It is rather hard to believe that we have only recently seen an official team-up of Detective Conan and Lupin the 3rd considering both have been mega-franchises for so long. Detective Conan movies are already known for their splashy, high-stakes situations and a penchant for putting in as many characters from the Conan universe as they can. So doubling up by adding the all-star cast of Lupin the 3rd just sounds so right.
Despite the obvious love that Japan has for these characters, they have both only had middling success stateside with the exception of something like The Castle of Cagliostro. To say that seeing the Lupin the 3rd VS. Detective Conan: The Movie streaming was a shock would be a huge understatement. This film is not licensed by an American company and probably won’t be. Plus, unlike TV series, theatrical anime is still a lot less likely to be streamed so we are constantly missing out on titles.
If you pay attention to any sort of comic book news you will notice people endlessly debating the merits of a Batman VS. Superman movie. I mostly bring that up not so the comments can be a quagmire of angry nerds but because it shows a desire for fans to see their favorite characters interact. That is the reason that comics crossovers sell so well, people makes games like Super Robot Wars, and odd things like a SuperWhoLock fandom exists. Anime and manga is no exception. CLAMP and Go Nagai have often done this with their own series. One Piece and Toriko as well as Fairy Tail and Yankee-kun to Megane-chan have had joint adventures. There was even a Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha and Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA crossover but the less you think about that the better. The characters of Nisekoi and My Love Story!! have even officially met at one point in time. And this is all outside of fan-fiction which breaks any and all barriers.
But rarely have two properties has an almost gravitational pull like that of Lupin the 3rd and Detective Conan. They are practically designed to fit together seamlessly. Lupin is the world’s most notorious thief and Conan is secretly the world’s greatest detective. Ever since Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late there has been a rivalry phantom thieves and detectives so it is only natural for them to clash. While Conan already has Magic Kaito (or considering the order in which they were created maybe I should say Magic Kaito already has Conan) it hardly diminishes the excitement over this clash. Like the old saw of who would win in a fight between Superman and Goku I think fans of either franchise would be curious to see who would come out on top.
It starts in familiar territory. Magic Kaito has issued his standard challenge and so Ginzo Nakamori has an elaborate plan to catch his nemesis. But Conan Edogawa discovers that the thief he is chasing is actually Lupin in disguise. After Lupin ditches the diamond he stole like an old issue of Shonen Sunday it becomes clear that Lupin has a greater plan surrounding his trip to Japan. The question is what does this plan have to do with an Italian pop star, a valuable sapphire, underworld dealings, and the always dangerous and mysterious Fujiko Mine? Can the Junior Detective League catch Goemon? Will Sonoko Suzuki start dating an idol? Who side is Fujiko on (besides her own)?
It is worth noting that this is not the first time that Conan and Lupin have squared off. They previously met in the Lupin the 3rd VS. Detective Conan special. While you can watch Lupin the 3rd VS. Detective Conan: The Movie on Hulu the original meeting has not been officially licensed. That is a little unusual as there are several plot points that assume you have seen the special. It is not impossible to follow without watching the prequel but it is nigh foolish to watch the movie without seeing what came before it. I was able to piece together what happened via context and the quick run down they give in the movie but it sort of feels like someone explaining an in-joke to you. By the end you understand what they are talking about but since you were not there for the inception of the joke it does not have anywhere near the same weight to you.
It’s funny because when I was watching the movie for the review Kate wandered upstairs just as I was about to get to the point where you really need to have seen this original special. It was obvious from her face that she wanted to see my reaction to the next bit but could not say anything. It was like looking at someone to was coming into the room just before the big reveal of Fight Club.
My advice would be that if you are not morally adverse to watching a fan-sub you probably want to watch the special before you dive into this. It is not absolute necessary but it makes everything that happens in the movie far more rewarding.
I didn’t expect to see a Kaito Kid heist open this film. At first I was sitting there thinking “Wow, they really are throwing the whole kitchen sink at this movie!” but Kid outs himself quickly as an impostor once he pulls out a real gun. This all leads into a heck of an elaborate chase sequence.
The pursuit of Lupin by Conan is lovingly-crafted and over-the-top. The TV special also contained an incredibly well-animated sequence of a similar feel between Conan and Fujiko. The action is downright insane, but it just makes you happy to watch it. It involves vehicle changes, a move from water to land, explosions, and of course Conan’s signature skateboard and Lupin’s signature car all done with a lot of care. It is has all the right energy to open this film, and for better or worse remains the best 10-minutes of the entire feature.
Because that kitchen sink feeling comes back.
If I had a main criticism of the movie it would not be its reliance on the previous special. It would actually be that the plot has a distinct bell curve of interest. The movie starts strong with Lupin pulling off several robberies and Conan and the police playing a game of cat and mouse with the Lupin gang. You get some good action and Conan and Lupin being the most antagonistic to earn the Lupin the 3rd VS. Detective Conan title as opposed to just Lupin the 3rd meets Detective Conan.
Then the Emilio Baretti storyline kicks in. He is important enough that he can’t be ignored but not compelling enough that you really care. He and his manager are not horrible but at the same time they just don’t add anything other than as tool to tie plot threads together. They either needed to play them up a bit more so we cared about them or needed to make them a bit more generic so they were totally just tools of the plot. Other than an exciting scene on the Sky Tree they are mostly just a speed bump in the way of what the audience really wants.
In the end we get the big set pieces you expect from a Conan movie as the action picks back up again. It is probably not a coincidence that at that point Emilio is out of the story. Overall the highs outweighed the lows but the slog in the middle might kill some interest in the movie.
Even having watched the special, the overarching plot of the movie can get convoluted. It has been a good long while since I’ve seen that special! And I have a feeling this was the case for many moviegoers as well. I was able to muddle through thanks to the minor recaps, but I frequently found myself saying “Oh, right!” as flashbacks and references were dropped.
In the special we have a runaway princess, in the movie we have a runaway idol. I didn’t see Emilio’s story as completely unrelated to the rest of the film, but it does add one element too many to the motivations and behind-the-scenes workings of the bigger plot which I already mentioned as being complex.
We end up with multiple countries (real and imagined), multiple baddies, multiple betrayals, multiple governments, and the possibility of war (!). And despite all of that, I found the motive of Smithee lacking. Not that he didn’t have one, but just that the reveal didn’t mean much in the grand scheme of what we were seeing onscreen.
This movie really did its best to give a little fan-service to everyone. Unsurprisingly the Lupin gang is out in full force. Lupin and Fujiko do most of the heavy lifting while Jigen might actually be the character who interacts with Conan the most. Goemon probably is the most underused but he tends to be the part of the gang that gets overlooked if anyone is going to be ignored. Zenigata actually acts fairly well as a bridge between the two franchises as he is able to get a good deal of the regular police force that is part of Conan cast involved with the story. He also gets to be a bit of a badass during the finale as opposed to just the force that makes Lupin have to flee the scene.
Conan on the other had has a larger regular cast so in his case it was more a question of who gets tapped to appear and who can’t be fit into the story. I recognized most of the law enforcement members of the cast although I don’t know them anywhere as much as Kate does. Magic Kaito and Ginzo Nakamori are most just cameos but the few times they appear it is for maximum effect. The Junior Detective League is unusually effective but still a day late and a dollar short. Ran and Sonoko sadly only get to shine in the middle section but oddly Kogoro Mori feels more like a token appearance despite the amount that he shows up.
It is funny to see the Lupin characters have an almost rockstar level of fame. Everyone (other than some very strict traffic cops) seem dazzled by Zenigata’s cooperation in the case. At the same time most of the police characters would probably pick catching the notorious Lupin gang over winning the lottery if they were given the choice between the two.
I have to say that I was amused that here was a character named Alan Smithee. Any fans of cinema trivia will surely get a little kick out of that reference.
In the movie, Conan and Lupin have very different approaches to situations and it doesn’t shy away from showing Lupin as a bit more ruthless. There is also a clearer feeling of animosity when Conan interacts with anyone on the Lupin side. Comedy plays a part in both the movie and special, but I found the balance better in the movie as it doesn’t make Lupin out to be bumbling.
I get irritated when something is called VS when they really mean team-up. Often times these types will start out with two characters duking it out but then for one reason or another they will have to put things on hold because some bigger, badder, thing must be taken care of. While the movie definitely veers into this territory a bit, at least it takes a literal life-or-death situation to cause the two to cooperate. It never stops feeling like they are at odds.
To bring back my earlier apology I will point out that Lupin is a lot like Batman. He is an iconic character who has been written by lots of people since his initial debut. As such he has several different iterations who have various levels of maturity each with their own distinct variations from the original. People will argue back and forth over which are the good versions of either character and which ones are best forgotten with a few iterations that are almost universally loved and other that tend to be reviled.
This version of Lupin is pretty much the family friendly “red jacket” version. While Lupin is a rogue and a scoundrel in this form most of his harder edges have been filed off so he is more of a grey hero than a dangerous antihero. If your waiting the Lupin from The Woman Called Fujiko Mine you will be disappointed. Conan is a family friendly series (despite all the decapitations, suicides, and various forms of impalement and immolation that are a regular part of the series) so you really can’t expect any grittier version of the thief to be used. They give Lupin a few lines to remind you he is not totally on the up and up but overall this is one of his lighter variants.
I enjoyed this as a romp and liked it better than the special despite the need to have seen said special to totally “get” the movie. The movie does have way too much going on in it, but that doesn’t totally ruin the enjoyment of seeing these characters interact. Plus, it has a great sense of spectacle.