LUPIN THE THIRD: THE FIRST gets 7.5/ 10 Once a thief

Directed by Takashi Yamazaki

Starring Tony Oliver, Michelle Ruff, Lex Lang, Richard Epcar


Marking the first time that the loveable rogue has appeared in CGI on the big screen, Lupin The Third: The First taps into the rich tradition that has carried the character through manga, TV series, and multiple film adaptations for decades. This adventure sees Lupin (voiced by Tony Oliver) attempt to carry on his grandfather’s (the French fictional literary character, Arsene Lupin) legacy of being “the world’s greatest thief,” as he races against Nazis to unlock the secret of an incredible treasure.

Director Takashi Yamazaki has made quite a business of late adapting manga to the big screen (Space Battleship Yamato, Parasyte, Stand By Me Doraemon), and proves a safe pair of hands for Monkey Punch’s beloved character. Yamazaki demonstrates an understanding of the characters and the group dynamics of Lupin’s band of misfits. All of them get moments appropriate for the character, be it Fujiko’s (Michelle Ruff) slyly self-serving treachery, or Goemon’s (Lex Lang) samurai pride being tested, it is completely in keeping with what a fan could want with the series. However it is also slightly updated to the modern era, downplaying the more troubling aspects to the characters, such as Lupin’s lechery, which is often cringeworthy in the original series.

Yamazaki also excels at those big moments of spectacular action and adventure that define the pulp adventure of the series. Here, the beautifully rendered CG allows for some breathtaking moments to be conveyed by the frequent chases, fights, and death defying escapes. It also captures the slapstick comedy elements of the show, with a wondrous freedom of movement, from the spot-on character designs. Where it struggles is in the facial animation, which looks a little jarring and not quite fluid enough to do the designs justice. Hence Lupin the Third: The First struggles in some of the more emotive moments, never reaching the quiet emotional grandeur of Lupin the 3rd: Castle of Cagliostro, the high watermark of the series , that it was always going to be compared to.

Still, Lupin the Third: The First marks a strong entry into the gentleman thief’s list of exploits, and provides enough thrills and spills to be entertaining. Probably of more appeal to established anime fans than a breakout hit, this feels like a film that will gain popularity in years to come as it gets repeated screenings, just for it’s sheer entertainment value.