Dragon of Doom: Retrospective and Evaluate | Legacy of Lupin

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Tonight on Lupin III: Goemon teams up with achildhood chum to stop a mob boss from claiming the titanic treasure of his ancestors restingat the bottom of the sea. It has the power to turn his Zantetsuken sword to shreds, and whenLupin and the others get involved in the chase, blades will clash against brains in a battlefor the dragon statue. It’s all right here on Lupin III: Dragon of Doom. You know the channel!Lupin III: Dragon of Doom (also known as Burn, Zantetsuken) is the sixth Lupin televisionspecial that premiered in July 1994, continuing the yearly Lupin specials afterVoyage to Danger convinced TMS to go forward with them. Some other talent took chargewith this special; namely director Masaharu Okuwaki who directed two episodes of Lupin Part3 and episodes of Cat’s Eye, and writer Nobuaki.

Kishima who’s also written screenplays for serieslike Initial D, Doraemon, and Hunter X Hunter. 1994 was a special year in Japan, marking the400th anniversary of the death of folk hero Goemon Ishikawa. Legends ascribe him as a thiefwith ninja training who stole from the rich, but others portray him as a gang leaderor political assassin. His death makes him especially famous as he (alongside his son)was boiled alive in public. Grizzly stuff, and something that has been occasionallyreferenced in Lupin III as part of our Goemon’s ancestral history. His exploits are popular inJapan today, so to celebrate, TMS decided to give Goemon a spotlight role in their 1994 special.This was also the last mainline project that featured Yasuo Yamada as the voice of Lupin. As Idiscussed last time, Yamada had been hospitalized.

In 1993 and had difficulty walking following hisrelease. During his recording sessions, Yamada had to do his voice while sitting down instead ofstanding as voice actors normally do. We’ll talk about Yamada later, but the reputation as his lastperformance does overshadow this special a bit. Lupin III: Dragon of Doom premiered on July 29,1994, and Japanese fans seem to hold this one in high regard. It garnered high ratings when itaired over there, and overall, English-speaking fans are pretty warm on it as well. I didn’tremember much of this special from when I first watched it, and on this rewatch, I found itpretty underwhelming. Let’s start with the plot. Dragon of Doom begins with Goemon watching akabuki play about his famous ancestor which is interrupted by ninjas from the Hattoriclan, which shares its bloodline with the.

Ishikawa clan. They’re after a long-lost dragonrelic that was aboard the Titanic, which Goemon wants to keep out of their hands. Thankfully, ayoung ninja named Kikyo, who grew up with Goemon, shows up to join him on the hunt for the treasure— with Lupin, Jigen, and Fujiko also coming after it. They’re competing against mob boss ChinChin Chu to get the statue, revealed to be the one treasure that Arsène Lupin failed to stealunless you count the other treasures that he failed to steal. With the Hattori clan underChu’s influence and Goemon and Kikyo against Lupin and the rest of the crew this time,it’s a race to find the treasure and discover its secrets. Oh, and Zenigata is there, too.We’re back to another treasure hunt plot with three sides to the conflict, and while there isa lot going on, it’s all in service of the race.

To get the dragon statue. It’s not a bad story,but how it unfolds is questionable. Let’s start by looking at the villains, who are solid butnot extraordinary. The mob boss Chin Chin Chu is a straight-up bad guy; not particularly wackyor intimidating, just kind of evil by necessity. Which actually works pretty well, as the othervillains balance him out with more concentrated evil. Gensai acts as Goemon’s evil shadow; asinister swordsman with many doubles, shown by him constantly dying and then showing up later.And then we have the twist villain Kikyo, who’s actually hellbent on taking the dragon statuefor herself. Now, this is a decent enough twist; an old friend betraying Goemon has been donebefore, but this is a solid rendition. I like how they characterize Kikyo after shereveals her true colors as a pure villain,.

Even trying to just murder Goemon with no hint ofremorse, making Goemon’s sorrow over her betrayal and death very tragic. I just wish they wenta little farther with Kikyo’s character. Even though she is an assertive and strong-willedantagonist, she’s always in a subservient role to Chin Chin Chu, and I kinda wish shetook over as the main villain by the end. She certainly has the more interesting conflicts,as Chu and Gensai basically amount to nothing more than obstacles when you think about it.It’s also weird how there’s some stuff that seems borrowed from Voyage to Dangerlike a standoff on a submarine and the whole “can I have a last smoke” scene. Thepunchline is different, but it is strange how they’re repeating stuff from a special thatpremiered only the year before this one..

Then there’s little things that just kindof bother me, and normally I don’t comment on plot nitpicks, but these ones do takeme out of the story. Like I mentioned, Gensai keeps dying and reappearing throughoutthe story and they do explain it, but to me, the whole “there’s more than one Gensai” thingfeels more like a handwave. Then there’s the real value of the treasure itself, as the dragonstatue is made of a material far tougher than the Zantetsuken which Chu converts into a stealthbomber that can’t be struck down by anything, even Goemon’s sword. So how do they defeat thisin the end? By using Goemon’s sword. I don’t know if I missed a line that explains this, butif I didn’t, that’s pretty lazy storytelling. Anyway, nitpicks aside, Dragon of Doom isa little bit weird tonally. It is, overall,.

A more serious work, but I don’t think theteam exactly nailed down how they wanted to approach the writing. It continues the trend ofgritty violence, but it’s far more comical in some instances which consequently understates theactual fighting. Not comical in a cartoonish way, but it’s very over-the-top in a way that Voyage toDanger mostly avoided. Like, Zenigata straight-up fires on Lupin’s ship with the power of 600men for half a goddamn minute, it’s ridiculous. Unlike last time, where the jokes were adjustedto suit the more serious storyline and they fit in very naturally, the humor here feels a bittoo silly and doesn’t work with the story's tone. This duck boat gag is funny and all, but Idunno, I feel like I’d like it better if it was in a special that warranted that kind of humor.If I can compliment Dragon of Doom on anything,.

It’s the pacing. This one gets to the point prettyquickly; it’s a simple premise that doesn’t waste your time getting to the good stuff. The problemis the structure; while Dragon of Doom is quick to get going, it doesn’t have the strength at itscore to support the direction the story goes. It’s definitely a sprinter, not an endurance runner— which would be okay for a 22-minute episode, but not for an hour-and-a-half TV movie.But my biggest problem with Dragon of Doom is that it bores me. I just don’t care that much about thetreasure or the character conflicts to really get invested. Mentally, I checked out of this movie bythe end; once it gets to the middle of the film, it’s just fallen apart a bit too much for meto care about how everything gets tied up. It is a fairly formulaic narrative; you can seemany of the events coming before they happen,.

And while everything is built upfine, the payoff just isn’t there. Which is a damn shame becausethe animation is top-notch; incredibly fluid and detailed, especiallyin the fight scenes. That’s not surprising, given the animation director Masatomo Sudo, whopreviously worked as a key animator on Bye Bye, Lady Liberty and is also a prolific animationdirector and animator on several Detective Conan stories. You might also recognize his name asone of the key animators working on Akira and the excellent Magnetic Rose segment of the 1995 filmMemories, and if you’re familiar with those works, you can see that same animation style here. Theaction scenes especially have an incredible sense of movement, and even in the quieter and slowermoments, the frames blend together really well..

On the other hand, the art style is generallyfine; art director Yukihiro Shibutani, who also worked on Akira and multiple DetectiveConan adventures, puts some great use of shadow and lighting and some pretty solid backgroundwork as well. Masatomo Sudo also provided the character designs, and as far as this specialis concerned, he’s far better at animation than characters. He goes for a look that blendssemi-sharp features with rounded contours, and some characters look better than others,but for the most part, I just think they look off. It’s not awful or anything, just a littletoo simple; it all still looks great in motion, and if you’re not a stickler for characterdesigns, you can probably overlook this. As for the music, it’s just another Lupin score;nothing really to say about Ohno’s work here,.

But I will praise the ending themeOmoide ga Anata wo Hanasanai (or, loosely translated, Memories Don’t Speak toYou). Composed by Ohno, written by Kenn Kato, and performed by Nami Hirai, it’s anothersoft ballad that fits the series very well. On the character front, Lupin is prettystock standard this time; it’s a mix of his pervertedness, cockiness, intelligence, and charm,with no one element being particularly pronounced. You can tell that Yasuo Yamada’s voice hadn’tfully recovered from his illness, and again, the softer performance is noticeable but obviouslyunderstandable; it’s not a bad note to go out on. We see a lot of shades of Goemon’s personalityin Dragon of Doom, and Makio Inoue absolutely nails it, ranging from despair to determinationto anger and fully realizing every single one..

It’s a highlight of his tenure as Goemon for sure,and while I may not have cared for his storyline, it was always a treat watching Goemonin this just because of his voice. I don’t have much to say about KiyoshiKiboyashi as Jigen and Eiko Masuyama as Fujiko; they’re both solid as usual, asis Goro Naya as Zenigata even though the latter character is barely there. He’s atleast having fun with the chase this time, compared to other specials where he’s down on hisluck and getting kicked in the gut. Even though Zenigata’s not a big force in this special,he is always the best part of the scene. For our one-time characters, there’s Goemon’schildhood friend / love interest Kikyo voiced by Naoko Matsui, who gives a solid performance.I complained about her character arc earlier,.

But otherwise, I think she’s a pretty decentLupin girl, and I like that she’s strictly focused on Goemon rather than the whole gang:it gives her a more defined personality. Then we have our two villains who,coincidentally, are both voiced by actors of Lupin past. Chin Chin Chu is voiced byJunpei Takiguchi, the same voice actor as Mr. X / the Scorpion Boss / Fantomas from Parts 1 and2. He’s basically playing that character again, which is great as Mr. X is a very memorable Lupinvillain, though it is toned down a bit here. Finally, there’s Gensai who’s voiced by BanjoGinga, who played Jigen in the replacement cast of Fuma Conspiracy. I really like hisdesign, although he looks incredibly like Lupin II — almost distractingly so. He’s prettydecent in the henchman role, but I dunno,.

I kinda wish he was given more attention —although Ginga does pretty well in the role. We’ve got another Funimation dub (and yes,I pronounced it correctly this time), and I’ve got the same notes as before. It follows thescript okay, the voices are a mixed bag, and the pronunciations are slightly off. I admit, I sortaskimmed through the dub this time to get a feel for everything since I wasn’t really interested inwatching this for a third time. What I watched was on par with the Voyage to Danger dub, and I canapplaud that consistent quality even if it isn’t the best dub crew the series has produced.I am getting used to Sonny Strait’s Lupin, but I still think his voice needs to be wrangledin a bit, and Christopher Sabat still does well as Jigen. I didn’t comment on Mike McFarlandor Meredith McCoy in the last video, though,.

And I’d like to apologize and rectify that now.It’s appropriate that we talk about McFarland here since this is a very Goemon-centric special,but sadly, I’m not a big fan of his voice. It fits the character fine, and he doesa good job objectively, but I dunno, it just sounds a bit strained to my ears.GOEMON: Now, even if the dragon does somehow fall into the wrong hands, it will beutterly useless without this scroll. Then there’s Meredith McCoy asFujiko, who lends a pretty good voice to our favorite femme fatale. It’sperhaps a little stiff, but she gets the tone and the inflection spot-on.FUJIKO: Hmm. What I’m after is a treasure much bigger than Chin’s fortune.For Kikyo, we have Laura Bailey who also.

Does a good job, especially toward theend. She makes for a good companion for McFarland’s Goemon, and I enjoyed her a lot.KIKYO: Now that’s not the most polite way to greet someone who saved your life, is it?I don’t have a ton to say about Bob Carter’s Gensai, but the late Brice Armstronggives a solid performance as Chin Chin Chu. It’s a pretty stock “evil person”voice, but that actually kind of fits. CHU: But he was kind enough toleave the dragon. [EVIL LAUGH] The voices are all suitable for the characters,and it sticks close enough to the Japanese script to do it justice, but it doesn’t get me anymore invested in this story. It’s just a fundamentally uninteresting narrative, andthe cast and dub directors did a fine job,.

But they can’t improve that. Though atleast Phillip Wilburn is still having fun. In the end, Dragon of Doom doesn’t do muchwrong, but very little about it appeals to me. The animation is really good, and I guessthe story is fine, but I just don’t care about the characters all that much, and the art styleisn’t great. I don’t feel like the team was fully invested while making this one, and consequently,I don’t feel that invested as a viewer. This special has its fans, and I definitely respectthat; if you like Dragon of Doom, then more power to you! I just don’t care for it personally.Which makes this kind of a downer as Yamada’s final performance as Lupin. TMS obviouslycouldn’t have known that Yamada would pass away after recording this; I think the goalwas for him to continue with the role as long.

As he was physically able to. Perhaps theymight have commissioned a project to serve as Yamada’s official goodbye to the series, butobviously, that didn’t happen. After this special, Yamada recorded a trailer for the 1995movie Farewell Nostradamus and at least one commercial for Esso gas stations, whichbecame his final roles as Lupin III. Yamada seemed to know that he was on borrowed time,even writing a note to his family that read (roughly translated) “a quick story is a suicidenote” — a very pithy and somber message indeed. On February 17, 1995, Yamada collapsed at his homedue to a cerebral hemorrhage which rendered him unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital wherehe was given constant care, but after a month, his condition suddenly dropped, and hepassed away on the morning of March 19,.

1995. His death was announced the next day,which unfortunately coincided with the Tokyo subway sarin attack, so the news of his death wasnot as widely reported as it might have been. As such a respected actor in Japan — not justfor Lupin, but for all of his performances, voice acting, and dubbing roles — it was obviouslya major loss, and for many fans, myself included, he will always be the eternal Lupin. It’simpossible to overstate how much he brought to the role of our favorite thief, and though he maybe gone, the spirit and energy he brought to the character still reverberates today. Yet the LupinIII series would march on, and we’ll just have to wait and see if the rest of the anime can liveup to the legacy that Yamada helped establish.

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