The Other Side of Animation 42: Lupin the 3rd Special Part 2: Lupin the 3rd: Green vs. Red Review

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Recently, there have been a slew of films released like Ratchet & Clank, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where a lot of “defenders” or stubborn fans, pick your poison, say that those films were made for “true fans” of the license/property. Well, these comments have led me to ask a question, “How much can fan service save a film?” I mean, we have seen this before where a film will mostly be for fans of the franchise with all the in-jokes and references. However, let’s be real, and not kid ourselves. Fan service can only go so far before you realize the movie is terrible. It’s like, how you can only go so far with a great cast, amazing animation, or near-realistic CGI, if the other elements of the film don’t work, then the movie is bad. I know you can make the argument of what defines “bad”, but seriously, if you are all flash and no substance, you aren’t going to last long. It’s why a lot of these films or projects based on popular properties don’t end up as overall good movies. Studios spend so much time making sure the fans of the source material enjoy it, they forget that you need to be a good movie. This is why I chose the Lupin the 3rd TV special, Green vs Red. This TV film was made to celebrate the franchises’ 40th anniversary. If you are a huge fan of the franchise, you will get all the winks and nods to the legacy of the iconic anime character. Sadly, if you are not a fan of the franchise, and want to see a film that is just as good as Castle of Cagliostro, then you are going to come up short. Let’s dive in, shall we?

The plot is rather complicated, so excuse me if I don’t give a super-proper plot summary. All over the world, a slew of thieves have shown up, all proclaiming to be the infamous Lupin the 3rd. While this is going on, a young man named Yasuo, a pickpocket and chef, one day obtains the iconic green jacket of Lupin the 3rd at a small little dive that he works at. Yasuo then gets wrapped up into another plot about obtaining the notorious Ice Cube, a new contraption made by a company called Night Hawk. Can Yasuo find out what exactly is going on, and why all of these imitators are popping up all over the world?

I don’t really have a lot of nice things to say about this special. First off, and this is pretty much a sin for not just anime, but animation in general, it’s boring. Why is it boring? Well, it tries to focus too much on being fan service for the fandom rather than focusing on a logical story. The whole Ice Cube subplot becomes very third-wheel, since it’s more about Yasuo’s transformation into the new Lupin, than obtaining the Ice Cube. Sure, I like the fan service and references to past Lupin series/movies/whatever, but to be the main focus when you have two other plots that should have been the focus, is a major problem. Is it cool that you see the red, green, and pink jackets? Yes. Is it cool that you get to see a lot of the differently designed Lupins? Yes. Is it great to see some of the winks to The Castle of Cagliostro and how the film loves this specific version of Lupin? Heck yes! But, it can’t be the only thing to carry this movie. The film also wants to have this, quite frankly, self-indulgent theme of how Lupin isn’t a real person, but more of a state of mind, and the representation of freedom and how everyone wants to be like Lupin. Listen, it’s nice that you wanted to be philosophical and all, but that isn’t the reason why you watch Lupin the 3rd. You watch anything from this franchise for the comedy, the interaction between lovable characters, and the fun, if goofy action that is pretty much a light-hearted version of anything spy-related. Like I said, the fan service distracts and takes over the time that could have been used on the characters from the actual franchise. While Jigen, Fugiko, and Detective Zenigata do get screentime, Goemon sadly shows up for a few lines and that’s it. It feels like they were at some kind of crossroads with how to handle this special. They needed to please the fans from young to old, but they needed a plot as well. I guess I wouldn’t have minded if I actually liked the characters they decided to focus on, but they were so boring and forgettable. They could have also not taken the plot through a Pulp Fiction-style execution, since the plot was already hard enough to follow.

I have to be honest; I found the art direction extremely bland. Sure, the main characters look alright, but the fun of the franchise was its art style. It was exaggerated and cartoony. Green vs Red looks like generic anime that tries to have the retro touch that makes Lupin the 3rd so memorable. That’s why the newest series, including the Fujiko Mine prequel series and the Lupin the 3rd: Part 4 series, work because the designs are so diverse than what you normally see in anime.

Okay, I think I have railed on this long enough, what is good about this special? Well, as much as the fan service and references get in the way, I do like seeing all the little things, like all the differently designed Lupins and the nods to Castle of Cagliostro. It makes me smile, even though the overall experience is flawed. While I do not like the self-indulgent philosophical elements, I do respect that they tried to do something deeper than a simple hour-long clip show showing off the franchise. The brief, but final showdown between Lupin and Yasuo is pretty neat, since they actually do a different art style for those brief seconds of action. Too bad more of the film couldn’t be like this or the giant robot scene.

As much of a fan as I am of Lupin the 3rd, I think this was a trainwreck. Not the worst movie I have seen, since that would mean no effort was put into this, but it’s still a mess of fan service being glorified, boring characters, and a sloppily put-together story. How would I have recut the whole film? Easy, keep the focus on the Green vs Red gimmick. Have Lupin encounter someone who looks exactly like him foil his heists, only to find out that someone made a clone of him. Skip the pompous college textbook philosophical elements, and have it be a great fun adventure. Unless you want to own everything Lupin the 3rd, you can pretty much skip this film. However, if you must have it, you can obtain a DVD copy by going to Discotek Media’s website, since they are the ones who are distributing it here in the states. Green vs Red shows what happens when fan service takes over the more important elements of a film. I don’t want to end this three-part special on a negative note, so let’s take a look at the recent spin-off special that was possibly a gateway to the newest TV series with Lupin the 3rd: Jigen’s Gravestone. Thanks for reading, I hope you like it, and see you all next time!

Rating: Lackluster

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