Lupin III: Dragon of Doom Anime Review
Rupan San-sei: Moeyo Zantetsuken
Lupin III: Burn, Iron-Cutting Sword
US Release By
International thief Lupin has a long and prestigious career of adventures across the globe. But his latest caper will take him to one place he has not yet ventured: Thousands of feet beneath the ocean!
Hong Kong mafia boss Chin Chin Chou attempts to enlist Lupin's aid in recovering the Dragon of Doom, a golden dragon statue that was lost onboard the Titanic in 1912. Lupin's grandfather originally attempted to steal the Dragon himself while the Titanic was underway, but the unexpected demise of the ship thwarted his plans. Lupin has no interest in working for Chou, but the thought of recovering a treasure even his grandfather could not steal is too tempting for him to pass up, so he sets out with his companions Fujiko and Jigen to retrieve the Dragon from its grave at the bottom of the sea.
But it turns out the Dragon is more than just a simple treasure. It contains the secret of a long lost metal formula that could be deadly in the wrong hands--such as the hands of Chou, who is determined to gain the secret for himself. Also hot on the trail is the samurai Goemon and his old friend Kikyo, who seek to return the Dragon back to their clan, whom it was originally stolen from. Goemon, Chou, and Lupin find themselves in a mad race against time as they set out to recover the long lost Dragon of Doom.
Quick ReviewSwitch to Full Review
Yet another film in the long running Lupin franchise, Dragon of Doom takes the potential of an undersea treasure hunt and Goemon as a rival and utterly fails to do anything effective with either. It ends up being one of the worst Lupin films I've seen. The worst of it is that it requires way too much suspension of disbelief, even for a Lupin film--the heroes' always-extreme abilities are flat-out superhuman here, and remove any sense of suspense. The villains are weak on top of it, and while the plot starts out interesting, it ends up predictable and poorly-executed. The animation is also poor; it was made in 1994, but looks about ten years older, and the fight scenes are cheesy. The only good part is that Lupin's companions get substantive roles, particularly Goemon, although Zenigata is short-changed.
Like all Lupin films, Dragon of Doom has its share of excitement, action, fun characters, and epic adventures. However, the glaring problems are far too much for it to overcome. As both a Lupin movie and an adventure film, Dragon of Doom is colossal failure--unless you absolutely must see every Lupin film ever made, there is no reason to waste time on this one.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Yet another film in the long running Lupin franchise, Dragon of Doom certainly had a lot of potential--an exciting journey under the sea in search of a long lost treasure can make for a very interesting story. Plus, the fact that Goemon actually starts the film as a rival competing with Lupin rather than a part of his crew could have made this very interesting indeed. But, unfortunately, this movie utterly failed to use either theme effectively, and it ends up being one of the worst Lupin films I've ever seen (as of this writing, I've seen six). Poor animation, a bad story, lousy characters, and far too much absurdity and nonsense for its own good totally ruin any of Dragon of Doom's good points.
The biggest problem is that this movie requires way too much suspension of disbelief, even for a Lupin film. Of course none of the Lupin movies come anywhere close to being realistic, but this film takes the "over the top" style of the franchise to dimensions of absurdity most other movies never came close too. How bad is it? Well, basically any of the main characters can defy the laws of physics, gravity, common sense, time, and pretty much any other rudimentary rule of the universe whenever they want too. Throughout the movie, Lupin falls from a height of over 100 feet without injury, invents a disguise of one of the main villains so he looks completely identical to him (including skin and facial features), and loses his diving suit several thousand feet beneath the ocean and swims back to his submarine without being crushed or suffocating!
His companions are just as bad. Goemon is exceptionally absurd. He can apparently make any object (including an entire sky scraper) or person die or get cut into perfectly shaped pieces just by pointing his sword at them. His sword doesn't actually have to touch them. Jigen also apparently has the ability to make a jeep mounted grenade launcher fire by itself (with pinpoint accuracy) while he is driving. It made me wonder if Jigen had some previously undiscovered telekinetic powers used only in this film.
The sheer, overwhelming amount of stupidity in this movie completely removes any possibility of suspense or danger, because whenever they get into a bad situation, you know they can do whatever they want to get out of it. For example, we all know that James Bond is an unrealistic hero, but wouldn't his movies be pretty boring if he could escape certain death by using superhuman powers whenever he wanted too? Think about it:
Bond Villain: "Ha Ha, Mr. Bond, I have you now, you are surrounded by a thousand men with guns."
Bond: "Oh no you don't, I have the power to make all of them die just by waving my hand."
Bond Villain: "Curses! Oh well, I'll still kill you with my squadron of fighter jets."
Bond: "Oh no you won't, I also have the ability to morph myself into an anti-aircraft gun and shoot them all down."
You get the idea. Even the most over-the-top heroes need some boundaries. Sadly, Lupin and his companions in this movie have none. It also doesn't help that this film contains a lot of those stupid Bond-style moments when the main villain captures the hero and attempts to give him a slow and easily escapable death instead of just shooting him.
One good aspect of this movie is that Lupin's companions have very important roles. Goemon is especially significant, as he starts out working against Lupin and has his own sub-plot with another character, Kikyo. Unfortunately, this doesn't lead to much. Before too long, Goemon rejoins Lupin's crew and helps him save the day, as always. Also as always, Lupin is pursued by his arch-rival, Inspector Zenigata, but his role in this film is pathetic. All he does is randomly show up a few times, attempt to capture Lupin, and fail miserably. There really isn't any reason for him to be in the movie at all. One of his attempts to arrest Lupin with his "Lupin catcher" invention early in the movie is mildly amusing, but it's ruined by Lupin's previously mentioned ability to escape by obtaining superhuman powers whenever he needs them.
Another problem in this movie is the lack of a good villain for Lupin to compete against. Like most Lupin movies, this film has two main villains, a head-honcho boss guy and his mighty warrior subordinate. But in this film, neither one of them are any good. The head honcho, mafia lord Chin Chin Chou, is unbelievably stupid and is easily outwitted by all of Lupin's tricks. He is also incredibly poorly animated and looks like an oversized bullfrog. His subordinate, a ninja warrior named Ginsai, is even worse. He displays almost no combat prowess throughout the entire film and is easily defeated by Lupin's crew every time he meets them. There are actually several different clones of Ginsai, but this is hardly relevant as they are all woefully incompetent and are killed almost immediately after Lupin runs into them.
The plot of the movie also has its share of flaws. It starts out pretty interesting, but eventually winds up with the same theme as almost all Lupin films: Lupin starts out trying to steal a treasure and ends up saving the world because deep down he is really a nice guy. Also, some parts of the plot seemed downright lazy. For example, one part of the film has Chou using a super-high-tech stealth bomber to wipe out an entire navy fleet. Could be interesting, but this all happens in a span of about 25 seconds. After showing Chou shooting down a few fighter jets, the movie suddenly cuts to a radio conversation on board another plane with the pilot stating "He just destroyed the entire naval squadron" and then cuts to a still shot of a bunch of flaming ships. My response was "I guess I'll have to take your word for it because you are too lazy to show it."
The animation in the film is also pretty poor. Dragon of Doom was made in 1994, but it looks about ten years older. The backgrounds are mostly devoid of detail, and all vehicles, weapons, and ships look pretty generic. The fight scenes look pretty cheesy (even for a Lupin movie). They often cut to the typical "blazing blue" background in the middle of an intense duel, and as mentioned before, all Goemon has to do to make his enemies die is randomly point his sword in any direction.
Dragon of Doom is certainly not the worst anime I've ever seen. Like all Lupin films, it has its share of excitement, action, fun characters, and epic adventures. However, the glaring problems are far too much for it to overcome. As both a Lupin movie and an adventure film, Dragon of Doom is colossal failure. There are plenty of better Lupin movies out there; unless you absolutely must see every Lupin film ever made, there is no reason to waste time on this one.
Have something to say about this anime? Join our newly-resurrected forums and speak your mind.
Almost any Lupin III film is a better bet; Secret of Twilight Gemini is a simple, decent adventure, Pursuit of Harimao's Treasure is in top high-adventure form, and Crisis in Tokyo is a smaller scale but solid one with a bit of story similarity. If you want another terrible Lupin film, try the forgotten Legend of the Gold of Babylon, although the story is rather different.
Notes and Trivia
The sixth in an ongoing series of TV specials, Dragon of Doom is a made-for-TV movie that originally aired on Japan Television.
This is the final appearance of Yasuo Yamada as Lupin. Yamada had given Lupin his distinctive voice since the beginning (24 years in total), and died suddenly of a brain aneurism in early 1995 at the age of 62, just before starting the voicing on the "Die! Nostradamus" OAV. He was replaced by Kanichi Kurita, a skilled impersonator who conveniently did a spot-on impression of Yamada's Lupin.
For those unfamiliar with Lupin's backstory, the character is based loosely on Arsène Lupin, the gentleman thief who appears in a series of French novels by Maurice Leblanc. Published between 1907 and 1939, these novels were tremendously popular (and remain so), producing many spin-offs, film adaptations, and parodies. Among these is Lupin III, ostensibly "the third" because he is the grandson of the original. Copyright issues over the name with the Leblanc estate are among the reasons Lupin III was slow to make it to the US, and (apparently) why in the original Streamline release of Castle of Cagliostro he was renamed "Wolf," and was referred to as "Rupan" in the two films translated by AnimEigo.
The character of Lupin III was originated in a serialized comic series in 1967 by Kazuhiko Katou (better known by his pen name "Monkey Punch"). It was wildly popular and quickly spiraled into a massive franchise that continues today.
US DVD Review
Funimation's DVD includes stereo audio in English and Japanese, and a literally-translated English subtitle track as well as a caption track based on the dub script. The disc will play in regions 1, 2, and 4.
About in the 13-up range.
Violence: 2 - A few violent deaths, but not much gore.
Nudity: 2 - One shower scene with Fujiko.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - Nothing out of the ordinary.
Language: 0 - No profanity.