Few years ago, when both Lupin the 3rd and Case Closed were airing on Adult Swim, someone over in the Cartoon Network offices had the brilliant idea to put both shows back to back in the program schedule. Sheer genius. This “Lupin and Conan Power Hour” as I had dubbed it, was my favorite hour of television each night. I didn’t care if they were episodes I had already seen a few times before, each night my butt was rooted deeply into the couch, my eyes super-glued to the screen. Two great things that went great together… like liquor and fireworks. So when I heard the first Lupin TV special this year was going to be Lupin the 3rd Vs. Detective Conan, oh man was I stoked. Now that I’ve seen it… well… it wasn’t bad.
The main problem is the “vs.” part of the title. Mainly that it’s not true.. at all. At no time in this anime was there a serious Lupin vs. Conan confrontation, which puzzles me. Why did they choose “vs.”? They could have easily named it “Lupin the 3rd & Detective Conan” or “Lupin the 3rd + Detective Conan” or even “Detective Conan with occasional guest appearances by Lupin the 3rd.” The latter one felt the most accurate as Lupin is given hardly any screen time for the first 40 minutes of the film. What I really wanted to see was a battle of wits between the title characters. A story where Lupin and his gang are going to pull the heist of the century and Interpol assigns Zenigata to team up with Kogoro Mouri (and therefore Conan) to stop him. Simple premise.. infinite possibilities. Unfortunately, that is not what we got.
The story involves the mysterious “murder-suicide” of the Queen and Prince of the country Vesparia. After an assassination attempt (foiled by Conan’s detective skills) on the Princess (soon to be Queen) of the small country, her royal highness decides she doesn’t want the responsibility and runs away, switching places with Conan’s friend Ran Mouri, with whom she is an exact look-alike. Ran must then sit in for the Princess while Conan tries to solve who the assassin truly is. Meanwhile, Lupin is planning on stealing the crown of Vesparia… or is he trying to figure out who really killed the Queen and the Prince?
That’s it in a nutshell. Most of the movie Conan and Lupin are totally unaware of the others presence/existence, which doesn’t make for a good “vs.” film. The movie also falls into the “same ole, same ole” story traps we see from many other Lupin TV specials. Things like Zenigata having nothing to do except show up and say “I’m after Lupin,” and Goemon appearing out of nowhere and used once again as a deus ex machina to get Lupin out of a tight spot and then effectively disappears again. On the Conan side, the true culprit was far to predictable.
Another rather jarring and noticeable problem is the distinct difference in character designs between the Lupin characters and the Conan characters, The Conan characters all have extremely sharp features, pointed noses and chins, while the Lupin characters are all drawn more soft and rounded (Mmmmmm Fujiko…). These two different animation styles did not always mesh well, and it makes me wonder why they didn’t just do one style and stick with it. Yes, I know both shows have a distinct look to them, but I think this film should have been animated entirely in the Detective Conan style, as I think the Lupin characters would have translated fine into that look as many of the previous Lupin TV shows and movies have had different styles. But again, another missed opportunity.
Now, I’m not saying the movie was terrible. Far from it. It had some good action and chase scenes. There were funny homages and updates of classic bits from the original shows (some of which I wish they had actually played out further than they did, especially toward the end). It just wasn’t what I wanted it to be unfortunately. Luckily, when the special aired it scored record numbers in the ratings, so if we are fortunate enough, we may get a sequel that will do justice to both of these great characters. Something that truely matches these two uncannily intelligent characters against each other in a true “vs.” anime. Till then if you are a fan of either Lupin or Conan, you will probably enjoy this regardless of it’s shortcomings.
Overall Rating – B-