Secret of Mamo

Official Blurb:

"A priceless jewel or a fortune in cash - if you want it stolen, Wolf is your man! Unstoppable romantic and undetectable master of disguise, he's top of the wanted list in every country on the map. There isn't a vault he can't crack, a lock he can't pick .... or a woman he can resist!"

"Inspector Zenigata knows Wolf is dead - executed before his eyes in Transylvania. But when a series of daring and baffling robberies take place across the globe, the hapless inspector knows that only one man can be responsible. The Wolf is back!"

"The chase is on from the ancient pyramids of Egypt to the back streets of Paris and beyond as Wolf adds the mysterious Wiseman stone to his list of stolen oddities."

"But the master thief has made some powerful enemies: the grotesque billionaire Mamo has Wolf in his sights and the lovely Fujiko on his side. As the web of plot and counter-plot spreads and Mamo's claims become more outrageous, Wolf realises that nothing in this caper is what it seems. Just how many Mamos are out there? And for that matter, how many Wolves?"

"The adventures of the world's greatest thief continue in the Secret of Mamo, another non-stop comedy thriller from the pen of Monkey Punch. Look on the Manga shelf for more of Wolf's frantic escapades."

Creator:         Monkey Punch
Director:        Shoji Yoshikawa
Screenplay:      Atsushi Yamatoya & Shoji Yoshikawa
Copyright:       Toho Co. Ltd/Tokyo Movie Shinsha

Language Format: English Language
Running time:    100 mins
Label:           Manga Video
Certificate:     12
Catalogue no:    MANV 1148
Price:           £12.99
Release Date:    8th July 1996


Originally titled "Lupin III vs the Clones" in Japan, this was the first theatrical outing for Lupin III, the famous gentleman thief created by Monkey Punch and based on Maurice LeBlanc's Arsene Lupin. If you've seen any Lupin III before, you'll know exactly what to expect, and if you haven't, well, imagine one of the famous "caper movies" like Gambit, or The Italian Job, with more plot twists and a large slice of slapstick comedy thrown in and you'll get the right sort of idea.

It's difficult to discuss any details of the plot without major spoilers (in fact revealing the original title might even be regarded as a spoiler), so I'll skip over that. In any case such information is available elsewhere on the web if you care to seek it out. Storywise this movie is not as strong as "Plot of the Fuma Clan" (released in the UK last year by Western Connection), and a way behind "Castle of Cagliostro" (a few months back by Manga Entertainment). But it's still entertaining, with chase sequences that are strong on both tension and comedy. It also has a fairly high cheesecake quotient, with Fujiko spending just a little more time with her clothes in shreds (or out of them entirely) than is strictly necessary for the plot. However, I did mention that it was the first Lupin III theatrical release, and it does show it's age. The film was originally released in 1978, and the character designs and artwork look very dated. Even more so than, say, Mobile Suit Gundam, which is only a year younger. And the animation quality is also weak for a theatrical release.

This title has been available for some time in America, released by Streamline as "Lupin III: the Mystery of Mamo". And the first mystery (or is that "secret"?) must be why did Manga Entertainment choose to do their own dub rather than pick up the existing one by Streamline, as they've done with other titles in the past? By all accounts [I haven't actually seen it myself] the Streamline dub is a good one, and what's more it features the voice of Ardwright Chamberlain (Kosh in Babylon 5) as Goemon. I would have thought that a marketing department as adroit as Manga's would be able to squeeze a few hundred extra sales out of that. Which brings us to the second mystery: given that the title has already been licensed in the USA, so Manga cannot sell this version there, why do the cast all sport fake American accents?

As this is the first domestically produced dub from Manga I've heard since the infamous "Ultimate Teacher" I was expecting the worst. But in fact I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, it's not up to the quality of the best work coming out of America, but none of the voices really grated, and the acting was generally good. Well, apart from Toni Barry's rendition of Fujiko, which I found somewhat at odds with what I already knew about the character. I'll put that down to someone failing to brief her properly on what sort of role she was supposed to be playing. Seeing that comedy had been Manga's weak suit in the past, it was nice to see it flowing naturally, rather than the somewhat forced nature of earlier efforts. However, there were a few instances of 1990's colloquialisms and "street language" in the script that jarred, as they didn't really fit the character of a gentleman thief.

Although I generally quite liked the dub, there was one area that I'd really have to single out for criticism. This isn't the worst offender, but it is quite conspicuous. Why, as in too many anime dubs, does the music and background effects fade to almost inaudible levels as soon as a character starts talking, only to re-emerge again at its proper level once the speech stops? It doesn't happen on the original soundtrack, it doesn't happen in live action films, so why should it have to happen in anime dubs? Quite frankly it sounds messy and amateurish.

Although I rather enjoyed this title, it's a bit of puzzle just who it is supposed to appeal to. Traditional Lupin III fans will moan that they'd rather have a subtitled version, that the script is anachronistic, and will not like the use of "Wolf" for Lupin III (unnecessary, now that the name is in the public domain). On the other hand, Manga's usual clientele will bemoan the lack of gore, and the dated style of the artwork. I'd really like to see this release do well, but I suspect that it won't, for these reasons. And I for one think that'll be a pity. [Neil Morris]

This is one of a series of LUPIN III animated movies (others have been released in the UK by Western Connection). Lupin (or 'Wolf' in this edition) is a master thief, ladies' man, gentleman and master of disguise; a rather Robin Hood like figure.

At the opening of the movie, Inspector Zenigata goes to Transylvania to confirm with his own eyes reports that master thief Wolf has been executed. As he suspects, Wolf is still very much alive. Wolf and his friends next try to steal an ancient jewel, the Wiseman stone, from the heart of an Egypian pyramid. The stone is soon filched from Wolf by his onetime girlfriend, the lovely but mercenary Fujiko, who is working for the grotesque billionaire Mamo. Mamo proves to be a dangerous enemy.

All this is quite fun, but suffers because most of the stunts are so exaggerated as to be quite beyond belief, even for the moment of suspension required to go along with the fun, while lacking in the wit that would make this forgivable. Take the scene where a helicopter machine-guns a Parision cafe for a minute or so without hitting anyone at all. To escape it (still missing the target) Wolf drives his sports car into a sewer - where he is joined by the helicopter, which seems to have shrunk, or the sewer has expanded to riverine proportions.

Verdict: has its moments, but inferior to the three other Lupin movies released in UK. [Geoff Cowie]