New on Blu, LUPIN III: THE FIRST Just Might Be the Best Animated Film of 2020

The beloved gentlemen thief and friends captivate in an incredible new animated adventure

Already available digitally, Lupin III: The First arrives on Blu-ray this week from GKIDS and Shout! Factory.

Lupin III: The First is a new film in the long-running franchise starring the charming gentleman thief Lupin (it’s French, rhymes with “coupon”) the Third, grandson of famed Arsène Lupin. The film features Lupin’s usual supporting cast of pals and sidekicks: rugged gunslinger Jigen, stoic samurai Goemon, gorgeous cat burglar Fujiko, and tenacious Inspector Zenigata, Lupin’s longtime adversary/ally who doggedly chases him across the globe — even though they often end up temporarily working together to take down bigger foes.

The franchise’s first big budget CG film is utterly beautiful, and by design a terrific jumping-on point for anyone new to the franchise, including kids. Lupin’s adventures have covered a lot of ground over the years including both family friendly adventures like the Miyazaki-directed Castle of Cagliostro and heavier R-rated fare (the camera has always loved to ogle the ultra-sexy Fujiko, and Lupin himself has sometimes been depicted as lecherous), The First is an all-ages affair, emphasizing extraordinary adventures and laughs rather than adult-oriented themes. While unrated, it’s roughly a PG in content terms: a few “damns” and “hells” and some violence and innuendo.

Stunningly animated, the film perfectly captures the franchise’s whimsically comical movements, body language, and facial expressions in the new medium. The globe-trotting adventure pairs Lupin with a new partner, Laetitia, as the two uncover interconnected ties from their families’ pasts. The post-WWII-set tale centers on the Bresson Diary, a mysterious locked journal which holds the secret to finding and operating an ancient superweapon. It’s up to the gang to race against Laetitia’s former organization, a cultlike brotherhood with ties to the Nazis and perhaps even a still-living Hitler.

Lupin III: The First is incredibly fun and hands down one of my favorite films of the (admittedly lackluster) year. The film is sort of James Bond meets Indiana Jones series, and tips its hat to the similarly plotted Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, including a riff on the trials of the Holy Grail.

The Package

Lupin III: The Third arrives in two Blu-ray editions, a standard version which was my source for this review (mine came with a slipcover), and a Steelbook. I don’t usually have a strong preference as packaging formats in and of themselves are concerned, but this is a case where the artwork on the Steelbook is just stunningly gorgeous and easily the preferable choice (though it costs a few bucks more).

Special Features and Extras

● English Cast Roundtable (33:46)
The English voice cast, several returning from prior Lupin III roles, met remotely to discuss their experience with the film. Rather than a Zoom recording or similar format, the featurette producers opted for a novel visualization in which each speaker is displayed as an avatar which is highlighted as they speak.

● Director and Japanese Cast Interviews (33:46)

● CG Model Gallery (12:39)

● Animation Breakdown (18:11)
This is pretty great — an analysis of the animation process on the journey from storyboarding to pre-viz to final rendering.

● Yellow Carpet Premiere (1:19)
Clip from the premiere at Toho Cinemas Roppongi, November 11 2019.

● Theatrical Trailers (10:23) and International Spots (:39)

A/V Out.

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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

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