The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Lupin III Episode 0: First Contact

Title: Lupin III Episode 0: First Contact
Genre: Action/Comedy
Company: TMS Entertainment
Format: Movie; 91 minutes.
Dates: 26 Jul 2002

Synopsis: A reporter, striving to find the man Arsene Lupin III behind the legend, meets with Jigen Daisuke to find out what the famous thief is really like. Jigen relates to her the story of how he met Lupin for the first time when he was still a hitman for the New York mafia and Lupin was on the quest for a legendary, indestructible steel… and how Fujiko, Zenigata and Goemon also got into this mess.

The Highlights
Plot: Great start into the “Lupin” world.
Pacing: Perfect blend of action and comedy.
Side characters: Many opportunities to shine.
Logic: Opposition flip-flops between brilliant and dumb.
Plot: Goemon’s introduction differs from the series.

Who hasn’t heard of Arséne Lupin the Third, famous thief, infamous Ladies’ man? With two lengthy series, several TV specials and even a movie by the legendary Miyazaki Hayao, it’s quite hard to make up a new story that hasn’t been told already and is able to keep up with the best of the franchise, namely Miyazaki‘s wonderful Castle of Cagliostro and the exceptionally dark and gloomy In Memory Of The Walther P38. So is First Contact doomed to be some sort of automatic failure? Far from it!

First Contact brilliantly manages to tell an entirely new story by telling the very old story of how Lupin, Jigen and all the others met for the first time, making this movie into the perfect start for anybody who wants to have his own “first contact” with the world of Lupin III. All characters are introduced really well in personality and style, and it’s difficult not to relate to any of them the moment you see them hit the screen. The movie introduces Lupin’s general crush on beautiful women, Jigen’s overall coolness, Fujiko’s love of double-crossing, Goemon’s relationship with his trusty Zantetsu sword and Zenigata’s affiliation with Interpol. Just what you need for a start.

Cramming all of this into a single movie would normally not leave any room for a real plot, but surprisingly, First Contact shines even in this respect. The hunt for the legendary indestructible steel acts as the one focus that brings everybody together just works, and works well. Everything is, as you would expect of a Lupin movie, stuffed with outrageous action sequences and a great humor which permeates each and every scene except for a few serious moments that really add to the story. In terms of entertainment, there are only a few movies that can match First Contact.

Still, the story is far from shallow, and that is because for the first time in a single Lupin movie, all the characters are allowed to shine. Even Goemon and Fujiko who normally provide little beyond outrageous action and fanservice have important parts in the plot, and Jigen and Zenigata get almost the same screen time as Lupin himself. There have been Lupin movies which focused on one of the side characters before, but never anything like this.

First Contact could have been a close-to-perfect action movie, but unfortunately, there are still a few minor flaws, mostly because of the way the opposition is depicted here. Jigen’s rival Shade is shown as a dangerous, calculating man whose only weakness is his aggressive temper during most of the movie – and then makes a blunder near the end in totally underestimating a known enemy in his back which doesn’t really fit his character. And the mafia boss both he and Jigen work for manages to successfully double-cross Lupin – only to be humilitated a minute later when actually does what Lupin tells him to do and literally smacks into one of the thief’s traps. Way too inconsistent.

And talking about inconsistencies, there’s also the introduction of Goemon. While it’s one of the really nice moments of the movie, it’s inconsistent with how everybody’s favorite swordsman was introduced during the first TV series. Now you basically have two different stories of how Goemon got to know the others, and even though the ending is a bit tongue-in-cheek, there’s no way of telling which is the real story.

First Contact is probably the second best Lupin movie so far, almost up to par with Castle of Cagliostro, and it’s certainly the best movie for newcomers into the world of the master thief and his friends. If you’re into action or comedy anime, or if you just like good entertainment, this is among the best you can watch.

The Rating: 9
9/10

Reviewed by: Taleweaver

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