#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!

Capturing the Wind: Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata Before Studio Ghibli

Up until recently I had given panels at my local anime convention, a run of about five years from 2015–2019. My most successful panel, and one I gave for three years in a row because of the evergreen content, was Capturing the Wind: Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata Before Studio Ghibli. Obviously it was a popular event for an hour of time and witnessing Studio Ghibli panels from the past and noticing the audience turnout, I knew I had to do one, yet I had to do it my own way within the framework of my definition of ‘classic anime’. Reason being, talking about anime from the 1980s, let alone the 1960s and 1970s can be a very niche category. Most fans are younger than me, or have a frame of reference that is the most zeitgeist of properties available. By the way I was born in 1979 in case you want to do the math. That being said, how do I do a panel discussing the work of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, two men I respect, within the confines of my focus of study?

CtW_1And then it happened… of course, talk about their work before Studio Ghibli’s foundation. These two gentlemen cut their teeth on a lot of movies and television series, all of this before the year of 1985, the year of Studio Ghibli’s birth. I had my content! Of course I focused on their major projects, mostly when they had the directors chair, because I could run a laundry list of doing key animation for this one episode of this series, or assists with whatever task was available for that movie. Ten productions would make the cut, each with video clip, but for here it will all be in the written word. Studio Ghibli fans, who is here to learn and experience some lost, or perhaps not so lost if one has familiarity, treasures of the careers of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata? Don’t be surprised that what you love about the work of these two gentlemen also shows up in their earlier works as well; good habits and styles never change once they solidify.

Beginning with directorial debuts for a feature film, then leading to initial collaborative efforts, I would continue with two final categories: television work, because we often equate Miyazaki and Takahata with their cinematic presence and finally a quartet of final projects from the early 1980s that directly preceded the founding of Studio Ghibli. I will not explain in detail each of the productions here, but with link them to my other posts where you can read more in depth on each particular production. Of course this panel only covered what I had seen at that particular moment. Even now I am still filling in gaps by watching other anime not available at the time where I could have had opportunities to showcase more material. But then again I only had one hour and what I had to work with was enough of a fun show.

Here were the following anime that I focused on for the panel Capturing the Wind: Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata Before Studio Ghibli:

My initial goal was to showcase to Studio Ghibli fans that the names of Miyazaki and Takahata go well beyond the familiar movies we have watched time and time again. Did I succeed? I think so, but now that legacy can live here online and reach a wider audience. Of course there are a couple more anime that I wish I could have included, but at the time I had no access to the show or movie, Heidi: Girl of the Alps being the best example (watching that one now!). If you love Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, their collective work at Studio Ghibli is only the beginning to a world of many treasures which featured their creative talents. Before capturing the wind of Ghibli, we can witness the emerging portraits of these two artists as young men… a little nod to you James Joyce 🙂

CtW_2Many a thank you to the work you both did. We love you!

#64 : Lupin III: The Fuma Conspiracy

L3_Fuma_1This release could be the spiritual successor to a former release of Lupin III, The Castle of Cagliostro. Oh, so does that mean that this was directed by Hayao Miyazaki? No, but the head supervisor, Yasuo Otsuka, was around with Lupin since the beginning and he has worked with Miyazaki and company several times in the past. Returning to a classic green jacket as opposed to the early 80s pink jacket, Lupin returned in 1987 onto the direct to video OVA market with Lupin III: The Fuma Conspiracy, or Lupin III: The Plot of the Fuma Clan.

L3_Fuma_2On the other hand, The Fuma Conspiracy can be considered… well… a supposed black sheep in the long going adventures of our favorite jacket wearing, sideburn clad thief. Not so for me, or maybe other fans, but from what I have heard from so-called experts say Japan often looks at this one with an odd face. Why? Well that classic voice cast that had been with the characters since the beginning was replaced. Perhaps for budget reasons, but the choices of Toshio Furukawa (Lupin), Banjou Ginga (Gigen), Mami Koyama (Fujiko) and Kaneto Shiozawa (Goemon). I love all four of them as actors from other productions, I mean come on! But, this is like the George Lazenby cast placement when everyone expects Sean Connery (James Bond reference in case that went over your head) and b.t.w. I love the film George was in (any fans of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?).

L3_Fuma_3Also different is how this OVA starts. We see our cast at a wedding… OK, so the quartet are looking to steal something here? Maybe, but this is Goemon’s wedding. Wait! Goemon, in a romantic relationship? I thought he only followed the way of the samurai and his partner was his sword. Yeah, well… things change. Now… there is this vase that belongs to the family Goemon is marrying into and Lupin and Fujiko have interest in grabbing it. Not so much for the vase itself, but for the hidden secret to a great treasure. Now this is sounding like a Lupin caper. But don’t forget, we have another party interested in this vase and the treasure that I have not mentioned yet. And can you guess who they are? Hint… read the title again. Yup, Lupin has to go up against the Fuma clan and… and… don’t forget Inspector Zenigata is here as well.

L3_Fuma_4Back to the idea of this production being a spiritual successor to the classic The Castle of Cagliostro. As I mentioned earlier ‘oldman’ Yasuo Otsuka oversaw production at Tokyo Movie Shinsa and the green jacket was re-instated. So what else shares commonality with the 1979 Miyazaki film? Well, remember that yellow Fiat 500 with the crazy supercharger from Cagliostro? It’s back and welcomed; indeed. And it is an even larger car chase than before. Another shared Cagliostro trait is the fact that this is more of a family friendly outing for our quartet. The red and pink jacket entries from the late 70s and early 80s brought Lupin closer to how he is in the manga. Although the original green jacket series from 1971 began as a very hard edge adaptation until edits were brought into play. Ironic?

When watching the commentary on the DVD that I own, I heard references to how The Fuma Conspiracy looks more similar to western styled shows of the area. Though I agree to a point, the movement, color and environment does slightly favor something from Tiny Toon Adventures. And this is appropriate as back in the day Japanese studios did a lot of the grunt work for animation made for the western market, particularly the U.S. And for Tokyo Movie Shinsa, the studio who has worked on all the classic Lupin titles, also did the animation for… Tiny Toon Adventures. Could have been the exact same staff?

For one of the longest running franchises in Japanese animation, Lupin III has been told and retold in a number of formats. Lupin III: The Fuma Conspiracy represented Lupin’s first foray into the new boom of the OVA market in the mid-1980s. Though the home video market has changed, Lupin has not. This is yet another solid green jacket adventure for Lupin III… do you see this large smile on my face?