What They Say:
In this volume, the always cool and sophisticated Lupin overcomes numerous perils along with his associates Fujiko, Goemon and Jigen. Lupin and his gang are robbed, beaten, jailed and entrapped by villains, officials…even seemingly benevolent billionaires! At each twist and turn they rely on Lupin’s resilience and strategy to stay alive; but this time around, Lupin’s invincibility is constantly tested. With this kind of pressure, how long can Lupin keep his cool and stay alive?
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the English dub, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. Considering its age, it’s a very well kept piece that’s done up essentially in mono, though enough of the sounds are played through both stereo speakers. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and there weren’t any noticeable dropouts. These tracks aren’t going to be real high usage for directionality compared to today’s new releases, but this is definitely prime material from its time, which is what I want.
Originally airing in 1978, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Animated by Tokyo Movie Shinsha, the transfer for these episodes continues much like we’ve seen previously, which means that they look surprisingly good for their age and have only some minor issues. The only thing that I can bring myself to complain about with the actual transfer is that some of the scenes are a bit grainy at times, but that’s normal for the source materials and would look worse if it was likely cleaned up. Colors are solid without being over saturated, though there are brightness shifts inherent in older shows. Cross coloration is non-existent and aliasing is extremely low.
Changing the design a bit, the big ugly logo is minimized and put to the upper left corner and interestingly enough they provide a second logo on the background, though this one is just standard text it does look better. The images this time go with the three leading men as a trio of split images, each of them done with a bit of style and flair with the color and shadows. The bottom of the cover has the branded volume name, this time with The Flying Sword The back cover provides several animation shots from the show as well as a brief paragraph describing the premise. The episode titles are listed as well as the discs features and production credits. No insert was included with this release. On the downside, there’s no volume numbering listed here nor are episode numbers provided. While the show is definitely very episodic, I still think it’s a mistake to not include at least the volume numbering somewhere.
A new menu is set for this volume and it’s nicely done though I think I prefer the first one a bit more. Done in almost a shadow box like format, you get what looks like an unfolded piece of paper that has the selections and titles in various boxes while a shadow image of Goemon is across one of them while some of the action music plays along. Access times are nice and fast and with little here beyond the episodes, getting around is nice and easy. Unfortunately the players’ language presets were not honored and the track dumped into an English audio with no subtitles.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Bad Lupin is typically the stranger Lupin episodes, such as the first one on the disc. Lupin finds himself the target of a particularly strange Madame who wants to add him to her collection. Her collection is a wax museum of sorts of famous and interesting people of recent times and includes such noteworthy people as Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Kennedy… you get the picture. Lupin’s sufficiently famous and she intends to capture the gang to add to her collection. Her collection isn’t quite normal though even for a wax museum as what she does is take the actual person and coat them in a special wax. So the joke goes a bit further because of that but there’s only so many times you can use these people for various gags. The Madam and those who work with her are strange and weird people and they use nothing that seems like it would even fit in this world’s amusing version of science. There are definitely some good funny moments but the story is just plain awful.
Unfortunately, it gets worse before it gets better. The follow-up episode to that features Lupin and the others, already captured by Zenigata, ambushed and abducted because they know the location of a slew of diamonds. Refusing to answer, they’re kept to their skivvies and held hostage until they talk. They were expected to talk quickly though because the bad guys in this desert-based tale have one really amazing weapon – a suicide-beam weapon. Whenever you get hit with it, you want to commit suicide and do it on the spot. The only side effect, besides being dead, is that your skin turns purple first. Naturally, such strangely willed people as Lupin and Jigen will find a way around it but the entire concept of the suicide beam just negates anything else in this episode, not that there was anything that could have possibly raised it up.
Things look up in a rather amusing episode that has Goemon and Jigen being seduced by the sound of a bell in a tiny little German style town that’s not even on the map and their minds become blank slates in some big psychology experiment that’s being used to draw Lupin into its trap. Under the guidance of a pawn named Sister Lavinius, Lupin goes to rescue his friends only to find that they’re now very calm and peaceful folks who only want a simple life and to do good things for the sister who watches over the town. Naturally, Lupin doesn’t fit in well here as he tries to discover what kind of control this woman has over his friends and the entire town which leads to some very Prisoner-like circumstances in a few places. These kinds of episodes are fun just to see Lupin working on his own to save his friends as well as getting to see Jigen without his hat or shades for so long and generally looking even stranger that way.
Another fun episode is one that takes place in the States. These episodes tend to be amusing just because of some of the things that they accentuate from the Japanese point of view though it’s all skewed anyway. Lupin finds himself setup through Fujiko into stealing a millionaires money as he’s the type that gives away a ton to charities but is looking to get beyond that. There’s a double and triple cross of sorts that goes on here as Fujiko finds herself on the outs as well as the millionaire is working an amusing scheme to get himself and the money out of the country and it involves a lot of holograms and tricking people into doing things that they don’t want to do. I just loved the visuals of the gang with a big hose emptying out a massive pile of money in an underground pool. It was like watching some weird version of Richie Rich or Uncle Scrooge.
Even when it’s bad I admit to still finding Lupin funny since he himself is what makes the show so much fun, as do the other characters. So even when the stories aren’t up to snuff, watching him deal with it usually more than makes up for it. The mix of episodes on this release are pretty varied with a few stinkers and some good stuff but there’s even a difference of how you can enjoy them depending on the language since the English track is still a bit racier and more light-profanity ridden. But still… suicide beams? I’ll give you on the 60′ tall Fujiko but suicide beams? C’mon…
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Geneon Entertainment
Release Date: October 11th, 2005
Running Time: 150 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.