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Lupin III: Dead or Alive


a.k.a. Rupan Sansei: Dead or Alive

Genre: Action
Company: Tokyo Movie Shinsha
Format: 1 movie
Dates: 4/20/1996

An impregnable island with a ruthless auto-defense system has been the unattainable Promised Land for many wealthy men wanting to get even wealthier. One of these frustrated individuals is Kubikari, the despotic ruler of a neighboring nation. With his country being menaced by revolution, a colossal treasure would come in handy. Now that the word “treasure” has been uttered, you can bet Lupin III will also give it a shot. With his comrades and the devil’s luck on his side, I pity poor Kubikari even if he has a certain unwelcome ICPO inspector and an attractive female agent to give him a hand.

summary by Kjeldoran


Reviewed: 04/24/2004 by
Grade: 84% av-Kjeldoran

Highs: Great action; interesting characters; many surprises

Lows: Questionable plot elements; lacking Lupin & Co. screen time

After watching the motion picture, Lupin III: To Hell with Nostradamus!, its original author, Monkey Punch, decided it was time for him to sit in the director’s chair and show the world how Lupin should really feel like. Who can blame him? Many directors had lost focus of who his character originally was by making him more of a kindhearted gentleman than a sharp shooting outlaw.

It is no secret that Lupin III movies are not prized for their delineation of the human psyche. Acknowledging a few exceptions, they gain their popularity with entertaining characters and, of course, action. That said, the action in Dead or Alive lives up to the franchise name. With creative fight scenes, car chases and disguises, Lupin seems to be in great shape when Monkey Punch is pulling the strings. Also, since the man himself is involved, character depiction can’t get any better, and thankfully they all get their turn in the spotlight (I’m sure Zenigata didn’t learn all these moves at the academy).

I do not often say this but in Dead or Alive‘s case, the storyline took a bit too much room. It was yielded in such way it suffocated the characters and left itself open for plot holes because of all the facets involved. A revolution, nano-machine theories, a legendary treasure and a love story did not fit trimly in the allocated time and deprived the Lupin gang of their usual omnipresence. A few sequences could have been put to better use, too. The last plot twist, for example, has a “we still have five minutes to kill” feel and there is nothing more annoying than a good anime ending on a bad note.

From a wide angle, Lupin III: Dead or Alive is not so different than most of its siblings, but small niceties would go a long way.


Reviewed: 04/24/2004 by
Grade: 76% av-Kain

Highs: Action is exaggerated but in a good way

Lows: Doesn’t inspire me to attach myself emotionally to the characters

The old man is at it again. No, I don’t mean Lupin or Zenigata but Monkey Punch himself. I’m glad he decided to take the helm after such a long hiatus, but I was expecting more from the man who gave us Lupin.

The one area where Monkey Punch beats all the directors who tried to follow in his footsteps: combining outrageous, unbelievable action with humor simultaneously. Aside from Castle of Cagliostro, I have yet to come across a Lupin film that astonished me at the same time making me laugh during the action scenes. Maybe it was just me, but for a minute there Zenigata opened up a can on some poor, unsuspecting souls, showcasing some moves I had no idea he was capable of performing. I suppose after chasing Lupin and Jigen for thirty years he was bound to learn some things along the way. I was impressed.

Everything else was standard Lupin. Characters, story, music, setting… all were par for the course, so much so that I was neither excited nor surprised at any time during this film, with the exception of the shocking ending; an ending that felt out of place and was never explained. And that’s really a shame, because while Monkey Punch has sure made one stylish flick, every detail lacks that certain depth that just puts them all together.

Lupin and friends soldier onward, a year older but perhaps none the wiser. Dead or Alive neither takes the franchise one step farther nor does it regress it any. Nothing wrong with running in place when you’re Lupin III.


Lupin III: Dead or Alive can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.


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