"Lupin the Third," a live-action film based on the popular anime series of the same name, completes mission impossible by successfully bringing the original anime characters to life.
Producing a live-action version of the hugely popular anime was an extremely daunting task.
The first uncertainty was how the live-action version would depict the anime characters. When casting was announced, many people expressed doubts, saying the actors did not really match the images of the original anime characters.
To our surprise, however, the characters were quite stunning when seen in real landscapes in the newly created film. The live-action version appears to have turned out as quite a success, and the actors convinced us that the casting was appropriate.
The story revolves around master thief Lupin the Third, supposedly a grandson of Arsene Lupin, a fictional gentleman burglar in a series of French novels by Maurice Leblanc, and his comrades. They attempt to break into an impregnable fortress to steal hidden treasures dating back to the ancient Roman Empire.
Lupin’s gunman buddy Jigen is played by Tetsuji Tamayama, the sword master Goemon by Go Ayano, the sexy heroine Fujiko Mine by Meisa Kuroki, and police inspector Zenigata, who chases after Lupin and his friends, by Tadanobu Asano.
But above all, Shun Oguri, as Lupin, stands out.
He almost perfectly reproduces the anime version of Lupin’s distinctive way of speaking. To get his physique as close as possible to that of the wiry anime character, he reduced his weight by eight kilograms. He even memorized the anime character’s facial expressions. Nevertheless, Oguri looks natural enough to keep the audience from feeling that he is merely mimicking the anime character. This film proves Oguri an actor par excellence.
Although other actors do not seem to have tried to make themselves resemble their anime characters, they meticulously blend anime images into their movements.
The film is almost entirely set in Thailand and stars many non-Japanese actors, including Jerry Yan from Taiwan and Vithaya Pansringarm from Thailand, casting well suited to the multinational flavor of “Lupin the Third.”
Yet, the film’s success apparently owes heavily to the direction of Ryuhei Kitamura.
Kitamura’s films are always filled with what can be called excessive smartness, an element that makes his works quite attractive and creates genuine film atmospheres. But with one single slip, his work may turn into an unintentional comedy or take a step in the wrong direction.
In “Godzilla: Final Wars,” his direction unfortunately made the film look a little odd. But this time, Kitamura’s style perfectly fits the world of “Lupin the Third.”
The rhythmic short sequences of shots are delightful, and the film is not unrefined, which is often the case with anime-turned-live action films. Action scenes are dynamic and full of exhilarating moments. The car chase scenes, for instance, are truly thrilling. It’s no exaggeration to say director Kitamura has finally hit his stride.
The film also enables anime fans to enjoy scenes familiar to them from the original, such as when Goemon cuts enemy bullets with his iron-cutting sword and police inspector Zenigata chases after Lupin while hanging out of his police car and shouting through a loudspeaker.
Yes, the film fulfilled the mission of establishing the world of “Lupin the Third” without damaging the image of the original anime work.
Lupin the Third
Dir: Ryuhei Kitamura
Cast: Shun Oguri, Tetsuji Tamayama, Go Ayano, Meisa Kuroki, Tadanobu Asano
Running time: 133 minutes
The movie is currently showing at TOHO Cinemas Nichigeki and other cinemas.