Lupin The Third
Episode 0: The First Encounter
Produced for the 30th annivarsary of the series, Lupin The Third Episode 0: The First Contact, tells the story of how the diverse group of sometimes allies first found each other.
Master thief Lupin is out to steal the Clam of Helmeth, a cylindrical object made of a metal that is said to be stronger than diamond. Inside the clam is a scroll with the instructions on how to make this indestructible metal.
This being the 30th anniversary production, you are assumed to know the characters and their relationships. If you don’t, it’s not hard to figure out as they are larger-than-life archetypes, with highly defined and straight forward characterizations.
Lupin has two primary strengths. The first is an endless supply of new magical gadgets (the one real concession to fantasism in an otherwise real-word setting). He’s not unlike James Bond in this way, which, given the fact that the show started in the late ’60s, is probably no coincidence.
Lupin’s second strength is his ability to make people underestimate him. His wacky personal and flamboyant style hide a cunning strategist
Lupin has one other positive trait that helps him in this movie, and that’s a lack of arrogance. He recognizes superior skills in others, and rather than try to beat them, he seeks to join them. Accomplishing acts of great thievery is a pride and joy to Lupin, one he is happy to share with worthy partners.
Jigen is the mob gunman who was hired to guard the Clam. Lupin manages to escape Jigen’s attack; which captivates Jigen because Lupin is the first real challenge he’s ever had. Lupin is equally intrigued, though in his case it’s by the potential value of Jigen as an ally. Jigen’s quest to face Lupin again put him at odds with the Clam’s owner, the mob boss Galvez, putting both Lupin and Jigen on the same side against a common enemy.
Fujiko is a mercenary. Through out the series she joins Lupin and company on their capers, but invariably tries to double cross him at the end, taking the loot for herself. She attracts Lupin’s attention both because of his appreciation for her skills, but also his love of beautiful women. Fujiko comes to see the depth of skill possessed by Lupin, and concludes that hanging around such a successful thief will provide amble opportunities to steal in the future.
The last member of the gang is Goemon, who also has the smallest role in the film. He’s an old-fashioned samurai, steeped in the code of Bushido, he’s interested in the metal for its use as a sword material. Jigen has a similar reaction to Goemon as he did to Lupin, in that he is interested to find a true challenger; though in Goemon’s case, it comes with more respect, perhaps because of Goemon’s more serious tone.
The First Contact is a well plotted caper film. The execution of the thefts are creative and unpredictable. The overall plot is well paced, and allows all the protagonists to have their own arcs and moments. The one aspect of character development that’s explored in the movie is the motivations of what drew the characters together, and it’s done in a believable way, mostly driven by professional respect and self interest.
Video and audio quality are solid on this disc from Eastern Star / Discotek. Video is in 4:3 (this being a TV special, that’s its OAR) and is uncut with the original Japanese credits. Audio is Japanese only, with optional subtitles.