© 1978 Monkey Punch/Tokyo Movie Shinsha
Lupin III: The Mystery of Mamo
I find it somewhat ironic that I can say, "I've yet to see a Lupin III movie I didn't enjoy", and at the same qualify the The Mystery of Mamo as the worst Lupin I've seen yet. The truth is, I didn't have many expectations for The Mystery of Mamo, primarily given that it was made over twenty years ago. On the other hand, I'd enjoyed what I'd seen of the lovable thief Lupin so far and held reserved hope this movie wouldn't disappoint.
The Mystery of Mamo begins with an unusual scene. Lupin III has been found hanging from his neck and is autopsied and pronounced dead by the police. The ever faithful Zenigata, mind you, doesn't believe Lupin would be done away with so easily, despite the overwelming evidence to the contrary. Of course, for the viewer, Lupin isn't dead (or otherwise this would've been one short movie), so the mystery is who set up Lupin's death, and more importantly why?
Not that Lupin and company could care, for they're quite busy on their own attempting to steal a jewel from within an Egyptian temple. Zenigata wastes no time in consolidating his forces against Lupin and quickly confirms that the thief is alive and well as he's ever been. The jewel heist goes off with only minor trouble for Lupin and his partner, Jigen, leaving Zenigata firmly in their wake. Fujiko then enters the scene, as the one who put Lupin up to the heist. Lupin's ever present curiosity tries to get Fukijo to reveal her source, but she graciously turns him down. Not that Fujiko could ever dissuade Lupin, though, and he soon begins unhatching the secrets behind her employer and into a very sinister plot.
The story is full of your typical madcap adventure and excitement that permeates all Lupin movies. From a daring car chase against an 18-wheeler to exciting shootouts, this movie has plenty of action to satisfy Lupin fans. And for more savvy fans, the character interactions are equally worthwhile to behold. Between Lupin's constant attempts to get Fujiko in the sack, her gracious put-downs at almost every attempt, and Zenigata's fanatic quest to put Lupin away, how could anyone not love these characters?
Unfortunately, there are a few areas where I felt The Mystery of Mamo didn't quite deliver. The first is in Mamo himself. Without giving anything away, let's just say he's probably the more asinine looking villain I've seen yet. I mean, there's stupidly comical, and then there's just plain stupid. And Mamo's appearance definitely leans him towards the latter in my books. Secondly, the story itself seems a little bit too eccentric, even for a Lupin movie. Once the second half of the movie is in full swing, events just seem to spiral further and further out of control, with one ridiculous revelation after another. Really, I probably would've enjoyed things better had the movie just ended after Lupin's first encounter with Mamo. The rest of the story felt unnecessary and somewhat forced.
The Mystery of Mamo was made in the 70's, so keep that firmly in mind when judging the visuals. Not that the animation is terrible or anything, but anyone weaned on fairly modern anime like Cowboy Bebop or Escaflowne may take some adjusting to get used to the retro-look of this movie.
Quibbles aside, this is still a moderately enjoyable piece of Lupin animation. If you can suspend your disbelief more than I could for most of the movie, then The Mystery of Mamo is a worthwhile way to kill a couple of hours.
The Verdict: * * * (average)
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