#184 : Lupin III: The Mystery of Mamo

Where does one begin with The Mystery of Mamo? Lupin III’s first animated cinematic adventure (a live action version came out previously) is a fun, wild ride traversing the entire globe. So many recent adaptations of Lupin III pay homage to the past, or retro fit a more rough sketchy line drawing to the production. Why not see the real honest analog version while it was in an appropriate period instead? I prefer the green jacket look of Lupin, but this time let’s go red with Lupin III: The Mystery of Mamo, or is it Lupin III: The Secret of Mamo. … or maybe even just plain old Lupin III, which was the original title when released in Japan?

LIII_MoM_1Lupin III’s rise to success was a long one. The initial manga from the late 1960s evolved towards a failed pilot film, which gave way to a shortened TV series in 1971 (awesome!). Then all was quiet until 1977 with a relaunch of the manga and a new TV series that would run for several years. Hot on the success of this second wave a film would be released, namely The Mystery of Mamo. Of course the rest is history as Lupin III is one of the longest running and most successful franchises of all time in the world of Japanese animation. The Mystery of Mamo may be a good starting spot for those who are new to anime in general, or just new to older titles. This assumes one has achieved a little maturity. The usual gags of the quartet of Lupin, Jigen, Goemon and Fujiko are ever present, but this film is geared towards an adult audience because certain scenes and dialogue. A more general audience option would be the Hayao Miyazaki directed The Castle of Cagliostro.

LIII_MoM_2International is a great word to describe The Mystery of Mamo. Traversing Europe, Egypt and the Caribbean while escaping faked deaths, finding lost treasures, avoiding attack helicopters, out running giant semi trucks and meeting once dead historical figures from history sounds like a fun ride to be on. Add to that the main plot which revolves around a mysterious figure named Mamo, who has a preoccupation with eternal life, a fascination with obtaining the philosopher’s stone and also has the hots for Fujiko. Lupin is in his usual goofy sly mood, Jigen is always a crackshot, Goemon is stoic and always dishonoring his precious sword and Fujiko plays both sides between Lupin and Mamo to get what she wants… who else thinks Fujiko is the best character? And let’s not forget Inspector Zenigata, who is comedically always one step behind Lupin.

LIII_MoM_3Lupin III’s initial manga influence stemmed from inspiration from the satirical comic book Mad magazine. This humor is on full display in this movie as well as another influence, namely Pop Art. While not high art, The Mystery of Mamo creates a statement with popular culture and a style that may not be so much be Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein or Richard Hamilton, but a combination of three? Or that may be my observation as an art nerd. Again, this film is very international. And let’s not forget, The Mystery of Mamo, much like many titles of Lupin III also play up the fun of the James Bond experience with it’s own brand of wit.

LIII_MoM_4For those who are diehard original language track watchers with optional subtitles this may not apply, but for those of us who speak English we have a choice of dubbed versions. For real, like two? No. Really, three then? No. Well what then, FOUR!? Exactly! Very unprecedented, but a real treat as if four artists covered a popular song in their own way. From the start this film was meant for export by bringing the exploits of Lupin to a broader audience. The initial dub, with several character renames, originated from the film’s original release of 1978 making The Mystery of Mamo very accessible and again, very international. Pick your poison between these four, but I like both the ‘Streamline’ and ‘Geneon’ dubs.

The Mystery of Mamo is a nice tight package that encapsulates what Lupin III is all about. With that in mind this film was made during the heyday of the original Lupin III popularity wave and with Lupin III being a timeless design and concept, The Mystery of Mamo is forever unspoiled and is just as beautiful as ever. Also remember that The Mystery of Mamo is very international and speaks to all of us no matter where we come from. … I love that green jacket, but after this movie I think I want a red one now!

1978… Two Words… Leiji Matsumoto

According to research on the web, the year of 1978 had just under 40 entries for new productions of animation in Japan. Minuscule by today (2019) as 40 a week (that may be pushing it, but 40 is a nice number) is more within the climate of the current constant stream of media barrage. 1978 was a simpler era, a quieter era, an era that may have emphasized quality over quantity? That of course is subject to opinion. Media was big business back in the late 1970s, but nothing compared to the BIG business of today. Still many gems survive from this calendar year, but in opinion… 1978 will forever be remembered for the quadruple legacy of one man’s work.

Let’s start with a couple heavy weights… I can’t discount the name of Hayao Miyazaki, how can you? To some of us, he is like a Greek pantheon god, high on the mountain top watching from afar. Yet in 1978 he was still an up and coming name to be reckoned with and good fortune would shine upon him with a television series directorial position. The show, an adaptation of Alexander Key’s Incredible Tide became known as Future Boy Conan. If you ever wanted to watch a Miyazaki movie with all the humor, drama and class that defined his later work all wrapped up into a television series, here is your chance! Beyond Helly Kitty fame, Sanrio at one time also created great animated films. Of the ones I have seen they are all high in quality and artistry, but one of their best was released in 1978. The tragic Ringing Bell is a story about revenge and corruption of one’s feelings and emotions. Though heartbreaking, it also serves as an allegory of understanding one’s deepest desire for resolution over pain and the consequences of taking certain actions.

1978 was also a year of reinvention and second chances. Gatchaman would return to the scene with both a movie adaptation of the original 1972 TV series and a brand new sequel creatively titled Gatchaman II… very original (wink). More shojo tennis excitement abound in Shin Ace o Nerae! (New Aim for the Ace!); put that on my to find list! Lupin III would come out of the shadows years after the original TV series to take the big screen with the The Mystery of Mamo. … Now let’s give focus towards Space Battleship Yamato. 1977 brought the battleship back to life yet again with a film adaptation of the previous TV series and with new found glory and a boost of popularity, a sequel would follow. 1978 brought Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato, a moving tragic tale that was supposed to be the climatic end to the sci-fi epic. The fans and even some of the creators felt this was not fair and later in the year a second TV series would debut and retell the film’s story with an alternate ending that was more hopeful.

Now for the name of the hour, the man who in my opinion owned 1978 and is one of my favorite creators of all time, Leiji Matsumoto. Matsumoto was a key player for the entire Yamato franchise providing both the design aspects and the humanistic emotionalism that made Yamato appealing. Yet this is only the tip of the iceberg for the quartet of projects Matsumoto had his name on in 1978. The new Yamato projects mentioned previously are the first. The second was a TV series that re-envisioned Journey to the West, in SPACE!, known as Sci-Fi West Saga Starzinger. Third is that great TV version of a journey to the stars aboard a classy train where a young boy learns about the hardships and beauty of life accompanied by the best dressed woman in all of anime (Maetel!); Galaxy Express 999, a bonafide classic. And four, need I say more than the original Space Pirate Captain Harlock; the man, the myth, the legend… how I adore this show!

Other television series of interest include: The Adventures of the Little Prince, Treasure Island and The Perrine Story (World Masterpiece Theater, love! and wanna see it!) for historical literary interests; Daimos and Daitarn 3 for your mecha interests and Captain Future, which sounds really fancy, let’s say it again children with some bravado this time, CAPTAINFUTURE! Very nice. And for magical girl interest, there is Majokko Tickle, never heard of that one! And don’t forget there was a movie adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson story Thumbelina and a TV special on the life of Anne Frank, Anne Frank Monogatari: Anne no Nikki to Douwa Yori.

In truth, 1978 was much more than just Leiji Matsumoto, but how can I view the totality of 1978 as a whole without him? Without question, this was the height of his creative potentials as well as a boon period of science fiction… Star Wars came out the previous year. Matsumoto’s highly emotional and melodramatic space operas filtered though a lens of classic romanticism and adventure spoke beyond that present moment. He may have had the market share of the times, but he was only one piece in a grand puzzle of great anime. 1978… such a great year!