Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Review: Lupin the Third: Bye Bye Lady Liberty DVD

Since 2007, Discotek Media has been the most reliable source for Lupin the Third DVDs in North America. While Funimation brought out The Woman Called Fujiko Mine last summer, they've been re-releasing a couple old older things with tricked-out extras from Reed Nelson and the duo over at Lupin Has Three Jackets, as well as releasing things that had never seen the light of day in North America, like the critically-acclaimed First Contact TV special, the first TV series containing very early Hiyao Miyazaki work, and the polarizing Green vs. Red TV special. Now, they're back with more unseen material - the 1989 TV special that kicked off the annual tradition that is going on until this very day.

The film begins with a computer montage...oh my is this ever hilarious 25 years later. Now this was funny back when I watched a billionth-generation VHS-rip of the dub via a CD-R a decade ago, but it's even better now. Zenigata's birthdate is listed as 12-25-38 - making him 51 at the time of this special in-canon. Pops looks darn good for his age. There is a GIANT ROOM OF COMPUTERS DOING COMPUTER THINGS. The naming of "Wolf the Third" is odd to hear. Great Zenigata disguise spot with Pops catching him by surprise, and there's a beautiful night-time chase on buildings. Lupin escapes Pops with a helicopter umbrella, because of course! This has the "IT'S A MOVIE!" remix of the Lupin theme that I loved hearing for the first time in the Funimation releases.

A really slow, relaxing jazz club version of Lupin's theme plays Jigen into the movie. Jigen beats the daylights out of some goons to find out where Lupin is. Lupin's watching women's wrestling. Sadly, instead of Cuty Suzuki or the Crush Gals, it's a pair of fat chicks. This voice cast is fantastic. Jigen's just the right mix of sarcastic and serious, while Lupin sounds silly, but not like a complete joke. Lupin and his girl's first meeting features some really weird animation, but her voice seems to get across a silly, aloof chick. "Gomon" is used here...yikes...and Goemon's voice isn't exactly filling me with joy here. It's lifeless. The shot of Goemon against the New York skyline is something else.

Fujiko makes her debut here with an incredibly-unappealing design alongside one of the many square-jawed characters in this, Jimmy, on his Gold Dolphin yacht. Fujiko spies on Jimmy's conversation with an evil dude who of course WANTS THE ENTIRE WORLD TO BE HIS! Pops busts in on Lupin's house, but finds an annoying little kid who spills the beans on his entire personal life and 40% pay cut. Jigen's meeting with an old pal named Rooster reminiscing about the good old days. Lupin says his girl left him, and he needs to start thieving again because thanks to his girl, HE'S NOW THREE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS IN DEBT. Well, that's bad for him, but a good setup for the film. Excellent split-screen shot of Lupin and Jigen, with nice lighting as they fend off a junkyard full of mobsters and a giant truck that Lupin eventually takes control of to tip the scales in their favor.

The Kid finds Lupin, rattles off his history, and then Lupin scampers off. Jigen and Rooster run off but OH NO, Rooster meets a BRADDDOOOOO fate and isn't long for this world thanks to a gunshot. Never get introduced as an ally of a main character in a Lupin movie. An awesome scene plays out with no music and only a screechy train of Jigen getting revenge and just killing dudes. Rooster goes out staring at the Statue of Liberty - but he doesn't reveal the location of the Super Egg...well that's a stupid name. More stylish noir imagery with Lupin and Jigen against the lights of the night.

Aww, Lupin has exploding little duckies to help defend his boat against the GIGANTIC SUBMARINE SENT TO DESTROY HIM. Lupin then lifts up the Statue of Liberty with a giant balloon and himself, Jigen, and the Kid inside... I'm tempted to just keep going with this spoiler-laden review, but I think it would be best to just keep watching and enjoying since everything's been set in motion. So far, this is a very good special, and I don't remember all that much about it now despite having watched it a time or two many years ago. I like Goemon being chivalrous and helping a woman in need. I didn't like him speaking though. Poor Goemon can't handle seeing flesh, and Isabella is doing his best to console him. Ah yes, Isabella - now the plot's coming back to me. YAY SLICEY DICEY TIME!

Goemon takes Isabella to a cabin. Isabella is scary-thin, she has no bone structure at all. There's a beautiful camping scene with Lupin and the group, and the Kid WHO NEEDS A NAME 1/3 OF THE WAY THROUGH THE FILM is playing Not After Burner on his computer. Oh good, his name's Michael. Michael has programmed a guilt trip in his game to get Lupin to do what he wants - nice. He wants to hire Lupin to implant a virus into a computer. Michael's wallpaper is spelled as "Micheal", and Lupin wants to use the virus to wipe his record clean.

Mr. Big Evil Guy met with underlings and killed them with his rancid breath. Pops is at Humberger Shack, bringing back HAMBARRGGEERRRR memories from First Contact. Nice camo for the Statue against a cliff - it's amazing how they got the texture exactly right for the cliffside. A quick scene with James and Fujiko sets him up as being slightly sleazier than before. Fujiko slips out of her blue dress into her...bright red catsuit, which can't be all that useful for stealth. It actually looks more like an all-red workout leotard. Egads - every attempt to update the series in the '80s just dated it more than the '70s versions. Fujiko enters the giant goat head room and kicks a head with a woodcut smash cut. Mr. Big Evil Guy is 123 and uses his poison breath on James. Fujiko uses a giant breast-shaped explosive device, complete with a nipple detonator. Wow. Fujiko now has no bone structure as well. What an unappealing design the women have in this. Old Dude's eyes are leaking a nasty green-ish liquid. And then she gets caught and captured.

Zenigata and the taxi driver are having a wacky exchange before they get confronted by a fleet of black SUVs. Well, that ain't good. Another Lupin group camping scene leads to Michael crying for his mother and the Super Egg's location being revealed inside the torch! Evil dudes find them and attack. So much for going spoiler-free, I'm having too much fun with the stream of consciousness. There's a Jigen death fakeout, and Pops and the taxi driver are now pushing the cab, which is totaled. Pops skips out on the bill and sends it to the ICPO, but now includes a small tip for him. Great Pops/Lupin criss-cross bit, complete with woodcuts.

Goemon saves Jigen and says a bunch of bullshit. Jigen meets Isabella, who has a horse now for whatever reason. Zenigata has captured Lupin and...takes Michael to a bar with him. Lupin blows up the jail with an exploding duckie inside gum! Nice! A great shot of Goemon, Isabella, and Jigen on horses sets up a rare horse chase in Lupin. Lupin's got his face buried in Isabella's chest - classy. They've moved from NY to New Orleans. Isabella gets a traditional shower fanservice scene, which isn't all that erotic due to her unappealing design. And now she's listening in on their conversation, so maybe she's evil too. They go to HOTEL MISSIPY. Yowza. Lupin's drunk as could be, and rings up Isabella with her listening device. Okay then.

She owns a jewelry store and wants the Super Egg. Baddies shoot up the joint, and Lupin and Isabella talk in minimal clothing to avoid catching a cold. The Statue of Liberty returns to NY, and the gang is now in the sights of the big evil group. Ah, Michael's gum is now a radio - well, they set something up with that before when Lupin's gum led to the explosion. Fujiko and her...gym outfit were strung up, then released for "some kind of job", leading to her saying she's not that kind of girl. Well, that's a pleasant change from the Pioneer dub where they all but said she was a gangbang queen. The Big Evil Group is doing a ceremony, and the lead guy can now form a sword from his throat. A drop of his nasty green liquid sends her into convulsions - I bet. That's gotta be some nasty stuff.

Lupin meets with Michael in a punk rocker outfit. The Super Egg was hidden smartly inside a football, and then blinds everyone. Fujiko's out on her bike and spots them. Time for a chase! She can now levitate. The evil dude has possessed Fujiko and they're now shooting after Isabella, leading for Michael to cry out mommy. Well, there's the big plot twist I remembered. Thanks to Jigen, the possessed Fujiko gets dunked in the water. She really shouldn't have gone with that BRIGHT RED OUTFIT. Michael's performance is getting all wonky here. Big Evil Dude will kill Fujiko...or something since she's now free of his command, if they don't all go to his building.

Isabella's trapped with James, and it's revealed that she's the #2 traitor they talked about before. Kinda surprised to hear orgasms mentioned in a Lupin special...not really sure why though. Isabella appeals to James and his...desire to wear women's clothes...to take out the top guy. Goemon leaves the gang to save Isabella, leading to Jigen being a bit upset, before being talked down by Lupin. Pops and Goemon cross baths briefly, while Pops eats some hot dogs. Fujiko refuses to babysit Michael. They work an "as if" line in there, so I'll just assume this dub was done around the time of Clueless...nearly 20 years ago. God that makes me feel old. Isabella talks to Evil Dude and strips to appeal to him. Isabella offers to sleep with him, which he accepts, and gets shot by James as a result. Well, there's 25 minutes left, so I doubt he's dead.

Goemon is heartbroken, and he takes his rage out on the underlings before getting a trap door escape where he meets up with Pops. So now they're buds, kinda like Pops and Lupin in Castle of Cagliostro. Lupin and Isabella do the exchange, but Lupin doesn't realize she's turned heel and the Big Evil Dude is dead. Trap door time for them. YAY A REUNION! Evil Dude got dumped too, and Pops gives him some some dignity by placing his coat over him. Lupin with some parkour action to get up and try to save the day. Isabella and James meet, where he is overly concerned about wearing her clothes. Lupin meets up with James on the elevator. IT'S ASS-WHOOPIN TIME! Now it's exposition time - Evil Dude got the Super Egg, then she stole it and it's got the virus in it. CONQUER THE UNIVERSE INCORPORATED. Really now. What a great name. James is out to take her out, and tries to murder Lupin with...fangs! I honestly didn't see that coming.

Lupin joins the goon squad in disguise for her ceremony. Giant blinky computers are forming around her, and the virus is buried into her subconscious and she strikes the pose of the Statue of Liberty because that's what she views herself as. A really epic song is playing, and it's awesome. Impalings and beheadings are shown in silhouette while a bunch of cool-looking stuff happens. She is exhausted by this, and thankfully loses her '80s-riffic purple eye shadow. James stabs Isabella, and Lupin saves her by LEAPING OVER THE ENTIRE GROUP OF BADDIES. Thank God he doesn't suffer fall damage. Fujiko and Michael meet the gang and save everyone but Pops.

Isabella tells Lupin to leave her behind and go to the roof and save himself. He tells her about Michael, who she barely remembers. Goemon and the group save Lupin via elevator, and Goemon splits the Super Egg with his sword. This leads to a reunion between Michael and Isabella. It's touching, aside from Michael's wailing. On paper, this works well. James goes more insane and tries to end the world by pushing random buttons and unleashing the virus on the computers of nations. What a glorious crazy evil madman laugh. Michael's computer blinks to update him on the situation.

Thank God Isabella's still alive, or this would be a major problem. She's bleeding badly, but luckily, her computer brain was passed to Michael... an exact line. Wow. James and his Moe from the Three Stooges haircut are stopped by Lupin and Michael. More random button pushing. Thanks to the magic of pushing random buttons, and one specific one, THE WORLD IS SAVED!  Jigen and Fujiko share a rare hug and James goes out saying "files". Wow. He at least has the good sense to activate the self-destruct function for the building. CONQUER THE UNIVERSE INCORPORATED's building is no more. What a great name for a group to not bring about any police activity. Isabella dies with Michael in her arms. Well, that part I completely forgot. And then they look down at the Statue of Liberty to page homage to her and Michael blames Lupin for her dying. Lupin tries to erase his files. Lupin finally does so, after Fujko wears her most revealing outfit yet. I don't recall this ED song, but I like it a lot.

AV-wise, the picture is about as clear as one can expect. It's certainly a massive upgrade from what I remember the VHS version being like. The music is quite lively, and the dub is very good.This is definitely the best the movie will ever look in a North American release, although I'm sure the Japanese Blu-Ray release has a slightly cleaner picture. The packaging design is excellent, with a beautiful poster image that goes from the front to the back and a new red Lupin III logo on the front. The back features a basic plot rundown, lists it as Special #1 and even includes the Japanese title in Japanese!  Extra features include liner notes from Reed Nelson as per the norm on these releases, and a commentary by Mike Toole of the Anime News Network. It'll be odd to have a commentary track without Reed or Mike and Ryan from 3 Jackets, but I'm interested in hearing Toole's insight into this film. Since Mamo didn't have a commentary track due to having nine billion audio tracks already, and Green vs. Red's was online-only, it's good to have one back on the disc.

The liner notes are incredibly-informative, and this DVD includes the English dub done by Manga UK! I haven't kept up on this release much, and have gotten so used to Discotek's sub-only stuff that this is quite a pleasant surprise. The liner notes talk about the dub cast, including the fact that the actors playing Goemon and Isabella are married, and played Bruce Wayne's parents in Tim Burton's Batman movie - nice! According to more extras, Ryan and Mike will apparently be doing a commentary via their podcast, which should be nice. I really should get around to finally watching Green vs. Red with the commentary by Reed and Luis Cruz. More extras include a little promotional art gallery, and the original Japanese-language preview. The commentary track is informative, as you'd expect with someone from ANN behind it. Hearing Mike Toole talk about the director had me look him up, and sure enough, the same things that were on display here, like the woodcut scenes, that become prevalent in Harimao's Treasure, were his staples - and he directed that special as well as several others.

I'm quite happy with my purchase. For a blind buy I just picked up to have it in my collection, it greatly exceeded my expectations with the English dub and the commentary track. It packs quite a bit of value into its cost, even though it might be easy to scoff at spending $20+ for a single movie on DVD in 2014, it's worth it here. The film is quite fun to watch, and was far better than I remember it being.

Screens -

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