I swear I’m alive. The past few weeks have just been hectic. Between work, some other personal projects, the whole David Zaslav thing, and general exhaustion there hasn’t been anything I’ve watched that felt worth reviewing. I saw some interesting stuff: I started watching One Piece with my boyfriend and I actually quite enjoyed it. We also saw the new Dragonball movie
But finally, finally, I watched something that sparked my interest. And it was something I’ve been wanting to see for a while: Lupin III: The First.
In the 1960s, Lupin III attempts to steal the Bresson Diary but is quickly foiled. He, his companions Jogen and Goemon along with archeology student Laetitia, and of course Fujiko, go on an adventure to get the diary back from Ahnenerbe (Nazi) fugitives before they use its secrets to take over the world.
It’s a classic heist film; a combination of The Castle of Cagliostro and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Goodness, it’s been a while since I’ve done a review, so let’s see if I can remember how to do this. There’s a lot I enjoyed about this film. I mean, after all, what’s not to love about a movie that’s about stealing artifacts from Nazis?
A+ premise right there.
The Art Style
Lupin III: The First is one of the few mainstream anime movies to have a 3D CGI art style. While Earwig and the Witch utterly failed to translate the signature hand-drawn Ghibli style into CGI — Lupin III: The First actually does it pretty well.
I think it helps that the Lupin III franchise is already very exaggerated and cartoony. It makes the style easier to adapt. The characters are easily recognizable, the movement is fluid and natural, and most importantly, it uses the CGI style as an advantage rather than a gimmick.
The movie could have been traditionally animated and it still would have been pretty good…But I think it enhanced certain action sequences and some of the scenery, as this adventure took Lupin and company all over the world.
The most important part of any good heist film is how the heroes interact with each other. The villains don’t really matter – and they’re pretty generic Nazis here. Nothing wrong with that.
The relationship at the heart of the movie is the one between Lupin and Laetitia. Of course, it’s not romantic but it’s one of compassion and respect. Laetitia brings a certain amount of innocence and naivete that the rest of the team lacks.
But for that reason, Lupin and company, decide to help her. That and the fact that Laetitia is really smart and has knowledge of several ancient languages.
And of course, there’s the tension between Zenigata and Lupin – where the former finds himself once again, wrangled into one of Lupin’s harebrained schemes. But he helps because it’s the right thing…
The film continues their legendary rivalry and I respect that.
Was the plot about Hitler rumored to still be alive necessary? I feel like it really wasn’t and frankly, I wish we’d just leave this plotline in the ashes of history. Sure, it turns out Hitler wasn’t alive – but still. As a Jewish person, let’s just stop with the Hitler faking his death in fiction. I don’t think it will be missed.
Also, the redemption arc for Laetitia’s “grandfather” wasn’t necessary and totally ruined the character. Just let him be an asshole. He adopted the child of the man he killed – never told her about her past, manipulated her, and stole her work to pass off as his own.
His last-minute change of heart comes out of nowhere. I get that Laetitia needed saving but surely there was another way to do it besides redeeming her adoptive Nazi grandfather?
No more Nazi redemption arcs.
Overall Lupin III: The First is a good movie, an excellent movie even. While the themes could have been more well-developed – the characters are the selling point. Lupin may be a thief, but he has a code of ethics that is well defined and presented in the movie.
And the film can stand on its own. You need not know anything about the Lupin canon to see the movie – but those who have seen past films won’t be bored.
While Lupin III: The First has some similarities to The Castle of Cagliostro, the films definitely have their own identities. A good film – I only wish I got to see it on the big screen.
And that’s the scoop!
Year of Release: 2019
Length: 93 minutes
Director/Screenplay: Takashi Yamazaki
Producers: Kōji Nozaki, Naoaki Kitajima, Takeshi Itō, Ryota Kato