Wednesday, February 26, 2014

world's most wanted

(this review of Pioneer's 2003 DVD release "Lupin The 3rd: The World's Most Wanted" originally appeared in 2003.  Pioneer's no longer in business and this DVD is out of print, but I had a lot of fun writing this review and am glad to present it again.)


I am saddened to report that once again the entertainment industry has demonstrated its contempt for the rule of law with the release of yet another in a long line of animated serials dealing with the notorious criminal, Lupin the 3rd.

This latest DVD release even has the audacity to poke fun at Lupin’s criminal status with its title “The World’s Most Wanted”.   I am shocked at the lack of respect for law that Pioneer, once a highly-regarded entertainment conglomerate, has demonstrated with this video.  It was bad enough that these supposedly comical cartoon “adventures” of that reprobate Lupin had been transmitted across the public airwaves during the mid 1970s, but to dredge these accounts of larcenous and immoral behavior from whatever pit of depravity they had been confined to is almost a crime in itself.

All of Lupin’s accomplices are fully implicated in the crimes this video depicts.  The gangster Jigen, the mercenary swordsman Goemon, and that curvaceous grifter Fujiko are all explicitly shown engaged in violations of the criminal codes of dozens of nations.  I am, as always, deeply embarrassed that the corrupt and malicious producers of these animated films have seen fit to include a painfully inept caricature of myself as a character in these shameful episodes.  It is a known fact that Lupin III has eluded capture so far - but not for lack of effort on my part, I am proud to say.  I only wish the same was true for some of our “brethren in blue”, who seem to regard this brigand as a harmless and entertaining thief rather than a menace to public safety and morals.

The six “escapades” contained in this DVD are fanciful recreations of some of Lupin’s most heinous offenses, as produced for Japanese television by the Tokyo Movie Shinsha animation studio.  “The Revenge Of Lupin The 3rd” features the destruction of an entire luxury liner, prompted by a madman driven to revenge after becoming the victim of one of Lupin’s previous schemes.  In the luridly titled “Buns, Guns, And Fun In The Sun”,  Lupin and his gang demonstrate what may be new heights of contempt for civilized society, as they not only rob the box office of Rio’s soccer stadium and make a mockery of the Brazilian penal system (here my opinion of the Rio police matches Lupin’s - I fear the tropical climate and moral lassitude of the inhabitants has contributed to the decline of this law enforcement unit) - but a priceless national landmark is perhaps irreparably damaged by Lupin’s unthinking greed.  “50 Ways To Leave Your 50-Foot Lover” is a fanciful tale of the supposed Loch Ness Monster, reportedly tamed by Fujiko’s singing voice.  “Gold Smuggling 101” is a primer in perfidy for anyone who wishes to embark on a life of crime.  I must say it was ingenious of Lupin to utilize a scheme straight out of the film Goldfinger, but then again, he IS a thief.  What disturbs me the most about this episode may be the depiction of the corruption of what was once a respected bank manager;  or perhaps it may be the depiction of myself, which literally portrays the author as a myopic crank from whom Lupin is able to escape without effort.  I assure you, my failure to permanently apprehend Lupin is a result of the criminal’s inhuman cunning and dexterity, not a lapse of attention from this detective.“Shaky Pisa” is remarkable not only for the earthquake-device that nearly destroys Pisa, but also for expecting the viewer to believe that Lupin the 3rd will retire from the scene while leaving millions of lire un-stolen.  In the “Cursed Case Scenario”, the ancient sands of Egypt are befouled by Lupin’s perfidious footsteps.  Not even national treasures are safe from his larcenous grasp!  Luckily his ill-gotten swag seems to be more trouble than it is worth.  
The animation of these criminal adventures is of the standard seen on broadcast television in Japan in the mid 1970s; adequate without devolving into primitivism, though bereft of the occasional flashes of artistry seen in other “cartoons” of the period.  The depiction of Lupin and his accomplices are realistic enough, though exaggerated for supposedly comic purposes.  Other than a garish series title in English, the opening credits are as originally presented, and the end credits are similar to the Japanese, with a rather weak instrumental replacing the original Japanese vocals.   Rendering these photoplays into English was obviously an attempt on Pioneer’s part to corrupt the morals of the children of the Western world, already known to be in a precarious state. 

Lupin’s English voice is remarkably similar to his Japanese.  This new Anglophone version, however, is closest of all to the rendition heard in the long-suppressed “Mystery of Mamo” film (though Lupin’s voice was the only point of accuracy in that otherwise scandalously erroneous production. “Ed Scott”, indeed).  Both Lupin and his crew of malcontents spout dialog that positively reeks of the disrespectful, flippant attitude that would lead one to a life of crime;  puns, insults, and innuendos of a leering nature abound in their speech.   I am positive that the intended audience for this low-class banter will find it quite amusing, however disturbing it may be to those of more refined tastes.

Seemingly tireless in its mania to promote lawlessness and crime, Pioneer has released this DVD with options of both English and Japanese language tracks.  A detailed section of line drawings of characters, devices, and locales acts as a veritable university education in wrongdoing for the interested viewer.  Previews for other of Pioneer’s perhaps more law-abiding productions fill the remainder of this digital video disc.

In conclusion, let me exhort Interpol to use every means at its disposal to prevent this latest affront to the public dignity.  How much longer will law-abiding citizens be forced to endure the glorification of criminality?  Is Lupin the 3rd the kind of figure we want held up to our children as a figure to be emulated?  Already reports are coming in about a new Lupin comic book in America, and the new year will see Lupin’s duplicitous face plastered across the television screens of that already criminal-infested country.  I urge you, sirs, to wait no longer.  For my part, I have just received information about Lupin’s latest target, and I must end this communication posthaste.  Rest assured, gentlemen, that this time I will DEFINITELY bring Lupin the 3rd to long-delayed justice.

Inspector Zenigata, ICPO

(transcription by correspondent Dave Merrill)

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Chris Sobieniak said...

"Other than a garish series title in English, the opening credits are as originally presented, and the end credits are similar to the Japanese, with a rather weak instrumental replacing the original Japanese vocals."

You can thank TMS Entertainment for those generic English credit sequences as usual. Plenty of shows exported out of Japan often get that deal in overseas markets.

Speaking of which, I'm reminded of that Rio episode again and in particular how in the English dub there was some mentions of a guy named "Pierre". At the time when the DVD came out, I wondered what could've been the original name of said character and it hit me that it was obviously "Pele", for which the English DVD subtitles rendered as "Peree" I believe.

Someone suggested to me that it could be a rights issue perhaps with not getting to use his real name here. Of course I recall a Simpsons episode where he shilled for wax paper while presenting a soccer match in Springfield. It's just something I like to bring up again while we have this article posted, so anyone like me who was perhaps a tad confused over that would know why.

Chris Sobieniak said...

Just thinking of it, this was also the disc that annoyed some fans over the skipped episode that would've came after "Guns, Buns, and Fun in the Sun". This of course was the one with Lupin getting involved with a former Nazi figure who knew the secret to Hitler's legacy. The English title was "To Be or Nazi Be", but the episode neither aired on Adult Swim when the series was making the rounds at the time (except for the episode preview at the end of the second episode) or appear on DVD immediately until it was all said and done (and if people still cared for the show to order that fifth volume it was stuck on). I guess they had to be careful here

Rodneylives said...

Zenigata's one of my favorite anime characters, sometimes bumbling, sometimes genius. Keep at it Inspector, you'll get him someday!