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Lupin the 3rd – The Secret of Mamo Anime DVD Review

8 min read

Closer in style and tone to the original manga, this is not your Miyazaki’s Lupin.

What They Say:
The world’s most wanted master thief, Lupin the Third is dead! Despite a coroner’s report, Inspector Zenigata is skeptical and discovers that Lupin is actually alive and well and stealing! But who had set up Lupin’s death and why? Meanwhile, Fujiko is lured by the promise of eternal youth and beauty by the mad scientist know as Mamo. Pursuing Fujiko leads Lupin and his gang to Mamo’s hideaway, where they discover the madman’s dark secret and a fiendish scheme that threatens the entire planet! Now, it’s up to Lupin to stop the insane Mamo – before he can complete his 10,000-year-old plans of world domination.

The Review:
For my first viewing session, I listened to the Japanese audio track. Since this is the first time I have heard the original, I have no other release to compare it against. However, the track sounded fabulous; there were no dropouts, distortions, or other problems present. The dialogue was sharp and clear, and the action sequences were great for a mono track. It was a delight to finally hear this classic in its original form.

My second viewing session gave the English 5.1 audio track a chance to prove itself against the dubs that came before it. The actual English dub script will be discussed in the content section; the audio itself presented some amazing soundstage effects, especially during the helicopter sequence.

Pioneer’s cast did a good job capturing the characters; the only voice I did not care for was Zenigata’s. Zengiata sounded more like a redneck cliché than a grizzled police detective. The Streamline cast remains my favorite English cast for this title, but the Pioneer cast is not too far behind. Overall, both sub and dub fans will be pleased with their audio experience.

After years of watching the Streamline VHS release, this release is stunning, especially considering the film was made back in 1978. Pioneer presents us with a brand-new anamorphic print straight from TMS, the Japanese licensor. While the film does show its age in places, the transfer provides solid colors with no noticeable problems related to the digital conversion process.

As with the TV series, the licensor made some video edits to the print provided to Pioneer. The only notable edit is the removal of a Justice League image; the rest of the edits remove some food and beverage logos. Unless you know what to look for, you are not likely to spot what logos were erased as TMS did a very good job removing them from the print. A list of edits can be viewed at

While it is unfortunate that TMS altered the print, the changes are minor and do not distract from the film itself. The animation itself may not be to the liking of fans used to modern anime, but they will find few flaws in the transfer to complain about.

The disc comes packaged in a clear Alpha keepcase. The front cover features a collage of the characters set against a bright orange background. At the top, a large, silver version of the familiar Pioneer “Lupin the 3rd” logo appears along with a circular silver tag indicating that this is “The Movie”. “The Secret of Mamo” appears in red, three-dimensional shaded letters below the logo. At the bottom is a quote from the Los Angeles Times with a silver bar below that informing you that this is “The Full-Length Theatrical Feature”.

When compared to the old Streamline cover, Pioneer’s front cover looks amateurish in comparison. The bright orange background is garish and harsh. It looks like someone just did a quick and dirty job in Photoshop. The logo and cover retains the overall marketing feel Pioneer is using for the second TV series; however, the content of Mamois different in tone than the second TV series, and the cover just does not work well for my tastes.

The back cover looks fine as it uses a black background. On the back cover, a few screenshots and a synopsis of the film can be found. Taking up the rest of the back are the DVD specifications along with credits for the original Japanese staff. The credits are rendered to give them a “Hollywood studio film” feel providing a nice touch.

When you open the case, the reverse side of the cover features a panoramic scene of Lupin and the gang posing with his 1928 Mercedes-Benz SSK. The scene is set against a solid yellow background and features the logo from the front cover in the lower left-hand corner. Again, the background is just too bright and garish for my tastes; the actual scene is great and would have benefited from a softer background color.

Included with the DVD is a booklet; the front cover of the booklet is nearly identical to the front cover of the DVD while the back cover contains the chapter listings. Inside the booklet are translations of most of the pages from the original Japanese movie program. In the corner of each page is a small picture of the program pages that were translated. Having owned the Japanese program but not able to fully read it, it is not only a great piece of packaging but is a fantastic extra as well.

The main menu was nice and simple allowing you to get setup and into the film quickly. Various clips are playing around the menu options while a piece of classic Lupin background music is playing. Sub-menus are static and contain no music; the transitions between menus are quick. Overall, the menu matches the style and tone of the film perfectly.

Pioneer has provided a decent set of extras for the film. There is a gallery containing twenty-seven pieces of conceptual art. The original coroner’s report is also included in the extras section. The scene retains the original Japanese dialogue being typed on the screen and subtitles it.

Why this was included as an extra and not placed in the film itself is a bit of a mystery. The video looks sharp, and the subtitles fit well and did not obscure the scene; it could have easily been placed into the film as an alternate angle or via DVD branching. But, I cannot complain too much as the footage is not completely lost to us.

The last film related extras are contained in the “Film Promotion” section. This section contains ten images; the first is the original movie poster done by Monkey Punch. The remaining nine images are from the movie program sold during the theatrical run. They are small images capturing two pages at a time; the whole program is not present but leaves only four pages out.

The page containing the voice actors was blown up and had the names of the actors in English along with the character they played. It was an unexpected and classy touch. The program pages are translated in the booklet making this bit of packaging a part of the extras.

Content:(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Transylvania… Lupin has been captured and hanged to death; the coroner’s report confirms that down to the DNA level this was the real Lupin the Third. However, Zenigata refuses to believe Lupin is dead and drives to a castle to view the body. He then proceeds to drive a stake through the heart of Lupin’s corpse. The corpse explodes, and Zenigata comes face to face with… Lupin?!

Lupin is surprised by this turn of events but has no time to chat with Zenigata. He is off to Egypt to retrieve the “Philosopher’s Stone” from the pharaoh’s pyramid. Fujiko has promised to exchange a date with her for the stone. Lupin succeeds in his theft but is double-crossed by Fujiko. As Fujiko hands over the stone to her mysterious employer, she finds out that Lupin has double-crossed her by handing over a fake stone containing a transmitter.

Fujiko’s employer is Mamo, a man obsessed with immortality. What follows is a wild chase through Paris, the Caribbean, and Columbia to discover Mamo’s secret. Is Mamo immortal as he claims? Is Lupin even the real Lupin?

If you are expecting to see the Lupin from Cagliostro, you are going to be in for a bit of a disappointment. Secret of Mamo was the first animated Lupin film, and it adheres more to the tone and style of the original manga. So, is it worth watching?

My answer would be “yes”. At least, the film is worth watching until you reach the final ten minutes. Up to that point, the film has a solid plot that pits Lupin against a foe that manages to get into Lupin’s head, figuratively and literally. The characterization is fantastic as well; instead of a happy-go-lucky band of thieves, each member of the gang has a more hard-edged, human feel. There are some spots were the narrative drags a bit, but the film moves along at a good pace.

Unfortunately, this is ruined in the final ten minutes by the unveiling of a standard science fiction cliché. To this day, my head still shakes with disbelief at how the film ends; it is just unsatisfying and a bit illogical. Despite the ending, the film treads into territory that Lupin does not normally go and does a decent job of it.

Mamo has now had four distinct English dubs produced for it – a 1978 dub for trans-Atlantic flights, Streamline’s dub back in the ’90s, a UK dub, and now Pioneer’s dub. Having heard all but the UK dub, it was interesting to hear how Pioneer’s English script sounded compared to the rest.

Sadly, the Pioneer dub was a chore to listen to from start to finish. It adds an enormous amount of profanity, changes dialogue, and even adds dialogue where there was none before. At times, the alterations completely changed the tone of a scene. Some of the added jokes and one-liners were just unnecessary and did not work as well as the original dialogue.

The 1978 dub took a literal approach to the English dialogue and came off stiff and stilted. Pioneer’s dub goes to the opposite pole and tries too hard to make the dialogue hip and modern. Streamline’s dub managed to sit nicely in the middle by retaining most of the literal meaning while punching up the script in places.

With the good job done by the voice cast, the dub had me wishing that Pioneer had aimed more for the target Streamline put in place. At the end of the day, most dub fans will not care about these changes; they fit the style that Pioneer has developed with the TV series.

In Summary:
Mamo remains one of my favorite Lupin films; if you want to get a taste of the original manga, this is the title to watch. While not the most action-oriented Lupin title, it is an interesting and enjoyable film that takes our favorite band of thieves in directions not often seen.

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: A-

Released By: Geneon Entertainment
Release Date: July 29th, 2003
MSRP: $29.98
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment
Mitsubishi 27″ TV, Pioneer DVL-919, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and audio cable.

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