Lupin the IIIrd: Jigen Daisuke no Bohyou, is exactly the sort of thing I’ve wanted out of the Lupin franchise since I started digging into it years ago. While I really love Lupin III, in each and every Lupin work I’ve seen, there’s always been a lot of stuff I loved, but few things that could have been done better. This is not the case with Jigen Daisuke no Bohyou. It’s perfect. If it had any problems, it would be that at two episodes, it is entirely too short.
The story is exactly what you want out of a Lupin thing: It opens with a heist, expands into a bigger conspiracy, but in the end is all about two guys trying to one-up each other. This time around, the heart of it all lies with Jigen and assassin Yael Okuzaki trying to earn their place as best gunman in the world. Between the heists, conspiracies, and rivalries, every story thread comes to a neat conclusion, but Bohyou is very fast and loose with most of the details: Yes, they stole a mysterious book. Yes, it will most definitely effect these two countries at war. And yes, because of Jigen’s past jobs, he is being targeted by a big, crazy assassin, who prepares graves for his targets in advance (while making insane sex robots on the side.) Things like the original heist, its associated political intrigue, and the unique nature of Yael and his assassinations provide just the right amount of spice to season the rather simple story of a rivalry between two gunmen, resulting in a film with a variety of very strong and delicious flavors.
But rather than story, Bohyou sucks one in with atmosphere first and foremost: It’s cool and brutal; intelligent and stupid. Its approach to the material is very compelling, taking the edgy atmosphere of the original comic, streamlining it with sensibilities from the TV series, and adding its own spin. A strong odor of machismo permeates throughout the piece, and is a big part of what makes it work. Seeing as it centers around a battle of prowess between egotistical men, the work has an outdated Charles Bronson brand of rugged manliness one wants out of Lupin.
People punch each other hard, bullets rip through objects (animate and inanimate) vigorously, cars ram into each other at full speed, all with detailed shots of Fujiko’s exposed breasts dispersed between. More specific examples of brainless machismo include: Yael buying a giant steak after a job and eating half of it in one bite; a pianist from the Pervert Club freaking out and punching the shit out of Lupin for showing up uninvited; and Lupin and Jigen sharing a smoke in their car right at the end. There’s also a part where the camera hangs on a meticulously detailed shot of a gunshot wound for longer than it needs to. While this macho motif is old fashioned–and by nature stupid and sexist–it grants Bohyou with a healthy amount of compelling kitsch one looks for in old James Bond films, and what I happen to look for in Lupin III.
Among the several hats he wears throughout this production, Koike Takeshi is mainly on character design and direction, setting the tone with his sharp visual acumen. The characters look more or less the same as they did in Fujiko–a happy mix between Monkey Punch, Green Jacket, and Koike’s original style–but lack the crudely executed sketchy pencil look of Fujiko, this time rendered cleanly and clearly to bring out the full flavor the designs. Guest bad guy Yael has a design that is appropriately larger-than-life, and very cool. He’s big, imposing, and has large hands that can break people’s faces, but he just happens to prefer bullets. His biggest charm point is likely his individually drawn teeth, which make him look especially predatory and beast-like.
The film also impresses with keen color design, with Lupin donning a striking turquoise jacket, Jigen sporting a deep red shirt, and Fujiko rocking loud and orange gradient hair. This acute sense of color design also does well to establish atmosphere, from the warm colors of Lupin and Jigen’s hideout, the cool colors of the graveyard at night, to the dank gray of Yael’s dwelling.
The world the characters occupy in this outing is rich with much of the ornateness present in the Monkey Punch original, given a cleanup and streamline by way of Koike. Several objects at first glance seem like frivolous design elements, but actually actually play key parts in the story. Notable examples include the gargoyles present throughout Doroa, and the design on the one bullet in Yael’s arsenal that he saves for his final shot.
Stretching his Redline muscles, Koike’s Lupin is filled with flare, but retains a lot of the spirit of old Lupin. Early on in the film, Lupin and Jigen knock out two men in a car to assume their identities. Much like the old TV series, it cuts to a humorous shot after the fact with the two guys tied up in their boxers. However, rather than simply cut between shots like the old TV show, this film opts to show us a long shot of Lupin and Jigen getting away in the car, quickly zooming in on the two guys after the car goes off–appropriately struggling while tied up in their boxers, natch. This technique is also used effectively in serious moments: The camera immediately pulls out when Queen Malta is shot, revealing her corpse in the dead-middle of the opera house spotlight, emphasizing the shock of everyone in the vicinity; and the camera pulls in super-close on Lupin’s eyes to underscore his anger when he’s about to settle the score with Yael. Complementing Koike’s occasional camera games is a strong eye for dynamism throughout the entire work. Eyes are kept busy with energetic layouts, that work perfectly with the film’s lively animation. Character movement is top-notch throughout, with Lupin and Jigen flailing around like they always do, while Yael’s movements are efficient and speedy. As alluded to earlier, action scenes are animated to convey convincing force in the violence, and gunplay and car chases flow very well.
Shimoji James, who also penned the score to Koike’s Redline, enhances the film’s sleek visuals with a similarly sleek lineup of hot tracks. But rather than sounding like Redline, the music calls back to Red Jacket Lupin, particularly in the down-key moments. Much like in old Lupin, talking-head scenes are matched to very simple jazzy accompaniment–usually just a keyboard, and maybe some drums–adding the slick layer of cool that characterizes the franchise. Shimoji takes things in his own direction for action scenes, opting for a more blues rock flavor in the film’s intense, fast-paced action scenes that works very well. The ending theme sung by one “Gary Stockdale,” carries on in the same blues rock direction, closing out Bohyou with a bang. The lyrics and delivery call back to old James Bond, and the song’s composition is used as a leitmotif throughout the film’s soundtrack, reinforcing its already-strong musical identity.
I really want more of this. The film ups the ante at the very end with a scene featuring a glimpse of Zenigata, along with a certain villain that Lupin has not met since the 1970s. While the new Lupin series they have in the works with Miyazaki designs looks good, I would more than welcome a hard-edged series just like this film.