The story is set in Shahalta, a tiny European city-state floating in the air with practically no contact with the outside world for years. The government is transitioning from a monarchy to a republic, and to celebrate the occasion, a national treasure exhibition is being held. Lupin infiltrates the exhibition for the secret royal treasures, but not before sky pirates snatch them first.
Lupin III: Princess of the Breeze - Hidden City in the Sky is like a cake that has beautiful icing but tastes bland. The plot summary and promo art raised my hopes pretty high, but this ended up being one of my least favourite Lupin TV specials. It tries too hard to be epic and touching and ends up accomplishing none of what it's attempting to do. There are individual scenes that are funny or well done, but there is rarely any natural flow between the events.
The premise is that Lupin and Jigen take an ugly baby along as they go on a new treasure
hunting adventure. Well, there's also a European nation that went through a coup d'état, a rebel group consisting of people still loyal to the old royal family, a legendary treasure and an evil businessman pulling the strings, but none of that was particularly interesting or well-developed. Lupin, Jigen & ugly baby really were the best part.
As I said before, the movie's main problem is that it tries too hard. There are entirely too many characters in it, and most of them barely get anything more to them than a catch phrase that they repeat in a desperate attempt to come off as memorable during their short screen time. This is particularly obvious in the evil enforcer who leads the villain's men. There's also a completely unnecessary doctor character who really stands out as overly hammy and a princess character who does nothing. Now, the Lupin franchise rarely has new characters who are particularly memorable or interesting, but that's never a problem if the main cast gets to shine. More about that later.
With all the characters and the various plot points, there's enough material in this movie to fill a normal anime series. As a result, the movie just moves from one point to another without taking the time to develop anything properly. There was no time to get attached to the new characters, so when their done-by-the-book emotional scene came along, I didn't feel anything, except embarrassment that everything was so predictable. Perfect examples of this are when two characters sacrifice their lives to protect the others and when one of the villains has a break-down towards the end. The movie makes you watch a tired cliché after another and you can always tell what they're trying to make you feel, but it just doesn't come together.
The most cringe-worthy part for me was when the movie used the opening song from the Castle of Cagliostro as background music. That did nothing except highlight how Princess of the Breeze can't even hope to reach that level of quality.
With so many new characters, the only members of the Lupin gang who get to do anything are Lupin and Jigen. As usual, Goemon is written out of the plot for almost the entire duration of the movie, only to show up when there's a fight. However, the reason he leaves (twice!) is actually really charming and funny, so this time I give it a pass. Fujiko does disappointingly little (aside from positioning herself so that we get a good shot of her butt or boobs) as does Zenigata, even though he actually gets quite a lot of scenes.
The animation and backgrounds are mostly great and the characters look fine, even if they sometimes made me feel like they didn't belong in a Lupin title. I liked the detail put into the rebel group's clothing, which I think was supposed to be traditional to their country. The only visual part that bothered me was the car chase that was done with CGI because it stood out so much next to the 2D animation.
With all that said, the movie isn't total trash. There's enough to keep you interested, especially if you like stories about fallen royalty and their hidden treasures. It's mostly beautiful to look at and the beginning is quite enjoyable, about up to the part when the rebel hideout gets attacked. And as I said earlier, Lupin and Jigen interacting with the baby is quite fun. Seeing the baby pull Jigen's beard made the movie worth watching for me.
In short, I feel that this would have been better if it had been a series and if it had been an entirely original title without any connection to Lupin III. As it is, the Lupin characters don't get to spend enough time in the spotlight and it feels too much like they're supporting characters in somebody else's story. This isn't the only Lupin movie to have that problem, but that doesn't make me any more forgiving.
PS: I lied about the most cringe-worthy part. That was when the characters find out where the mysterious gem is hidden.
The thing about this special is that the story is exceedingly too simple. From the very start to the very end, you feel as if nothing really happened, and things were the way just because. The movie is pretty and charming (which is expected), but exceedingly lacks inspiration, purpose, sophistication. It's incredibly bland, almost generic.
The basic setup of the story is the same as other Lupin specials/movies. This special doesn't do anything new.
A baby that everyone loves and the boys are taking good care of.
Everyone loves the baby and has given Lupin celebrity status!
The airship technology, so they did science instead of magic in this one - which I appreciate. I also love airships!
The character development women in this one were pretty bland and stereotypical. I feel like they tried to pull off some very old tricks in a very earnest way, but that still couldn't make it good. And, there's a pointless love story that comes out at the end. For everything else that the movie was, that was a huge let down, but the baby
kept me going. The ending has closure to it, though.
Fujiko is mostly out of the picture in this one. Zenigata gets more time than she does.
I would suggest this to Lupin fans, but not people new to anime.
This is a great special in general. However, the style deviates from traditional Lupin animation. If you're open to that, this is highly recommended. I think it's great for anyone new to the Lupin franchise as well, since the animation fits well with current styles.
ART: Well, the level of animation is stepped up to present day, but something about the way the main characters are drawn seems off, Lupin in particular. I don't know, the franchise has a very particular style. It almost seems like there's the main quartet (and Zenigata)...and then everyone else. Which isn't bad, mostly. I mean, it's like saying, "Hey, this
is temporary. It's not going to stick." Occasionally they try too hard to make things fit, and that doesn't happen here (which is appreciated). Additionally, we've got the obvious CG every once in awhile, mainly with anything that flew.
STORY: This is your typical "Lupin meets a mysterious damsel in distress, usually age inappropriate, and she has a massive secret that drags the group in" story. The girl, though, is actually not completely useless, though, which makes her interesting. I ended up liking her quite a bit by the end. It seemed like it might have a Disney ending and didn't, which I respect.
Another problem in attempting to update Lupin for present day is technology and such. This was a major "ugh" factor in Green vs. Red. While Lupin certainly masters everything he comes across in order to be the best thief, it gets to be too much to swallow when he suddenly has all these devices, or a Batcave-esque hideout, or suddenly knows EVERYthing about hacking. This special/movie thankfully didn't do that, as it seemed to have learned from past mistakes, and technology isn't addressed at all. In fact, one of the major plot devices is using steampunk-age airships. I took that as a tongue in cheek message from the producers saying, "We got the hint. It won't happen again."
CHARACTERS: This special/movie features one of the ugliest babies in anime ever and a scene with the baby pooping...and then you get to look at the poop. Completely unnecessary. But the characters are wonderful, as usual. There's always at least one scene that for me makes the whole special/movie worthwhile and makes me laugh out loud. In Princess of the Breeze, it was this one:
I love all the main characters in this franchise. Goemon has his own checkered past, so he really has no complaints as to how the group conducts their business. Even when people expect him to have a stereotypical samurai reaction (this happens numerous times in series 2, like the Kooky Kabuki episodes), he still just goes with the flow and is almost always loyal to Jigen and Lupin (except if a woman is involved).
***SPOILERS BELOW...sort of***
This scene is a great example of that. Goemon walks in, all stoic like, sees Jigen and Lupin with a baby, blushes, and walks out. Jigen says, "I think Goemon has the wrong idea." But we don't see him again until later in the movie at which point he returns with a traditional Japanese toy. So during the scene when he was blushing he was actually crazy excited and was leaving to go get a toy (all the way in Japan) for the baby that his group apparently adopted (and, by the way, is the weirdest and ugliest baby in all anime). He didn't care about the circumstances, he was just going with the flow. I love it.
As for the other mains, Zenigata's presence is negligible. Jigen's chainsmoking is addressed momentarily, and Fujiko is doing her own thing, showing that she's a formidable thief as well.
A couple of things didn't make sense. What was Shion's position, exactly? If the girls' parents were royalty, why weren't they regarded as royalty? Why was the baby so important? It belonged to a royal guard, not anyone important (as the movie may make you think), but it still plays a large part in the movie. While funny, I still kept hoping that something would happen with it.
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