After watching Dead or Alive at Otakon this past summer, I was thoroughly impressed. I won't say that this movie is better than Castle of Cagliostro, but it comes pretty darn close. Ever since watching The Mighty Sword That Can Cut Steel, I have been an avid fan of Lupin III and his bent cigarette. Although the artwork varies from movie to movie, the stories are always outrageously enjoyable. The movie does not disappoint; be prepared for some wild and silly fun.
Lupin III returns to the big screen in Dead or Alive in order to steal the treasure of a small country which has recently been in political turmoil due to a coup d'etat. The royal family has been murdered, and a general is well on his way to giving the word "dictator" a new definition. In order to fund this military dictatorship (as well as his fetish for knives), the general must get a hold of the royal family's treasure. Unfortunately, he killed the family before getting the key. So who will unlock the door first, Lupin III and his gang, or a small military?
Like every movie, Lupin's gang consists of three people: Fujiko, Jigen, and Goemon. Fujiko, Lupin's female counterpart in most movies, finds herself trying to reach (steal) the same thing Lupin is after, but Fujiko likes to work from the inside, while Lupin likes to break in.
Next we have Jigen, probably the only guy who could defeat Lupin in a gunfight. With his dark beard, black pants, jacket, and hat, Jigen is always alert and has an uncanny sense of what is around the next corner.
Then we have Goemon. Take a master swordsman and give him an unbreakable sword which can slice any object known to mankind (well, almost), and you have Goemon. He doesn't talk much, but hey, when you are as good as he is, you shouldn't have to, right?
And lastly, this movie wouldn't be complete without Zenigata. Yup, the special investigator from Interpol is back, and this time, I have to admit, he kicks ass. In past movies, Zenigata is usually seen as the no-good clumsy police officer taken straight out of Cat's Eye (or some other burglar vs. dumb-cop show), but this time, they really made him a realistic and respectable character. Expect to be surprised by this once-lame but now-elite Interpol agent.
If you liked Castle of Cagliostro, then you are bound to find something good in Dead or Alive, but keep in mind, Miyazaki had nothing to do with this one. If you find yourself becoming a devout Lupin III follower (like me), I would recommend getting a hold of Golden Legend of Babylon and Plot of the Fuma Clan. Both of these Lupin movies are available commercially in the U.S. and were released (subbed and dubbed) by Animeigo in the 80's (1985 and 1987, respectively). Dead or Alive was released in 1996, and since then, there have been at least two other movies: The Secret of Twilight Gemini (August 1996) and Walther P.38 (August 1997).