One of the various occasions radically altered by the COVID-19 pandemic is the annual Annecy International Animated Film Festival, a showcase for animated motion pictures, tv, and works in progress from around the globe. This yr, Annecy is holding its first-ever online edition, and among the many motion pictures in competitors is one hotly anticipated by longtime anime followers around the globe: Lupin the third: The First, the awkwardly named first CG outing for the gentleman thief Lupin III. It’s a strikingly detailed new search for a set of characters who’ve at all times been rubber-faced, closely stylized, and cartoonish. But the variations of Lupin and his acquainted pals and enemies within the new CG film reside as much as the excessive expectations set by a long time of over-the-top animated adventures.
Lupin III began out as a 1967 manga sequence by writer-artist Kazuhiko Katō, beneath the pen identify Monkey Punch. The comedian centered on Lupin the third, the grandson of famed fictional French thief Arsène Lupin, created by French author Maurice Leblanc. Like the unique Lupin, his grandson is a grasp of disguise and a gentleman fairly than a thug, however Lupin III can be a goofball, a skirt-chaser, and a secret romantic. He actively relishes his many confrontations together with his dogged nemesis, Inspector Zenigata of Interpol. Lupin is the type of felony who pronounces his heists upfront to make them more difficult and enjoyable, and to make it much more spectacular when he will get away with them anyway.
The manga spawned a number of animated TV sequence, live-action motion pictures, and OVAs, alongside seven animated movies. Most notably, the ultra-charming 1979 journey The Castle of Cagliostro was the primary movie directed by Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki. (That film is at the moment on Netflix, for anybody searching for a Lupin III start line.)
Lupin the third: The First got here out in late 2019 in Japan, and New York distribution home GKids picked it up, planning an American theatrical release in 2020. But with theaters across the nation closed, and cinema’s launch schedule continually being rejiggered, it’s unattainable to say when the movie would possibly open in America. Which is a disgrace, as a result of Annecy’s preview of the movie showcases a sequence of motion and humor scenes that might put Lupin the third: The First amongst Lupin’s strongest adventures.
The movie’s main MacGuffin is a golden, mechanical diary, the work of a reclusive genius who supposedly used it to level to a hidden treasure. Lupin the third: The First opens with a flashback to the 1940s, because the ebook’s creator makes an attempt to have it spirited away to security, whereas a bunch of Nazis pursue its keepers. In a modern-day sequence, the ebook is up for public sale when Lupin pronounces his plans to steal it — and virtually immediately makes good on that warning. His introduction scene is a flurry of motion, as Zenigata and Lupin’s longtime rival and occasional ally Fujiko each become involved, and the ebook repeatedly modifications arms.
Lupin has at all times been drawn as an elongated character of a person, preposterously skinny, however with huge clown sneakers and a comically spherical head. Most of his character comes from his exaggerated however assured physique language, and the smirky dialogue that communicates his outsized character — all roguish allure, playfulness, and conceitedness, with a coronary heart of gold beneath all of it. The absolutely rendered CG model of him captures all of it, proper all the way down to his weirdly balletic actions when he’s partaking an enemy. But it provides a degree of element Lupin’s by no means had earlier than, from the meticulously rendered particular person hairs on his head to the faint freckles on his cheeks.
Lupin does look remarkably odd in CG. The little sq. strains on the corners of his higher lip appear notably sharp in this sort of depth-focused rendering, and his exaggerated eyebrows make him appear extra like a caricature than ever. In Lupin the third: The First, he lacks the nice and cozy allure of conventional 2D cel animation, and he trades in his homey handmade high quality for a slickness and over-accentuated set of facial textures (tiny beard hairs over freckles over a gentle flush over his in any other case pale pores and skin tone) that really feel notably calculated. The downside right here isn’t that he’s rendered poorly, it’s that he’s rendered through the identical sorts of animation formulation that gave us Gru within the Despicable Me motion pictures, Anna within the Frozen motion pictures, and the human characters within the Toy Story motion pictures, and he considerably resembles all of them. The quest to realize lifelike pores and skin and facial actions in digital animation makes all human characters really feel a bit related, irrespective of how totally different their base fashions are.
But in movement, he has as a lot distinctive dynamism as he ever did. In the opening sequences of Lupin the third: The First, he’s overeager, simply pissed off, and too smug for his personal good, all acquainted flaws from previous adventures. He’s additionally cheerful and resourceful, with a powerful sense of, and an unbeatably fast wit, and the same old capacity to change immediately from detached to engaged on a dime when somebody’s at risk due to his recklessness. His look has solely modified, however he’s nonetheless the identical wild clown of a grasp thief that he’s been because the 1960s. Judging from Annecy’s preview, his upcoming film goes to be a whole lot of enjoyable.