Anime Vice News

LUPIN III: THE SECRET OF MAMO -- Retro Review

A timeless, surreal caper that's more fun than CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO in a few ways.

Previous Retro Reviews...

It goes without saying that THE SECRET OF MAMO’s been rather significantly overshadowed by its follow-up, THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO. A LUPIN III adventure just doesn’t seem as sexy today, more than 30 years on, without being Miyazaki’s first feature or having Spielberg’s (famously unverified) favorite car chase ever. Honestly, it’s a bit easy to dismiss, and that’s a shame since the flick’s as entertaining as CAGLIOSTRO on its own unique merits.

At the risk of getting too far ahead before watching the other three LUPIN III features, it’s handy to say this movie brings the ALIEN and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE series to mind. That is, it plays like a very personalized take on a brand; a series entry that could be filed into a completely different genre from the next, despite all the common ingredients. Most serial adventures claim to put their heroes in as diverse a variety of scenarios as possible, but few pull that conceit off as validly as these two manage to do with the clownish master thief, Lupin III.

Viewed without any links to the TV show, MAMO’s unmistakably more surreal, and a lot funnier, than CAGLIOSTRO. That’s clear from the very expressionistic opener depicting Lupin’s highly unlikely execution at the gallows in bold, abstract strokes. There’s the same European sensibility and infectious sense of fun, but this title leans far closer to quirky surrealism than to the studied and practical naturalism of its follow-up.

Actually, it doesn’t lean toward that art movement so much as inhabit it. A stand-out sequence has Lupin literally fleeing from a bad guy through the foregrounds, midgrounds and backgrounds of various famous paintings by the likes of Dali and Escher. If Lupin seems like a thieving Charlie Chaplin in Movie #2, then he’s something like a pratfall-prone Georges Méliès in Movie #1.

And, you know what? I kind of prefer him that way, a little.

THE SECRET OF MAMO offers another extra-sized adventure wherein the gentleman rogue Lupin follows a gal into a tangled net of trouble (as is his wont.) After his dogged antagonistic, Inspector Zenigata, comically proves that the rumors of his death have been greatly exaggerated, Lupin opts to go steal the Philosopher’s Stone (not, not that one) right out of the pyramids instead of maybe trying to figure out who faked his demise without his approval. He braves scary laser grids and evades local authorities at high speeds to nab this priceless artifact, and his spectacular antics wind up being basically a boyish effort to impress a girl - - the ever elusive femme fatale, Fujiko.

Enough double-crosses ensue to fill in a very lopsided Tic Tac Toe game board. Lupin keeps running into Fujiko despite the protests of how "that lady is a tramp" which are coming from his signature associates, the gunhand Jigen and the master swordsman Goemon. Soon enough, they all wind up in the orbit of Mamo, a chalky and diminutive mastermind who seems to be immortal and could very well have the incomprehensible powers of a god. In ways that prove fitting (if not totally sensible) Mamo’s titular secret holds the key to the execution of Lupin’s doppelganger, and the revelation of that connection proves to be a rather delightful near-non-sequitor.

Picking apart the particulars of why this bandit's globetrotting shenanigans are so effortlessly enjoyable feels akin to being the one fuddy-duddy who’s shown up to a jazz club with a notepad while everyone else is just enjoying the music. Lupin may have to sort through a mystery or two here, but the reason why he’s so fun to watch is no enigma. He’s a personality charismatic enough to follow to all ends of the world. Ipso facto. Plain as that.

Actually, it’s more worthwhile to bring up American otaku’s notorious short memories and make a case here for newer and younger viewers to not brush this off as something quaint and outdated. For one, this is fairly recent dub, and the ADR team clearly had some fun sliding a couple additional layers of anachronistic pop art surrealism on top of this parfait. Most amusingly, they made George W. Bush the off-screen president in this dreamtime of the 70's.

That’s just a cute detail, though. I brought up jazz just now, out of all possible music styles, because it was damn near impossible not to think about the debt COWBOY BEBOP owes to LUPIN III while listening to this movie's soundtrack. Spike, Jet, Vicious and Faye might not be exactly like Lupin, Jigen, Goemon and Fujiko, but they do bear more than passing resemblance. Anybody whose entry into anime fandom was comprised of a dive into Adult Swim's pool really owes it to themselves to check this timeless caper out and understand how it shaped so much of what followed it. It still feels fresh. Promise.

You've already heard enough recommendations for CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO, so here's an enthusiastic one for the even older school Lupin adventure. And look! Why, checking it out for yourself is just as easy as clicking the play button below...

Tom Pinchuk’s the writer of HYBRID BASTARDS! & UNIMAGINABLE. Order them on Amazon here & here. Follow him on Twitter: @tompinchuk

DocHauson April 27, 2012 at 6:08 p.m.

Weirdly enough, I just finished watching this movie a few weeks ago. This does seem to bring out a more cartoony side of Lupin, though it gets into surreal territory near the end. Then again the style of each Lupin movie seems to fluctuate wildly depending on who's directing at the time.

FoxxFireArt moderator on April 27, 2012 at 6:20 p.m.

Holy crap! This is the whole movie online?! I never had the chance to see this before. I know what I'm watching tonight.

Lupin isn't as dated in the culture as you may think. It wasn't that long ago that DETECTIVE CONAN and LUPIN had a little cross over special. And lest I forget. Ohhhhhh, Fujiko. ドキドキ

Kuro_Sanon April 27, 2012 at 9:41 p.m.

I love Lupin II, I'm enjoying every fricking second of the new series... Is just too awesome...

FoxxFireArt moderator on April 28, 2012 at 9:26 a.m.

@Kuro_San:

I would LOVE to be watching the new series, but you need a paid membership to FUNimation's site to watch it. It looks stunning. I'll certainly be waiting for FUNi to release the DVDs.

snowymountainon April 30, 2012 at 1:20 a.m.

It's been a while since I've seen this old movie but I still remember it pretty well. Personally, I thought the Castle of Cagliostro and the Fuma Conspiracy was the best of the Lupin movies, but I have to admit that the Mystery of Mamo wasn't bad either. Not quite in those movies class, but still worth a watch. This movie, out of all of them I think best defines Lupin and Fujiko's twisted relationship. He's crazy about her and can't help himself -- and she's a flirt and a tease who it seems is willing to betray him at the drop of a hat if it's to her advantage.

I spent most of the movie just shaking my head at Lupin's antics and how stupid he was being at getting betrayed over and over again by Fujiko who had sold him out for the promise of immortality. Yet what stunned me the most was how at the very end that we find out that Fujiko's deal for immortality was for two--her and Lupin. And when Lupin rejected it flat out, Fujiko just shrugged and sighed and said that she was turning her immortality down as well because "it wouldn't be any fun without Lupin around".

Eyzon April 30, 2012 at 1:23 a.m.

I loved this one personally. Then again, I'm a big Lupin fan^^

zaldaron April 30, 2012 at 2:54 p.m.

Lupin never did it for me. I could never get into the surreal silliness and I didn't like the art style all that much really (though it does fit the silliness that is going on in the show). May give this a look at some point, but doubt it. Glad to hear you liked it though.

Marshal Victoryon April 30, 2012 at 9:18 p.m.

Lupin is awsome where ever you find it . The original tv series was a blast .An this new Lupin the Third: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna is just wow.Unreal oddly cool animation style an some well odd turns in the history of Fujiko ... but ya this movie was great to.

Any one else get a pink panther vibe at times from the show tho?

Dig Deeper into Lupin III: Mystery of Mamo

The first feature length film based on Lupin the 3rd to be released in Japanese theatres.

Edit/View the Wiki
Hit the Forums (1 Post)
Add/View Images (3 Images)
Watch Some Videos
Pokemon Black and White Looks Delicious in Motion

First video of a Pokemon battle in Black and White.

Comment & Win: One Piece Vol. 52, 53

Time for a giveaway folks! Now, act civil, we don't want anyone to get hurt in the mad rush to win.

Beginner's Guide to FLCL

Gainax's madcap, surrealist anime, broken down for new viewers.

Ballz Deep

Steve gets intimately close to Dragon Ball Z, for science!

Top 3 Awful Anime Dubs

Grit your teeth and get your ear plugs ready cause this week we're taking on the three most amazingly bad dubs of all time!

Anime Caption Contest! -- 8/18/14

Let's party hard at the beach while it's still summer!

AKAME GA KILL! is... OK for a Harem Show?

Episode #2. W&L. I wish this were better.

Does Anime Get Too 'Niche?'

THE VICE PIT. Sometimes, it feels like watching somebody else's home movies, doesn't it?

I'm Trying Really Hard to Like ALDNOAH ZERO #2

...but it's sooooo self-serious!

Listen to the JOJO'S BIZARRE ADVENTURE Rap!

Richie Branson continues his weekly anime-inspired rap series with the hip-hop tribute "Stand-Up."

NOBUNAGA CONCERTO #1&2 -- Special Review

A spectacle like this only comes once in a great while.

DRAGON BALL -- Does the First Saga Hold Up?

THE VICE PIT. We re-visited the very first DRAGON BALL arc and wonder if nostalgia has blinded us about Emperor Pilaf.

JOJO'S BIZARRE ADVENTURE : STARDUST CRUSADERS #20 -- Special Review

Eat poo... and die?

AKAME GA KILL! is... OK for a Harem Show?

Episode #2. W&L. I wish this were better.

Anime Caption Contest! -- 8/18/14

Let's party hard at the beach while it's still summer!

I'm Trying Really Hard to Like ALDNOAH ZERO #2

...but it's sooooo self-serious!

Does Anime Get Too 'Niche?'

THE VICE PIT. Sometimes, it feels like watching somebody else's home movies, doesn't it?

Comparing ALDNOAH ZERO #3 to CODE GEASS

Episode #3. W&L. What did Lelouch do better?

DRAGON BALL -- Does the First Saga Hold Up?

THE VICE PIT. We re-visited the very first DRAGON BALL arc and wonder if nostalgia has blinded us about Emperor Pilaf.

Listen to the JOJO'S BIZARRE ADVENTURE Rap!

Richie Branson continues his weekly anime-inspired rap series with the hip-hop tribute "Stand-Up."

JOJO'S BIZARRE ADVENTURE : STARDUST CRUSADERS #20 -- Special Review

Eat poo... and die?

Mandatory Network

Submissions can take several hours to be approved.

Save ChangesCancel