Saturday, July 18, 2009

In short: Lupin III - The Fuma Conspiracy (1987)

Everyone's favorite thief with a heart of (solid, stolen) gold, Lupin III, is thought dead by his old police nemesis Inspector Zenigata. While the cop is determined to spend the rest of his life as a Buddhist priest, the very much alive looking Lupin is attending the wedding of his samurai friend Goemon to a school girl named Murasaki (patriarchal rule number one: marry 'em early before they develop enough of a backbone to say "no").

Marrying into Murasaki's Suminawa clan is not without its problems, though, as is proven when a group of jet-pack wearing ninjas with a deplorable love for olive green uniforms crashes the wedding to steal the vase Goemon has to protect to earn his schoolgirl marrying rights. Said vase is supposed to contain the key to a hidden treasure - as it later turns out in a very literal sense - and the evil ninja of the Fuma clan have been looking for it for 400 years now.

Goemon and friends successfully protect the vase, but lose Murasaki to the ninja in the process. There's a maiden to rescue and a treasure to steal, both things that fit perfectly well into Lupin's job description, so it does not take long until the thief and his gang (including the already rescued Murasaki) stumble through a trapped cave system searching for the treasure while trying to evade the ninja and a re-instated Zenigata.

The Fuma Conspiracy is the infamous Lupin film where the initial voice cast of the TV show and earlier films was fired and replaced by less successful actors to cut costs. I'd be more up in arms about it if I'd actually registered much of a difference in quality between the two acting troupes, but everyone does good enough work (says me, someone whose knowledge of the Japanese language is rather non-existent, which obviously makes me an expert on such matters) to not let the shady business decision ruin the film.

If you are able to ignore a certain ickiness in the relationship between Murasaki and Goemon (who is emotionally so stunted that he isn't even able to kiss his bride, a fact that makes the "marrying a schoolgirl" business somewhat more appropriate, since he it's hard to see Goemon as an adult), The Fuma Conspiracy is very much 80s Lupin by numbers, which is to say it is insanely entertaining if you like things like bizarre death traps, enthusiastic car chases right through a hot spring or ninjas with jet packs. It's all presented at exactly the right pace for the rather thin plot - that is, a very fast one - yet never ignores the necessity to slow down for little moments of whimsy from time to time.

The Fuma Conspiracy is not as varied a Lupin film as Miyazaki's Castle of Cagliostro and feels more professional than it does inspired, but it still is an excellent way to get one's fix of basically good-natured adventure anime without mopey boys as protagonists.


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