This time Lupin is after 500 tons of gold bullion that used to belong to the House of Romanov, the last rulers of the Russian Empire. His only clue is a code in an old book that a cipher machine has broken down to the words "Bank of Liberty." As always, whenever Lupin's involved, the situation gets complicated. This adventure takes him through the USA and Russia, with loads of action and classic Lupin-style escapades along the way.
The Lupin gang is back, and while this TV special is not anything special, it's still a pleasant watch.
The plot is not very strong in this one, pretty much Lupin and his buddy Jigen set out to rob a bank, with some help from Fujiko. Still, it's fun to see the gang do an old fashioned crime like a bank robbery, compared to the crazy stuff they are usually up to in these.
The villain is a flashy one in this, Rasputin. A crazy monk with a gimmick where he pokes his finger into various orifices on people's faces, like their mouth or nose. He's a
very over the top evil villain, and of course he wants what is in the bank as well.
Lupin's samurai pal Goemon is used very oddly in this one. He's studying meditation and whatnot under Rasputin, so he doesn't have as much fun as usual. Inspector Zenigata doesn't have much to do here either.
Fujiko has some cute funny moments though, and the classic duo of Lupin and Jigen is great as always.
What makes this a merely decent Lupin movie is that it just feels like random events stuck together, with little holding it together. Cars explode, people shoot at Lupin, and they're always on the run.
That wouldn't be a problem if the movie relished the fun absurdity like Lupin often does, but this one lacks that feeling. This is the last special directed by Osamu Dezaki and with character design by Noboru Furuse. Which is good, because they really didn't bring enough flair to the visual department in these first four Lupin specials.
All in all, this is a decent Lupin romp, though uneven and a bit lacking in style. Lupin fans should have a pleasant enough time watching this, but I'd recommend checking out the gang's other better adventures.
From Russia With Love deserves special recognition for being quite possibly the most bizarre and ridiculous Lupin III TV special ever animated.
It's difficult to explain in just a few words how much weird stuff happens in this movie that feels like it belongs in some offbeat comedy anime like Excel Saga or Pani Poni Dash instead of the Lupin adventure they're actually showing up in. Lupin yanks off a woman's top in the opening scene for no reason. Mobsters play with dolls and paint their toenails for no reason. Fujiko tells a bunch of big rig truck drivers that the loves smelly unwashed men for
no reason. The Rasputin character sticks his fingers into other characters' mouths, noses, and ear-holes constantly throughout the movie for no reason. All of this in a middle of a story about tracking down the lost gold of the Romanovs? The awkward strangeness of the comedy is so far out there and over the top, even for Lupin, that it takes something away from the action and adventure aspects of the show and really comes up short at the climax compared to almost every other Lupin TV special.
The art and animation are on the low end of average for a Lupin special. FRWL was made in 1992 when ink & paint animation was still in fashion, so it has that much going for it at least. Some of the special effects sequences and character faces in certain scenes were not as well animated as other Lupin anime from about the same time period, however. The director also seems to have a thing for panning over an image in the middle of an action sequence three or four times to emphasize an explosion or other special effect, which this day and age just looks cheap.
The sound in the movie is positively average. Same voice cast in all the major roles since the 70's, same old theme music, appropriate but forgettable closing credit music. If there was an upside to the movie's bizarrely inappropriate antagonists, at least their voice actors gave respectable performances for the characters, however little time they may have spent on screen.
The other disappointing aspect of this special is the fact that it has such a huge cast of credited characters. The whole regular cast is there, of course: Lupin, Jigen, Goemon, Fujiko and Zenigata. Fujiko also has an additional partner in this movie by the name of Judy who assists the gang with the heist. There is also a pair of mercenaries trying to steal Lupin's book, the Rasputin character, two Italian mob bosses, an effeminate black market banker, a trigger-happy Texas sheriff, 20 truck drivers, and caricatures of George HW Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev. Most of the secondary characters are completely flat and uninteresting, but there are so many of them and they get so many speaking lines that the main cast ends up playing an unusually small role in the story. Zenigata and Goemon particularly don't do very much in the movie and don't have very many speaking lines.
Overall, From Russia With Love was okay to see one time, if for no other reason than to find out how the Lupin formula can be handled badly and not reach its full potential. There are so many other fantastic Lupin specials out there though, this one probably wouldn't be my first pick to watch with friends, and a single viewing is probably more than enough for anyone.