Lupin III – Blood Seal – Eternal Mermaid
December 15, 2011 2 Comments
Lupin III – Blood Seal – Eternal Mermaid (Lupin III: Chi no Kokuin – Eien no Mermaid) is the latest offering to the Lupin franchise; it is a TV special released for the 40th anniversary of the Lupin series.
If your familiar with the Lupin films and more generally Lupin III then you will know what to expect. The story follows a similar plot to every other Lupin Tv special or film; we have Lupin getting involved in a heist only to find out that there is far more to his current situation than meets the eye. We have all the usual suspects in this special, Lupin, Goemon, Jigen, Fujiko and of course the irrepressible Zenigata.
The film starts off with Lupin meeting a big underworld boss, and threatened at gunpoint to steal something called The Mermaid’s Scale from an underground auction. This simple theft leads Lupin and the gang into a quest for a fabled treasure from the Asuka period of Japanese history and of course to outwit the bad guys who wish to get their hands on the treasure.
The plot isn’t especially complicated, but I haven’t seen a Lupin film or TV special that has had a particularly complicated plot. But as always it is the way the story is told that makes it worth watching, we are kept guessing right until the very end as to what the treasure is and even then the answers are not made clear. This is something that I have always liked about Lupin; we are given clues and little bits of information all the way through, much like a puzzle, but with the key parts missing right until the very end. Of course anyone who has seen any of the Lupin films will know how it ends; Lupin solves the mystery, defeats the bad guy and gets the girl. This does not however mean that the films are boring, because they are told brilliantly and are simply so much fun to watch.
The classic characters are all there of course with Lupin dreaming up new and wonderful ways to steal things. Jigen being the trusty henchman, but also the voice of reason; and of course Goemon the lone swordsman, forever looking for worthy opponents to improve himself. Fujiko is there of course like all the other series, the eternal part-time lover of Lupin, the rest of the time spent as his rival. It’s great seeing her constantly seducing Lupin who is head over heels in love with her, in fact she is usually the character who pushes the plot forward since her double and triple timing of the various factions always creates tension. Finally we have Zenigata, the irrepressible Japanese detective who works for Interpol in his never-ending quest to apprehend Lupin and put him in jail.
There are of course some new characters. We have Maki, a 14-year-old girl who insists that Lupin take her as an apprentice to train her up as a master thief. Misa, a mysterious woman who appears central to the whole story and of course the bad guy, a businessman called Himuro.
The art is rather nice, nothing spectacular but very nice to look at and follows the classic art style of all Lupin films. It has a 1960s/1970s retro look in places and of course the appearance of Lupin has not changed since then. The background detail is pretty good though, with some very nice landscapes and details on the buildings, which is always nice to see. I love the soundtrack, but I pretty much love all Lupin soundtracks with elements of blues, smooth and upbeat jazz, mixed together to make a very classy backing track to the madness that always ensues.
The action sequences are wonderfully done, being both realistic and over the top like always. There is some rather interesting uses for bicycles, planes along with disguises and some wonderful set pieces as well. Lupin films for me have partly been about the ways in which slow scenes are paired with action scenes to keep the flow of the film slightly off-kilter. This film did feel like it was trying to be very similar to the Castle of Cagliostro, the very first film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The animation style, chase sequences, plot points and even the soundtrack bare remarkable resemblance to that film. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but perhaps shows a slight lack of originality.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this special, I call it a film because it is 90 minutes long. It is classic Lupin, but definitely not the best I have seen, and actually if you are new to the whole Lupin franchise I would say that there are other, better films to watch first. Everything is stylishly done and the plot is well written, keeping some of the secrets right until the very end, and in fact leaving some questions entirely unanswered. Having watched the majority of the Lupin films and TV series the end was obvious to me, in the sense that Lupin will always win. It has always been a plot point that despite being an internationally wanted phantom thief, followed everywhere by Zenigata, Lupin is essentially a good guy, always willing to save a ‘damsel in distress’. The plots of his films almost always involve some great treasure that invariably turns out to be something very different and. And of course all the women, except perhaps Fujiko fall in love with him, although even then its likely that Fujiko loves him as well, she just likes to mess around with his feelings (that and she is the very definition of femme fatale).
I would actually suggest that people watch The Castle of Cagliostro first if they have never watched a Lupin film before since I think it is the best Lupin film. Blood Seal – Eternal Mermaid is clearly trying to emulate the brilliance of that film, and while it does fail on many aspects it is still a brilliant and thoroughly enjoyable film to watch.