Lupin III: Dead or Alive Review

Lupin III: Dead or Alive Review

SPOILER Summary/Synopsis:

Lupin III: Dead or AliveAt a prison in the country Zufu, the warden does his annual jailbreak exercise, picking some prisoners for release so they can be hunted down. However, the warden is actually Lupin in disguise, who was after one person, Sparky. After escaping the military’s intensive attack, Lupin returns to Zufu sometime later with Goemon and Jigen on a gyrocopter and proceed to Drift Island, which is a mass with what appears to be a ruined aircraft carrier and a research facility. Entering this island, the trio finds death everywhere. Making their way in, they come to a door, whereupon the corridor comes alive with scanners. Failing the ID scan, the facility attacks with weapon tentacles, forcing the trio to retreat.

Lupin III: Dead or AliveThe trio return to their hideout, where Lupin hacks into the country’s computer to learn more. The island was supposed to be a treasure vault for the late king, who was killed along with Prince Pannish in a military coup a couple of years before, leaving General Headhunter in charge. At the general’s palace, Fujiko arrives to challenge a large, masculine woman to wrestling. Fujiko manages to win by strangling the woman with a flagpole rope, which secures her a job as General Headhunter’s personal assistant. Meanwhile, Zenigata arrives on Zufu to arrest Lupin after Lupin makes one of his trademark announcements about stealing the treasure on Drift Isle.

Lupin III: Dead or AliveLupin, Goemon, and Jigen return the gyrocopter to the man who lent it to them, where Lupin requests a custom buoy and an advertisement balloon. Lupin sends the balloon with the announcement that he’s coming for Emerah, the adopted daughter of Headhunter. As announced, he makes him move, aided by Goemon and Jigen, but while Lupin escapes with a woman that looks like Emerah, Zenigata had Ole from the Secret Police disguised as Emerah, thereby protecting the real one.  Ole is able to report their location, leading Headhunter to dispatch attack helicopters. Ole reveals herself as the attack starts, but Crisis, her boss, doesn’t seem to care if she dies in the attack. Zenigata is not happy with this as Lupin, Goemon, and Jigen end up going over a cliff.

Lupin III: Dead or AliveAt the palace, Fujiko is put in charge of guarding Emerah. Emerah realizes that Fujiko is after the treasure and promises to give her the key to it if Fujiko helps Emerah escape. Meanwhile, Ole goes on a hunt for her former boyfriend Pannish, whom Lupin and company claim is still alive. Her hunt through the slums is a failure than nearly costs her life, but then as she gives up the hunt, Pannish shows up. Pannish explains that he’s been founding a resistance to overthrow Headhunter, who’d lead Ole to believe that the previous king had killed Pannish. He gives Ole a communication device so that she can report Headhunter’s activities to him.

Lupin III: Dead or AliveThe police go to throw Zenigata out of the country, but he ends up making them unconscious as he’s not leaving until he gets Lupin. Pannish signal-jacks a TV broadcast to announce his return and his resistance movement. Elsewhere, Lupin pays a visit to the drunk Sparky reveling in the challenge that Drift Island is impenetrable. That night, Fujiko helps Emerah escape to freedom in exchange for a tip on Drift Island. At a small bar that Ole works as her cover, Crisis pays her a visit, telling her they have to find Pannish. After leaving her, Crisis puts the bar under surveillance.

Lupin III: Dead or AliveLupin continues his research, based on some stuff told to him by Sparky. The reason Drift Island seems alive is due to nanomachines, which can take on any form. Lupin comes to Ole’s bar, where Sparky is still drunk. Pannish walks in, then steps out upon seeing Lupin. Ole and Lupin give chase, but the dead or alive bounty on Lupin’s head has bounty hunters after him. He’s nearly ended by a female bounty hunter, only to be saved by Zenigata, who arrests him and binds him to a bed. When Zenigata leaves to take a phone call, Lupin changes places with the man left to guard him, taking on his appearance and causing the man to look like Lupin.

Lupin III: Dead or AliveAt the palace, Fujiko uses Headhunter’s terminal to get information to a floppy. Pannish pays Ole a visit, but after he leaves, Crisis has Ole as a traitor. She’s threatened by Headhunter for Pannish’s location when Pannish’s forces attack. Lupin, Jigen, and Goemon hook up with Fujiko and return to Drift Island, where Fujiko plugs in her disk. However, she accidentally triggers the defenses, forces them to flee again. Headhunter and Crisis take Ole to Drift Island after she says Pannish is there. They trigger the defenses, but when Pannish shows up, the defenses stop and grants them access to the nanomachine control room.

Lupin III: Dead or AliveHeadhunter takes control over the nanomachines, creating giant duplicates of himself with which to take over the world. When Crisis goes to kill Ole, Pannish gets in the way and takes a graze. This causes Pannish to crack and break, revealing Lupin underneath. With Pannish gone, the defense mechanism activates. Lupin battles Headhunter, eventually winning and Crisis is killed by the defenses. Fujiko manages to get her disk into the control box, causing the nanomachines to stop and breakdown. The group flees as Drift Island turns to dust, which then turns to gold, the substance the nanomachines were made of.

Lupin III: Dead or AliveAs Fujiko and Jigen shovel gold dust to a boat, Ole and Lupin have a chat, revealing Pannish was still dead. Lupin sees his companions fleeing without the gold as Zenigata shows up, snaring Lupin with one of his special handcuffs. However, in typical Lupin fashion, Lupin escapes with a false arm. Zenigata chats with Ole briefly before leaving to pursue Lupin again. Lupin has joined his comrades at a hideout. Headhunter emerges, but is quickly dispatched and revealed to be nanomachines as it turns into gold. Taking that gold, the gang leaves via boat.


I’ve had this movie on DVD ever since FUNimation released it in 2005. While I remember the first part of the anime, I couldn’t remember anything after that. So it was on my list of titles to watch. Much is made of the fact that Lupin III‘s mangaka, Monkey Punch, directed this movie. I admit that this drove my desire to see this. (Monkey Punch didn’t write the story and only directed to help the movie project.) After a recent discussion of Lupin III were Dead or Alive came up, I decided that I’d take a moment to rewatch it.

Lupin III: Dead or Alive

In many ways, Lupin III: Dead or Alive parallels Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro. Both are set in a fictitious foreign country. Both have a strongman ruling the country and are the guardians of an orphaned damsel in distress. The strongman in both movies have a strong number 2 supporting them. Zenigata is the unwelcome visitor in both movies, who gets thrown out of said country, but stays in anyway. In the end, both movies have Zenigata having a chat with the heroine as Lupin escapes. There are other parallels I’m sure, but seeing so many, it did make me wonder if Lupin III: Dead or Alive was a nod to Castle of Cagliostro, or an attempt to mimic it to recapture the success of Cagliostro.

Lupin III: Dead or Alive

As with all Lupin III stories, Lupin III: Dead or Alive makes sure to complete its checklist of things that have to be done. There’s not a lot of humor in Dead or Alive, but it is there, such as when Drift Island defenses take the seat out of Lupin’s pants as they flee.

Lupin III: Dead or Alive

Jigen and Goemon don’t have much to do in this movie other than provide gun and sword support when the situation requires it. However, the movie gets away with this by having them around Lupin quite often.

Lupin III: Dead or Alive

Fujiko gets a more meaty role, mimicking her role in Castle of Cagliostro. Here, she doesn’t have to use sex to infiltrate General Headhunter’s staff, but merely has to defeat a “gorilla” woman in a wrestling match. Further, she has to use some computer skills to gain information that is of use at the end of the movie. This is the Fujiko I like.

Lupin III: Dead or Alive

Zenigata is not the buffoon he is in some Lupin III titles.  In fact, he’s pretty awesome here. When the police are about to throw him out, he keeps eating his lunch, then kicks all three officers butts. He’s able to thwart Lupin’s kidnapping plans turning it to his advantage. He even takes advantage of Lupin’s weakness for women to eventually arrest him. He even expresses disappointment in Lupin for being snared in the way he was. As such, I really liked Zenigata here.

Lupin III: Dead or Alive

One of the big weaknesses of the movie is that it can be a tad confusing at times and is sometimes infused with moments that have nothing to do with the plot or anything else (such as the scene showing kids stealing food). The opening sequence was really out there in order to get the Lupin Physics in play (though not in a tongue in cheek way), but the scene makes no sense until the movie is easily half way done (or more). Even then, the character of the rescued prisoner, Spanky, contributes so little to the plot, the info he provided could have been gathered by Lupin when he hacked the country’s computer system.

Lupin III: Dead or Alive

In the end, while Lupin III: Dead or Alive might be a poor mans version of Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro, it is still entertaining enough, aided by making bringing out the best of Fujiko and Zenigata. As such, I’d say this was worthy of a rental for casual fans and a buy for hardcore Lupin fans.

Lupin III: Dead or Alive

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8 Responses to “Lupin III: Dead or Alive Review”

  1. Lupin III was my most love anime when i was a kid, thank you for this =)
    nice read!

  2. NullApostle says:

    I guess I’ll post my announcement of a NEW GenshikenII chapter here, on account of this post being less crowded than the UQH one.

    So here’s your heads up. Go check it out, it’s a good one.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Got it and JUST read it. I want to write a review now, but I’m so tired…been a long day. ^_^;

      Thanks for the head’s up!

  3. I really need to know how many times Zenigata saved Lupin because I always thought they have some sort of a father and son relationship.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      I don’t know that Zenigata and Lupin have a father-son relationship. They do have a mutual respect of the other, which is why they’ll work together at times when needed.

      • lupinthethirdlover1 says:

        I know, but it explains why they both have a mutual respect for each other. Can you please tell me how many times Zenigata saved Lupin?

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