Lupin III: Crisis in Tokyo Anime Review
ルパン三世 炎の記憶 ～Tokyo Crisis～
Rupan Sansei: Honou no Kioku - Tokyo Crisis
Lupin III: Memories of Flame - Tokyo Crisis
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In his latest adventure, everyone's favorite good-hearted thief Lupin is after two legendary photographic plates that supposedly hold the key to a lost treasure of the Tokugawa shogunate. But in order to get them, Lupin, joined by his companions, will have to outwit multi-millionaire art collector Michael Suzuki, who is equally determined to get the plates for himself and has near-limitless resources at his disposal. He'll also have to evade his arch-rival, inspector Zenigata, who has been tasked with delivering the plates to Suzuki and sees it as the perfect opportunity to arrest Lupin in the process. Although he's eventually suspended from his job, Zenigata is still determined to do whatever it takes to bring Lupin in. Also along for the ride is a feisty young journalist named Maria, who is assigned to to do a story on Zenigata and is equally dedicated to completing her job, even if it means becoming a full-fledged participant in Zenigata and Lupin's endless duel.
With Lupin seeking the plates, Zenigata seeking Lupin, Maria seeking her story, and Suzuki seeking to uncover a secret behind the plates that no one else is aware of, conflicting agendas will collide in a great spectacle that becomes the latest Crisis in Tokyo.
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Crisis in Tokyo takes the whole concept of Lupin and strips it down to the bare essentials. The photographic plates are nothing but a convenient plot device, the villain is a generic evil CEO, there's no globe-trotting, and it's not even particularly violent, yet it's one of the best of the Lupin TV movie specials. For one thing, it gets the rivalry between Lupin and Zenigata right--they're portrayed as equally skilled opponents locked in an endless struggle, constantly besting one another and thwarting each other's best-laid plans. It also features some outstanding chase sequences, as well as some quality breaking-and-entering heist fare, plus a satisfyingly competent female one-time lead. An excellent soundtrack and animation round out the picture.
Overall, this movie has something for every person who loves the action/heist genre. It's got great chases, excellent supporting characters, high-tech break-ins, and possibly the best depiction of the Lupin/Zenigata rivalry ever. Fast-paced, action-packed, and superbly character-driven, it's an essential addition to the collection of any Lupin fan.
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If there is one thing that keeps me addicted to the Lupin series, it's how the films keep finding quality where it seems little potential for it exists. Even when the story is bland, the setting is dull, and the villains are total caricatures, I'm confident there is at least a chance that a Lupin movie might end up being good all the same. It doesn't always work out that way, but possibility is always there, and nothing exemplifies this better than the excellent film that is Crisis in Tokyo.
This movie takes the whole concept of Lupin and strips it down to the bare essentials. The photographic plates are nothing but a convenient plot device--just something important that people want to have, with the Tokugawa name attached to give them a little historical value. Suzuki is yet another mindless drone of a corporate boss. There is nothing to distinguish him from other CEO bad guys in other Lupin movies like "Missed by a Dollar" or "Voyage to Danger," save for a slight degree of superior competence.
There is also no globe traveling in this film--true to its name, the whole event takes place in Tokyo. It also features neither the wide variety of locations nor historically significant settings featured in most of the better Lupin titles; the whole film takes place in a standard modern city setting, so those who like Lupin's Indiana Jones-style cave exploring and temple raiding might be a bit disappointed.
On top of that, this has got to be one of the most peaceful, non-violent Lupin movies ever. It's the first one where I didn't see a single image of Lupin's iconic Walther P-38 pistol (he does use a pistol once in the opening, but it's not identifiable). Ditto for Zenigata's classic M1911, which is turned in when he gets suspended from the force and not returned until the very end of the movie. Fujiko doesn't get to use any guns, either. Even Jigen and Goemon, two characters virtually defined by their weapons, don't get to use them very much. Goemon actually goes most of the movie without his sword at all.
And yet, despite all that, this is still one of the best of the Lupin TV movie specials. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I'll start with the biggest one: The depiction of the rivalry between Lupin and Zenigata. It's taken a long time, but I've finally found a movie that gets it right. Instead of a "Tom and Jerry" theme of one participant (Zenigata) constantly chasing the other and failing, the rivals are actually on a level playing field, shown as two equally skilled opponents locked in an endless struggle, constantly besting one another and thwarting each other's best-laid plans, while also occasionally working together when their agendas happen to fall into alignment. Obviously Zenigata doesn't get to arrest Lupin, but he does come pretty close at times, while consistently defeating his attempts to get the plates and gaining the upper hand. It's just as good on the occasions when they work together, showing how the two main characters on opposite sides of the law and the comedy spectrum actually make for a pretty good team. I've seen a few other Lupin films that do this, some effectively (Castle of Cagliostro) some not so much (Voyage to Danger), but none do it so well as this one. Honestly, even if everything else about this movie was lousy, I'd still enjoy it for this aspect alone.
Fortunately, that's not the only perk in this film. Another is some outstanding chase scenes, which make up most of the action segments. Ah, the good old foot and vehicle pursuit. A sequence as old as films themselves, and certainly heavily used in the Lupin franchise. Still, they keep finding new ways to keep them interesting. This one really has some great ones, maybe not on par with the wild rides in "The Fuma Conspiracy," but good enough all the same, starting with an intense foot pursuit through an airport (Lupin's jokes about airport security during it seem all the more amusing while watching this in the post 9/11 environment) and followed up with an outstanding high-tech duel of trucks on the freeway.
Later on, the action progresses to the next common Lupin theme of stylish breaking-and-entering when Lupin and his crew try to infiltrate Suzuki's corporate HQ. We get treated to a lot of cool gadgets and creative techniques, such as lifting finger prints off a wine glass and using a special photographic device to fool a retinal scanner. But it's not all smooth sailing, as some of their methods don't work as planned and they end up needing to use some of their skills and techniques to come up with intuitive escape plans, which only makes the action scenes all the better.
Another thing I really liked was Maria. She's the perfect example of a one-time extra Lupin main character who fits perfectly into her role in the story, and pairing her up with Zenigata worked out excellently, as her energetic, modern, youthful persona made a nice contrast to his gruff, older seriousness. Their relationship develops significantly throughout the film, and by the midway point she almost seems like the daughter he never had. As a journalist, she doesn't really have practical skills for the situations she and the other characters end up in, but for the most part she's fearless, determined, and a quick learner who still finds a way to make some positive contributions. Quite frankly, if more unskilled main characters (I'm looking at you, Miaka from Fushigi Yugi, and you too, Cleo from Orphen) were like her, the anime world would be a much better place.
Lupin's supporting cast is also effectively used. I especially like how Goemon spent almost the whole duration of the movie without his sword. It was really refreshing to see him have to rely on his other talents instead of pulling off superhuman miracles with his blade on a regular basis. Jigen also has a nice role, in that he spends most of the movie crippled by a severe toothache. It seems kind of silly to have such a great warrior and marksman hobbled by something so simple, but for me that's what made it so interesting. Suffice it to say, any one of us who has ever been through an infuriating condition based on something that's not outwardly visible to others can understand what he has to go through. Fujiko doesn't get to participate in as much of the action as I would have liked, but she is depicted as a master manipulator who somehow manages to pose as Maria's boss at Tokyo Life magazine in order to gain press access to Suzuki's social events (how she pulled that off is something I would have liked to see better explained). I still would have preferred it if she had a bigger role in the action scenes, but at least she has a vital role in the overall operation.
The soundtrack and animation are also excellent. This is one of the more modern of the Lupin movies (1998) and it really shows. While there aren't any castles or ancient shrines to show off, the modern settings are very well drawn and nicely detailed, including airports, subways, and the underground section of Suzuki's lair, most of which is underwater. For the chase scenes, we have a huge assortment of vehicles, including planes, trains, and automobiles, as the old saying goes. The music during the action scenes is appropriately fast-paced and helps set the mood. Of course, like the other movies, it features the wonderful Lupin theme song in the opening, as well as a cool scene where Lupin whistles it to himself while he's breaking into Suzuki's vault. I'm not sure why, but that seemed an exceptionally appropriate time for it, like Lupin sort of knew how cliched and typical of spy films the events he was participating in were and was openly mocking them. The movie also has a great ending and a nice tune to go along with it.
Overall, this movie has something for every person who loves the action/heist genre. It's got great chases, excellent supporting characters, high-tech break-ins, and possibly the best depiction of the Lupin/Zenigata rivalry ever (admittedly, I've got about 20 more Lupin films to watch before I can be sure of that). It's certainly not perfect. For one thing, why does the head honcho have to be just another evil CEO tycoon? Sometimes it seems like the franchise ran out of good villain ideas a long time ago. Also, the whole aspect of the photo plates just isn't used very well. The historical value of them doesn't contribute anything to the film, and all the participating parties going after them keep fooling each other with false copies so often that it's usually hard to remember who has the real ones. But still, this is a great movie--fast-paced, action-packed, and superbly character-driven, making it an essential addition to the collection of any Lupin fan.
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Kind of similar to "Voyage to Danger" in that the setting is entirely modern and Zenigata ends up as a member of Lupin's team, though in that movie he doesn't really do anything useful. Also, both films have a corporate CEO as the main bad guy.
Notes and Trivia
Crisis in Tokyo is the tenth in a series of Lupin III TV movies that has been running annually since 1989. Immediately prior, in 1997, was "Island of Assassins," and it was followed by The Columbus Files in 1999. Lupin III is, of course, one of the longest-running anime franchises in history, beginning with a manga series by Monkey Punch (the pen name of Kazuhiko Katou) in the '60s and a 1971 TV series adaptation, and continuing to this day.
The is the first Lupin film I've seen in which one of the characters' weapons is depicted inaccurately compared to the real-life model, or at least misleadingly. In one scene, Maria attempts to shoot someone with Zenigata's 1911, much to his horror, only to make it click dry because the gun is unloaded. In reality, there would be no click, the gun would not have fired even if loaded, and Zenigata would know that, because you can clearly see the hammer on the firearm is not cocked. Unlike most modern handgun designs, the 1911 is a single-action pistol that can only be fired with the hammer cocked.
Also of note is that the absence of Lupin's Walther P-38 in this movie is quite a contrast to the movie immediately before it, "Island of Assassins," in which his Walther has a huge role, both in the action scenes and the overal story. Perhaps the creators thought it needed a break.
US DVD Review
Funimation's DVD (the individual one and the combo pack are nearly the same) contains both English and Japanese audio, an English subtitle track, plus character bios and trailers, just like nearly every other Lupin DVD.
Pretty tame by Lupin standards.
Violence: 2 - A few realistic shooting deaths.
Nudity: 2 - One shower scene for Fujiko.
Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - Nothing.
Language: 0 - Nothing.
Previously available from Funimation on an individual bilingual DVD, then as part of the "Final Haul" movie box set; both are currently out of print.