Anime Reviews: Lupin III: Episode 0 First Contact
Slick visuals and jazzy tunes notwithstanding, Episode 0 First Contact is a non-stop action thrill ride sure to please both fans and newbies to the franchise.
Title: Lupin III: Episode 0 First Contact a.k.a. Rupan Sansei Episode 0: "First Contact"
Production: Tokyo Movie Shinsha
Film Length: 92 minutes
Air Dates: 7/26/2002
Age Rating: 13+ (mild violence, mild language, some suggestive content)
Summary: While talking to a local reporter, Jigen Daisuke, Lupin's right-hand man, is urged to tell the story of how he, Lupin, Goemon, Fujiko, and Inspector Zenigata first met. Several years ago, he worked as a bodyguard for a mafia boss named Galvez, who has stored away an ancient artifact called the Cram of Hermes--a tube made of a special metal harder than diamond, said to contain a scroll explaining the alchemical process used to make it. The Cram can only be opened with a special key, and has caught the eye of master thief Lupin III and femme fatale Fujiko Mine. At the same time, Goemon Ishikawa travels the world over, seeking an ancient sword that belonged to his clan, and Inspector Zenigata is called in for information on Fujiko Mine. And from there, the tale of how these people met begins...
The Good: Slick, stylish aesthetics; fast pace and non-stop action make for great, timeless fun
The Bad: Slows down a bit in the third act
The Ugly: Inspector Zenigata's appetite
I'll be blunt: Most Lupin III movies are either average at best or only slightly above-average, and thus aren't really worth my time, with the exceptions of The Castle of Cagliostro (still the best in the series), In Memory of the Walther P38, and this film--all of which are great, fun action-adventure flicks. Spoiler Alert: I really like Episode 0 First Contact. If it weren't for that pesky Hayao Miyazaki and his propensity for making excellent films, this title would be the best in the franchise, but hey, it is what it is. And let's take a look at what it is, shall we?
First things first, this is a very slick-looking film, which surprises me a bit because Tokyo Movie Shinsha aren't always the greatest at crafting high-end visuals, but here, they really pulled it off. If I didn't know any better, I'd guess Studio Madhouse was responsible for this one, but nope! Clean artwork, smooth, at times manic, animation, dark shadows, effective lighting, detailed backdrops...it really has it all. And considering some of the insane stuff that happens in this movie, you can tell the folks at TMS really gave it their all. Kudos to them, because it all looks great.
The music is no slouch, either. Starting things right off with the classic opening theme, as seen here, not only will you notice the slick visuals mentioned earlier, but also the snazzy, jazzy soundtrack that goes with it. With lots of brass, muted trumpets, and 70s-style orchestral stings, this soundtrack just screams "old-school," and I wouldn't have it any other way. The voice acting is a lot of fun, as well, though I do have to complain that Zenigata's voice actor sounds a bit too restrained at times. Oh well. He's still great, but just not all the time.
But what would a Lupin III film be without a big heist, lots of shootouts, backstabbings, comedy, car chases, extremely ludicrous escapes, and Fujiko being sultry? Not this movie, that's for sure! Take every trope you love about 80s action films, turn it up to 11, throw in a bunch of instantly-likable characters, and you've got Episode 0 First Contact. And if you're afraid of checking out the film because you don't know anything about the Lupin III franchise, then you're in luck--because this film is strictly an origin story of sorts, even a complete newbie to the series can watch it with no trouble whatsoever. Add to that several new characters that I found extremely enjoyable (especially the flamboyant police director, Crawford, and the irritable gunman, Shade), and you're looking at a movie that delivers non-stop fun. Well, mostly, anyway.
Really, the only problem I could find is that the third act feels a bit off-kilter and slower than the rest of the film. Basically, it's the part of the story where Goemon becomes heavily featured, and while it builds to a fast and furious (and hilarious) chase sequence, it feels like it takes a little too long to get there. This is a really, really minor point, and by the time you get there, you're already too sucked-in to care about a few minutes of slowdown, but the fact remains that it's there. And now we all have to deal with it. Like a fun night of backgammon (or whatever it is you humans do for fun) being briefly interrupted by a moderately-smelly fart.
Fart aside, the point is that you're having fun, and once the fart dissipated, you simply continued backing your gammons for the rest of the night. It's the same here--Episode 0 First Contact is an incredibly fun film that continues bringing you joy despite any farts in the room. I don't even know what I'm talking about anymore, that's how much fun I was having. And if you're an anime fan and you've been looking for a great action anime to check out, you can't go wrong with this film at all. Unless you fart while watching it, I guess? No, not even that will ruin your fun!
Final Score: 9.5 out of 10. Whether it's a high-tension shootout or an all-out ridiculous car chase, Lupin III: Episode 0 First Contact is a fast, action-packed ride sure to please fans of the franchise, as well as anyone else looking for a fun time.