By Matt Schley
This article originally ran on otakuusamagazine.com
Back in 2009, some executive had a brilliant idea (albeit one, no doubt, cooked up by a thousand fan fiction writers before him): pit anime's most famous thief, Lupin III, against anime's most famous detective, Conan, and watch the money roll in.
It worked, apparently, because this week saw the rollout of a sequel to the Lupin vs. Conan TV special – and this time on the big screen. Last time around, Conan promised Lupin that if they ever met again, he'd catch him for sure.
So by the end of Lupin the Third vs. Detective Conan: The Movie, was the famous boy detective Conan able to put the master thief Lupin away? To anyone who's ever sat through one of these franchise crossover films, the answer is certainly no spoiler: of course not.
Despite making the leap to theaters, the second Lupin vs. Conan film is pretty much a direct continuation of the first, both plotwise and stylistically. They share the same director, Hajime Kamegaki, who's directed a handful of Lupin specials and done key animation on several Conan films, and writer Atsushi Maekawa, who've you got to feel a little sympathy for here – the milquetoast script he delivers for this film isn't his fault, really: he's constrained by the rules and back stories of not one but two long-running franchises.
The TV Lupin vs. Conan looked and moved like most Lupin specials over the last few years – serviceably, but without a lot of flair. The new film doesn't look a whole lot better, despite a few action sequences that take advantage of the bigger screen. On the whole, though, this is very standard stuff. Perhaps the biggest changes are heard rather than seen: in the time since the original special aired, Zenigata and Fujiko have been replaced by new voice actors.
The film kicks off when Conan and co. are called in to check out a death threat against Emilio, an Italian superstar singer on tour in Japan – whose personal bodyguard happens to be Lupin’s partner Daisuke Jigen (why do people keep hiring him, anyway?). As things progress, it turns out Emilio's management isn't exactly on the up-and-up: they have ties with the mafia, who're after the same precious stone from the last film as – you guessed it – Lupin.
If it sounds a little hard to follow, it's not your fault. The film has a lot of particular buttons to hit before it's through: double and triple-crosses, Fujiko fan service, Conan and Lupin constantly one-upping each other – and the plot is geared to hitting these buttons, not making any particular sense.
Alien vs. Predator, Freddy vs. Jason, Mazinger Z vs. Devilman – whatever the crossover, you know the pattern. Both franchises have their fanbases – and individual revenue streams – so there's no way one character could ever emerge victorious over the other. Usually they fight until about halfway through the film, when they're forced to reluctantly team up and face an ever greater foe, and this film is no exception.
Films like this are the cinematic equivalent of the internet's "one weird trick" pop up ads – what they promise can't possibly be delivered, and anyone who clicks (or buys a ticket) is either really gullible or knows from the outset exactly what they're in for.
So hey, man, if you're a fan of both these franchises and simply want to see the characters interact for a while, this is your film. But if you're looking for anything deeper, well, don't say we didn't warn you.