Friday, September 4, 2015

Lupin The 3rd: Jigen's Gravestone Review (English)

I'M BACK!!! Ok... Technically, I wrote this one up back in May, but I said I wasn't going to have reviews until September so here it is now! Really the only reason why I looked at it months ago was that it was actually on my mind and I didn't want to forget about it later. Another reason is because, considering today's film, I am still a complete newbie to the Lupin the 3rd franchise. Since I did enjoy Woman Called Fujiko Mine, and this one uses the same art style and character designs, I wanted to give it a try! But there's an even more interesting reason I'm taking a look and you will see why...

Lupin the 3rd: Jigen's Gravestone is fifty two minute film set as a side story, of sorts, of Lupin the 3rd: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. Directed by Takeshi Koike and produced by Telecom Animation Film, it is currently available in North America through Discotek Media, and is up for legal streaming in the U.S. thanks to Hulu.

Lupin and Jigen have their sights set on a treasure worth stealing called the Little Comet which is located in the country of East Doroa. The country has fortified it's border after a singer named Queen Malta got assassinated in the neighboring country of West Doroa upon visit. Despite the two countries being enemies, Lupin and Jigen still plan to steal the treasure. During the heist, Jigen is almost killed by a skilled sniper named Yael Okuzaki. His specialty is preparing tombstones for his targets before executing his kills. It's said that no one has ever survived after Yael makes a grave for that target.

Since we have the same animation coming in from Fujiko Mine, there's not a whole lot to really talk about for Jigen's Gravestone. However, if you missed out on my review of the former, then here's a slight recap. It's very much stylized compared to other Lupin iterations. While much of the animation can look very beautiful when it really wants to, it also has a much more gritty texture and tone to it. Because, essentially, the same production team behind Fujiko is behind this film, it makes me happy to see this style appear once again and as a part of this Lupin universe. Something that I do have to note, is color choice. Now, one of the larger debates in regards to Lupin is which version of the character is better: the green jacket version or the red jacket version. I honestly don't know why that is a thing, but that's just my lack of Lupin knowledge speaking. Jigen's Gravestone does something a little different here in regards to that debate by putting Lupin in a blue jacket and Jigen in green. Mind you, in this universe, this is a green jacket Lupin, so switching the color choice to Jigen is an interesting and bold move. How I see it, it's meant to place more focus on Jigen rather than Lupin. As the central, and titular, character of this film, taking the well known color we see on Lupin and giving it to Jigen makes the focus much more noticeable. Even with Lupin still as the main character, I believe it to be an added little touch in order to draw attention elsewhere. Soundtrack wise, we have a different composer for the film. But it's ok, cause it's the same guy who composed the Redline soundtrack. They managed to keep it relatively similar to the Fujiko Mine soundtrack, so I see little problem, but it's nothing really worth noting since I actually don't remember the soundtrack much at all.

Technically, the story is separated into two parts that make the fifty-ish minute film so it's basically if we were to take a two episode approach from a normal series. That means, since he is the title character, this film is all about Jigen, right? Yes and no. Jigen is at the center of a fairly complex story, however we don't follow him as we should a main character. In fact, he's in part one and maybe a quarter in the second part. This is a Lupin film, of course Lupin is the one we follow. That kinda makes the title and basic summery a little bit misleading to those who may just go off of them, like myself. With that little bit out of the way, how is the actual story? Like I said, it's reminiscent of a two parter that you would see in a series rather than making it into a full fledged theatrical film. Because of this, it does have it's set backs. One of the larger ones is that not everything that you want in the story will be able to fit in there. There will be bits and pieces that are either left unexplained or they could be just given a small five seconds of "oh hey, it was this!" in order to make sure the truly necessary story pieces were included. Jigen's Gravestone manages to do what it can with the small amount of time, but it's rather clear it could do much more if given more time to play and develop the story and characters.

There's really only four characters to discuss here, so let's take this one at a time. Getting Lupin and Fujiko out of the way first sounds pretty good to me! Fujiko doesn't really have anything new or exciting to add to her character, and she's not even in the film all that much to begin with. It's more like Fujiko is a convenient piece in order to give us plot development as she does end up giving Lupin what he needs in terms of information. You know, just dropped into his lap. Lupin, himself, also doesn't have much change for his character. He's still the same clever and amusing human being we've all known and loved, though there is a slight difference between him and his counterpart in Fujiko Mine. There's actually a little less humor and goofiness to him. Even when he interacts with Fujiko, it's not as a love struck puppy of sorts but more like seeing an old friend that you wanna be with, but the other party is just distant. It's just a little odd since this is supposed to be the same Lupin from the same universe as it's proceeding anime series. Yael's character is pretty straight forward, an assassin who gets paid to kill people and also has his little habits and quirks about him like his choice of suit and dice rolling determining how many shots it will take to kill his target. We don't learn anything outside of rumors and speculation which works for this film. If it were a longer film or even a series, we may have been given more time to learn about his character. Honestly, giving Yael the one off character role here works in the film's favor quite a bit. As for Jigen, there isn't much more to really add to his character outside of what we already know from Fujiko Mine. Something that we do get from him is the first time we actually see Jigen hesitant or maybe even afraid. More so because there's a guy who can possibly out gun him, but still. As someone who is known as the best gunman, I can imagine that it would be interesting seeing someone else that could take you down. Kinda like a security blanket, if you will. The title of best gunman helps Jigen know he's safe because he can defend himself, but if someone else were to appear who was better than he is, he could end up dead. It's an intriguing notion, and it's nice to see that here in this Lupin universe.

Silverstein going from twisted Johan to lovable Lupin?
I'm perfectly fine with this!
Remember that other thing I said I found interesting about this film at the beginning of this review? Well, there's actually a dub attached to this one. The first one that Discotek Media has ever produced themselves. Believe me, that's a real surprise! Then again, since they do primarily have the license to a lot of Lupin things, it was bound to happen eventually. I should state now that it isn't the same dub cast as Fujiko Mine. The only person even reprising his role for Jigen's Gravestone is Richard Epcar as Zenigata.... And only for fifteen seconds. I kid you not. Also, Goemon does not make an appearance, so don't expect samurai fun times. Otherwise, it's a new cast under a different director. Can I just say that I never realized that Kirk Thornton also directed the Naruto and Bleach dubs? Cause I never even noticed until I was looking into this film. Just saying. The direction from Thornton and the writing from Clark Cheng are solid and manage to make the film flow rather well. On the voice acting front, Christina Vee (Sailor Moon, Magi) plays femme fatale Fujiko, and it's basically a Michelle Ruff impression because it sounds so similar that people have confused her to be Ruff. Personally, I'm not sure if I would take that as a compliment or a diss because as nice as it is to be praised and compared to your predecessor, I also wouldn't mind standing out for my own portrayal of the role. But I think Vee makes a solid Fujiko, that's for sure. Jamieson Price (Gankutusuou, Fate/Zero) takes on the antagonist Yael and does so rather well, giving a nice contrast to our heroes's performances. Speaking of heroes, here's something I honestly never expected: Keith Silverstein (Monster, Coppelion) as Lupin himself. Uhh..... What? This is new, and I like it! While the vocal quality is obviously different than Sonny Strait's version from Fujiko Mine, Silverstein's also isn't as goofy. We have a more serious Lupin that has a few little comedic moments in Jigen's Gravestone, and Silverstein's version is a wonderful fit. As for the question of which version do I prefer.... I can't pick between Silverstein and Strait. Both have their qualities that bring out Lupin's character in both versions, and picking the favorite is something I just can't do. What I CAN do is say that this version of Jigen slightly out does Christopher Sabat's version in Fujiko. Sorry, Sabat, you're still a badass, though... Now here's an interesting question: who is even voicing Jigen?!?!?! At the time of writing this, in May, no one has taken credit for it. In fact, the only english voice actors to have either stepped forward or been noticed are Silverstein, Vee, Price, and Epcar. It's rather irritating, though I know that I have heard this voice actor somewhere before. After some thinking and some digging, I think it's humanly possible that this is Dan Woren (Bleach, Paranoia Agent) taking on the iconic gunslinger (UPDATE: it is Woren). It's a slight mix of Bleach's Byakuya and Durarara's Shiki, with Jigen kinda being somewhere in the middle. It's my guess, but I could be wrong and I will probably say so if something new comes up prior to posting this review. Either way, whoever voiced Jigen here was an interesting take and balanced out Silverstein's Lupin rather well.

By the end of the gunfight, Lupin the 3rd: Jigen's Gravestone is a decent side story that fits rather well into this version of the Lupin universe. While the title is a tiny bit misleading, and the story doesn't quite tie up all it's loose ends, it's still a rather fun little look into this new and gritty side of the franchise. For those who haven't seen Fujiko Mine, you could probably see this first to get a slight idea before even diving into that series. It doesn't do anything new outside of the english dub cast, which is fine. I mean, there's now, what, five or six actors who have voiced Lupin? This should be expected by now, guys. If you have seen Fujiko Mine, take this film as some good old Lupin the 3rd with a darker tone since Fujiko isn't the focus this time around.

Next time, we meet the odd enigma that I like to call Spazzy Papenbrook! Until then, otaku on my friends!

Final Rating: 7/10 - A decent side story for a new side of the Lupin universe.

1 comment:

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