What They Say:
Life and Death at the roll of a die. By bringing her voice to West Doroa, East Doroan singer Queen Malta hoped that she could heal the rift between the two countries. Already a country known for its incredibly low crime rate, East Doroa increases security in preparation for war – but security is nothing for the likes of super-genius thief Lupin The Third! Still when he and partner Jigen Daisuke swipe the Little Comet gemstone from an embassy in East Doroa, it’s a little convenient that the police know their every move. And worse, before they can even make their getaway, the pair find themselves under the crosshairs of a certain hitman – the same one that killed Queen Malta!
Something’s fishy and in order to confirm his suspicions, Jigen visits the cemetery. There he finds himself staring at his own gravestone. It’s a calling card of the sniper, Yael Okuzaki… and no one targeted by him has ever escaped the grave! But why is he only after Jigen and not Lupin? And things only get more complicated with Fujiko around.
The options allow for English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0. Both sounded fine and had no distortions during playback. The English dub does present an interesting mystery though which we’ll discuss more in the ‘content’ section.
This is a Blu-ray release of a 2-part OAV from 2015 and the results are quite nice and clear. Overall colors are bright but there’s a smoky overcast to the general pic at times to give it a crime noir feel. More will be discussed in the ‘content’ section.
There’s a slipcase with the principal characters and their ghostly main villain over a graveyard with a bright red background. The inner cover of the actual Blu-ray case has a reversible cover sheet. The outside front has Lupin and Jigen in color over a grayish background with the title masthead at the bottom in yellow text (as opposed to white on the slipcase). The back has Jigen in the top third with his gun drawn. There is text from the ‘what they said’ section in the middle thirds alongside some screenshots, with technical information taking up the lower thirds, all on top of the black and gray background. The inner side of the cover sheet is a reproduction of the outside slipcase.
Menu: The menu has various scenes from the video, some of which included intermixed computer graphics and shapes from the closing sequence, similar to the opening of a James Bond movie. This takes up the top two-thirds of the picture. The bottom has playback options listed horizontally which can be navigated easily. Music from the ending credits plays continuously in the background.
There’s a recap of the first volume present here, as well as two Japanese trailers and a direct link to the English credits. It’s kind of interesting that the trailer treats this as a theatrical film instead of a 2-part OAV.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For a couple decades now, the animated stories of the Lupin Gang have been somewhat lighter fare, with master thief Arsene Lupin III leading his friends, former mafia gunman Jigen Daisuke and Goemon the Samurai on crazy adventures to either steal something profitable or right some wrong in a generally PG-oriented story with lovely rival thief Fujiko Mine messing with Lupin’s head and relentless Inspector Zeningata giving chase in in Coyote / Road Runner fashion.
In this particular two-part video, however, the fun aspect is more or less out the window in favor or some deadly serious stuff. Lupin and Jigen do go after jewel in the country of … but soon after that, they have to deal with Yael Okuzaki, a deadly hitman with two interesting tendencies: his creation of a tombstone for his intended targets and his using a six-sided die to decide how many shots he will need for a given sanction. Meanwhile, Fujiko infiltrates the same castle to grab something but is promptly caught by some weird men in menacing masks, and place her in a … sexually awkward gladiator contest against a robot with several *ahem* strategically placed drills. Lupin works hard to save both of his friends (while Goemon is absent for this outing) but can he actually pull things off and find out who authorized this contract, especially since Okuzaki has excellent reflexes and incredible firepower at his disposal?
The overall themes of comedy mixed with drama, action, and sexual perversion are all traits of the Lupin stories created by Monkey Punch. All these elements are very present here along with sometimes smokey atmosphere and strategic jazz music. Like I sad earlier, the majority of movies and TV specials veer away from the more adult aspects in lieu of fun times. Things return to their roots for this special, though, much like Daniel Craig’s James Bond films going back to basics for their reboot.
A relatively recent TV series entitled Lupin The Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine embraced the Monkey Punch style (while giving folks an interesting rendition of Fujiko herself). That show’s animation director and character designer Takeshi Koike brought similar production values to Jigen’s Gravestone as overall director, and it works quite well. There are a lot of exaggerated movements and in-your-face visuals throughout when the action sequences kick in, similar to the anime movie Redline, which Koike also worked on. Scriptwriter Yuuya Takahashi provides a good balance of Monkey Punch’s style here and truly provides a couple shockers in the video’s final couple scenes.
The American release is provided by Discotek Media, who are going for their first original dub production, working directly with TMS Entertainment and Bang Zoom Entertainment. This aspect is a bit odd, however. In going through the extensive English credits, I can read about much of the Japanese production staff as well as the English team; so I can see Keith Silverstein and Christina Vee provided good chemistry as Lupin III and Fujiko Mine respectively, and Jamieson K Price is sufficiently snide and menacing as Okuzaki, but nowhere on here is this particular vid’s title character. After a quick search on IMDB, I saw that Dan Woren, the lead voice in the Space Adventure Cobra movie dub, competently provided Jigen’s gruff yet laid back English voice here, but it was strange to not see him mentioned on the credits or anywhere at all on this release. In any case, all the actors here did a pretty good job with their material.
This particular Lupin vid was a great experience to take in as a long-time fan of the franchise, better than many of the recent previous works .It’s tight, lean, and action packed. I’m honestly hoping for some excellent follow-up in future installments because the final moments portend some great things to come. Definitely grab Jigen’s Gravestone if you get the chance.
Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A+
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: .Discotek Media / Eastern Star
Release Date: April 5th, 2016
Running Time: 50 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen
Panasonic 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3