michiru Amatsuki ends up sharing an apartment with several other women who all like to drink a variety of alcoholic beverages.

Extra: This short-format series was covered in the Preview Guide, but that's about it for our reviews. You can stream it on HIDIVE.

Tales of Zestiria the X - Complete Collection BD
Funimation - 650 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $69.98
Currently cheapest at: $36.04 Right Stuf

Synopsis: While searching for a link between mankind and spiritual beings called seraphim, a young man named Sorey ends up becoming a Shepherd tasked with defending humanity.

Extra: This set contains seasons one and two, and we have episode reviews and full season reviews for both. It's available streaming on Funimation.

Urahara - Complete Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $33.46 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Three high school girls fight to defend Harajuku from culture-stealing aliens while also setting up their own pop-up shop.

Extra: We have episode reviews and interviews for this show, and it was also covered in This Week in Anime. You can stream it on Crunchyroll.

Xabungle - Complete Collection BD
Maiden Japan - 1334 min - Sub - MSRP $49.98
Currently cheapest at: $32.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: As he seeks to avenge the deaths of his family, Jiron Amos becomes tangled in an increasingly complex web of plot twists, which include stealing a giant robot.

Extra: No formal reviews for this mecha series, but our user ratings have an average of 7 out of 10 and it's available streaming on HIDIVE.

Shelf Life Reviews

I'm returning to the Lupin III franchise this week, courtesy of the recent Blu-Ray release of Lupin III: The Legend of the Gold of Babylon. As a movie, it's alright. As a case study in what happens when a creative project changes hands multiple times, it's downright fascinating.

From what I've read, this is the one Lupin project that nobody wanted to finish. Hayao Miyazaki reportedly turned down an early offer to helm the project, and instead recommended that the producers hire Mamoru Oshii. Oshii initially took the job, only to walk away after his ideas for the story were rejected. Yoshio Urasawa then took over writing the script, but he was unable to complete it and Atsushi Yamatoya was brought in to finish the job. The movie also ended up with two co-directors, just for good measure. With all these folks coming and going in key creative roles, it's no surprise that the plot doesn't always hold together. It is, however, delightfully over-the-top, even for a Lupin film.

This time around, Lupin and company are searching for a huge stockpile of gold left behind by an ancient civilization. In order to find the treasure, Lupin has to take on the New York gangsters who hold the tablets that reveal its location, and he also must figure out how an elderly woman named Rosetta fits into the equation. Along the way, he has to dodge a seemingly endless number of mafia hitmen, not to mention the always-persistent Zenigata, who has somehow ended up in charge of a team of “Miss ICPO” beauty queens. Just in case all that isn't enough, it turns out that aliens are also looking for the treasure. Yes, Lupin steals gold from aliens in this movie. Try not to think about it too hard.

The film's turbulent production process is reflected in its story, which, as you may have guessed from the synopsis, is a bit of a mess. While it's not unheard of for this franchise to throw a bit of drama in with all the comedy and heist action, those different elements are at their best when they complement one another. In this case, the various parts of the story don't so much complement one another as compete with one another for the audience's attention. The modern New York stuff is too disconnected from the ancient ruins in the Middle East, and Rosetta's story is too different in tone from all the zany chase scenes. The end result is more like a few unrelated stories edited together than a single, unified film. On top of that, the ending jumps the shark in spectacular fashion, to the point where I jumped up and shouted, “Wait, what?” while watching it.

On the upside, most of the heist and chase scenes work pretty well when taken on their own merits.The action sticks pretty closely to the fun, lighthearted tone associated with the franchise, which makes it a little easier to ignore the convoluted plot as long as things are driving fast and/or exploding. There are motorcycle chases, train chases, tank chases, and plenty of death-defying heist stunts sprinkled throughout the movie. Once you get past their admittedly awkward introductions, Zenigata's crew of ICPO cops-turned-beauty-queens add an interesting twist to some of the big action scenes. Since they're more competent than Zenigata typically is on his own, they turn the ICPO into a more legitimate threat and add some unpredictability to the basic cat-and-mouse stuff between Lupin and the mafia.

As far as the characters go, the usual suspects all play their designated roles fairly well. The dynamic within the core cast is a big part of why this franchise has stuck around for so many years; even when the writing isn't stellar, it still just works. Lupin will always keep the story rolling with his over-the-top schemes, Jigen and Goemon will always be tough enough to get him out of trouble, and Fujiko will always play the wild card and keep things interesting. The characters specific to this movie are somewhat less impressive. Rosetta starts off as an underwhelming source of comic relief and her role gets stranger from there, and neither of the mafia leaders are particularly compelling villains. It therefore falls on the main cast to carry the story, which means that there's not much in the way of fresh character development or emotional impact.

The animation quality here is decent but unspectacular, especially by movie standards. On the other hand, the visual direction is reasonably strong, with a few particularly inspired moments during the action scenes. If nothing else, this movie is worth watching just for the opening sequence, in which Lupin and Zenigata ride motorcycles on a giant three-dimensional billboard of a moving robot face. It's completely and totally bonkers, but in a good way. This Blu-Ray release features a new English dub with the cast from part four of the TV series, all of whom sound comfortable in their roles. There are also some interesting liner notes, which offer plenty of background information on the movie along with some insight into the translation process.

While I'm far from an expert on the franchise, I can still say with confidence that this one of the stranger Lupin adventures I've seen, in terms of both its origins and its actual plot. The average viewer may get a kick out of it as a slightly ridiculous piece of entertainment, though its real appeal for me comes from watching it in the context of its real-life history. It's unusual to see a title's production process reflected on-screen outside of inconsistent animation quality, so seeing multiple creative influences pull this story in different directions is fascinating in its own way. If you like taking deep dives into works of fiction or are just really into the history of this franchise, this film is worth checking out.

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading, and come back in two weeks for our year in review!

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