Lupin III: The Fuma Conspiracy Anime Review
ルパン三世 - 風魔一族の陰謀
Rupan Sansei: Fuuma Ichizoku no Inbou
Lupin III: Conspiracy of the Fuma Clan
Tokyo Movie Shinsha
US Release By
Lupin's longtime companion Goemon is getting married! That's right, after all the years, the old samurai is finally giving up the warrior life to settle down and raise a family... yeah, I think we all know where this is going. In a turn of events that would surprise no one with cursory knowledge of the anime universe, Goemon's fiancée Murasaki is kidnapped from their wedding by a group of ninjas known as the Fuma clan, who demand a secret map to the hidden ancient treasure of Goemon's clan in exchange for her release. With Murasaki's life in the balance, Lupin and his companions agree to the deal, but they're not about to let the Fuma clan help themselves to the treasure without a fight. Making a copy of the map before handing it over, Lupin and his companions set out to get the treasure first, with Murasaki tagging along and Lupin's old rival, Inspector Zenigata, hot on their trail.
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Released in 1987, this film is a classic in the long-running Lupin series. Overall it's basically your standard Lupin fare, but I consider this to be a shining example of what happens when a movie in the series gets all the important themes and key elements right: Grand adventure, visually stunning locations, crazy, over-the-top chase scenes, and intense action. The story itself is thoroughly predictable and I really would have preferred some better villains (the ones the film does have are just simple greedy guys who want money, with only one even depicted as skilled in battle), but it makes up for it by giving the secondary characters--particularly Zenigata and Goemon--plenty to do.
Definitely worth a look for any Lupin fan, and if you have never seen a Lupin film, I can't think a better introduction to the series, as it is the perfect set up for the films that follow.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Released in 1987, this film is a classic in the long-running Lupin series. It's so old that the characters still refer to Lupin by his original title "Rupan" in the dubbed version. Overall it's basically your standard Lupin fare. It's got a cheesy adventure plot, standard cookie-cutter villains, ancient cites, caves, traps, chases and races, basically everything you would expect in the Lupin universe. Still, I gotta say I consider this one of the better Lupin films in the franchise, partially for the nostalgic feel, but mainly because all the action and adventure scenes are so well done.
If there's one reason to watch this film, it's the car chases. Good God this film has some great ones. I'd go so far as to say it has some of the best car chase scenes in the anime universe. In one car chase alone, Zenigata and his men embark on a pursuit of Lupin's gang that starts out in a city and ends going through a marketplace, the roadways on the edge of a cliff, down a hill, through a Buddhist temple complex, and back on the roadways before finally coming to an end on railroad tracks. It's almost too cool for words. The downside is that it sets standards none of the other action scenes can live up too, but who cares? It's just great, and the other scenes don't disappoint either.
Another thing this film deserves a lot of credit for is the wide variety of creative locations. It goes through the perfect transition of modern cities, high tech gadgets, and vehicle chases at the beginning, to ancient caves and lost temples at the end, effectively creating the feel of a truly epic adventure. Quite an achievement in a movie only 73 minutes long, I must say.
I also liked the supporting cast. Lupin's companions all have important roles in the story, and even Zenigata gets treated pretty well. Obviously all his attempts to arrest Lupin fail, but at least he gets an important role in some of the film's best action scenes and displays at least a moderate level of competences at times. I also liked how driven and relentless he is depicted in his attempts to catch Lupin, going so far as to drive his car underwater in an attempt to do so.
As stated in the plot description, Goemon is a central character of the film, with almost as much of an important role as Lupin. I gotta say this was his best role so far in a Lupin film, especially in regards to participation in the story and action scenes. Fujiko was impressive as well. This might be the first film in which she participated in no fanservice at all! She performs pretty well in the actions scenes too, and the one time she gets captured she is able to escape on her own. I also kind of liked Murasaki. For the most part she's just a damsel in distress, but like Zenigata, she is driven and determined, which helped override her lack of skill.
I also I loved the animation. If ever there was a film with a great nostalgic retro look, this is it. For its time, the animation is excellent, helping bring the wide array of environments and action scenes to life. Some parts were especially detailed, such as a scene where some of the characters are affected by poison gas, causing them to see their companions as demonic abominations. The soundtrack was a nice touch as well. There was nothing really distinctive about it, but the music always felt appropriate for the situation on screen.
Overall the Lupin franchise has been a mixed bag in terms of quality in the films, but I consider this to be a shining example of what happens when a movie in the series gets all the important themes and key elements right: Grand adventure, visually stunning locations, crazy, over-the-top chase scenes, and intense action. The story itself is thoroughly predictable and I really would have preferred some better villains (the ones the film does have are just simple greedy guys who want money, with only one even depicted as skilled in battle). But still this is definitely worth a look for any Lupin fan. And if you have never seen a Lupin film, I can't think a better introduction to the series, as it is the perfect set up for the films that follow.
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"The Pursuit of Harimao's Treasure" is a fairly similar Lupin move: A grand adventure with a predictable, cliched plot. For films with a grand adventure and a good plot, check out "Castle of Cagliostro" and "Secret of the Twilight Gemini."
Notes and Trivia
The Fuma Conspiracy was originally planned as a straight-to-video OVA, but it ended up also having a theatrical run at the very end of 1987.
This was the first Lupin movie that did not have Yasuo Yamada as the voice of Lupin. Due to budget constraints, Toshio Furukawa played Lupin instead. He never reprised the role; Yamada returned after this film, and continued to voice Lupin until his death in 1995. Yamada was replaced by skilled impersonator Kanichi Kurita for all the subsequent films to date.
AnimEigo licensed The Fuma Conspiracy and another Lupin III film, The Legend of The Gold of Babylon, way back in the mid-'90s. It was among the first Lupin films available in the US (Streamline had released The Castle of Cagliostro and a bit of the TV series a few years earlier). Their license has since expired, and this film was picked up by a little-known company.
AnimEigo's famous liner notes (which in this case are sparse apart from cast and crew info) are available online, as always. Oddly, though, the only note for this movie identifies the value of 1 million ryo as about $7 million at the time the film was made. Given that one ryo is over 16 grams of gold, even if the coins weren't particularly pure that seems like an extremely low estimate. At 1987 gold prices, one ryo of 90% pure gold would have been worth at least $200, thirty times higher than AnimEigo's estimate. Thanks to inflation that's about twice as much in 2010 dollars.
AnimEigo used the spelling "Rupan" rather than "Lupin" for their releases. While usually Japanese makes no distinction between L and R, in this case the Lupin spelling is unquestionably the right one; the character is theoretically the descendent of the famous fictional French gentleman thief Arsène Lupin (hence the "III"). Apparently due to copyright uncertainties regarding the estate that owned the rights to the French novels, which had never authorized Lupin III, AnimEigo used the Rupan spelling to avoid potential litigation. Streamline's releases, being dub-only, just called him "Wolf." Whatever issues might have existed have apparently been worked out, however, as all Geneon and Funimation releases since have used the Lupin spelling, as does the box of the 2007 release of this film by another company.
US DVD Review
The 20th anniversary edition DVD from Eastern Star contains more features than most for a Lupin film, coming with trailers, a commentary track, as well as a fairly large background section explaining the history of the Lupin series. This is another reason why this is an excellent film for introduction to the Lupin universe.
With no nudity, skimpy clothing, sex, or graphic violence, this is the most kid-friendly Lupin film I've seen by far.
Violence: 2 - Some deaths, but they are not very graphic.
Nudity: 0 - No nudity at all for Fujiko, a rarity in the franchise.
Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - No skimpy outfits or flirtation for Fujiko either, something I thought was a scientific impossibility.
Language: 0 - Nothing at all.
Available in North America from Eastern Star on bilingual "20th Anniversary Edition" DVD. Was previously available from AnimEigo on bilingual DVD, and prior to that on subtitled VHS and LaserDisc.
At last check Amazon had the current release in stock, as well as new and used copies of the older AnimEigo release quite cheaply: Lupin the 3rd: the Fuma Conspiracy (20th Anniversary Edition), Rupan III :The Fuma Conspiracy (AnimEigo version); RightStuf also has the current release in stock at a nice discount: Lupin III: The Fuma Conspiracy