Lupin III: The Mystery of Mamo – The First Lupin Film

Some Cool Production Talk (Woo, excitement)

A lot of cool backstory elements are behind this film. For one thing, this is the first movie produced by Tokyo Movie Shinsa. A company that later gets rebranded as TMS which has become a pretty large production studio that has produced a lot of cool things to this day. The other part is this film came out during the Red Jacket years of Lupin and the studio wanted to produce a film that was much closer to Monkey Punch’s manga tone instead of the more strict broad television standards. Lupin III is a bit more raunchy in the manga after all. 

Looking into the background behind this film a bit, it’s amazing how expensive and just generally extensive it was. The budget for this film was 500 Million Yen, which was in the budget range of live action films at that time. So this was a huge venture already. It was produced in 62,000 cels, had 1,315 staff members working on it, and the production lasted for 15 months. It’s very good that at the time it was a major financial success earning 950 Million Yen at the box office even if it’s not as famous as Miyazaki’s Cagliostro film. 

The Story of The Mystery of Mamo

Lupin III is dead. That’s right, the entire franchise just ends now because Lupin is just dead in the beginning of the film. Ok, you all know that is all a lie because Lupin can’t die in a Lupin anything? Then what is the point? Well, the point is that the Lupin who died may have been a double. It’s possible. Was it the real Lupin who died or was it a copy? Considering that this is the first film and its actually doing something with the premise other than pretending that Lupin died, then I”m giving it some really cool bits of credit 

Anyway, Lupin III is found by police officer Zenigata in a sarcophagus in an Egyptian pyramid for some reason in which Lupin is actually alive. But why is he alive? What did Lupin gain at the pyramid? He has gained the philosopher’s stone. Of course he gets away from Zenigata again and of course, this stone is something Fujiko asked him to get for a mysterious reason. The reason eventually leads to this mysterious force and/or person that she has aligned herself with for immortality. That person is a man named Mamo.

So basically the entire film is about Lupin III facing down this mystery Mamo figure and discovering what Mamo is and what he represents compared to him. In the beginning, Lupin loses more and more ground. Everything is him and his group are pushed to the limit to the point where Lupin’s relationship with Fujiko versus Jigen and Goemon is pushed as hard as it could until Lupin actually discovers who Mamo is and why the two are so antithetical to each other. It’s really good stuff and I’m just so into it. 

Lupin Family Drama

To me, Lupin and his crew are always family of some sort. Whether or not it is romantic is up to personal interpretation. The naughty thief Lupin, the best gunman in the world Jigen, the shy samurai who can cut everything with his sword Goemon, the catty Fujiko who is the definition of fem fatale, and Zenigata who tries to capture them. That is a family to me (or it could all be a very open romantic relationship if you look at it). Well, besides the feelings between Lupin and Fujiko despite Fujiko’s catty nature. That one is definitely romantic. I guess the rest is plausible deniability. 

So this is the film that puts as much stress as possible on this family. Especially since the freedom of this gang is literally being taken away as much as possible to the point where they have nothing. Fujiko is working with Mamo for immortality reasons and she earnestly wants Lupin to become immortal with her even if she still doesn’t show it up front. So that instantly stresses out Goemon and Jigen who are tired of Fujiko ruining their antics every week. Plus Jigen and Goemon are also at wits end against each other. So in the end, it all falls apart until Lupin starts figuring something out. 

Lupin III is about Freedom

Who Mamo is makes the show such an interesting twist. Mamo was seemingly like a god who had the entire world under his thumb. Both parties in the cold war have to bend their knees to him or they will die. So that is what Mamo kind of is. In person, he is a blue baby sort of person who has the typical sort of old man design. So he represents being older than humanity while never truly growing up to understand its essence. A baby boy who has been around for too long for his own good.

Then there is Mamo trying to collect what he considers the best of humanity. So he does this by making clones of some of whom he considers the greatest figures in history and the most beautiful people to live with him instead of accepting the rest of humanity. Sure, sounds like a paradise in concept, but it really is too much of an attachment to where humanity was instead of where it can go. Plus, the guy has tyrants like Hitler and Napoleon on his island puts his tastes into question. So obviously he has no good taste at all. But still,  you can get the whole point of Fujiko wanting to be beautiful forever if you know who she is. It’s Fujiko Mine after all.  

So where does Lupin come into all of this? Lupin is a master thief that no one knows where he is going to hit next every week whether he is success or not. That sort of philosophy leaks into Lupin’s entire core. Lupin can do anything, within normal dimensional travel times, and do anything he wants to. That is the point of all of those materials and when Mamo looked into Lupin’s essence, there was nothing. It was blank and that is the point. So in the end the very different and wonderful Lupin defeated Mamo in all respects and humanity is not subjugated by anything other than itself. This is the core of Lupin, the concept of freedom itself.

Completing The Journey of Mamo

 Mystery of Mamo is an older film from the late 1970’s, even if it’s an expensive film, so that means that it’s not the highest level of animation possible. There are a lot of still moments, but those still moments have such good bits of directional prowess and mood in each of them. Plus, all the action moments are incredible works. This is Lupin III in its first movie and it still pulled out all the stops. On a visual level, it stands out to this day and I think everyone would still deeply love it here too. Everything is still as stress inducing and meaningful as it was back then and that is why older anime still rocks because there is so much like this. 

Then there is the content of the film itself which is mostly really good. The journey is good and we examine everything that Lupin is as a character. So that means a lot of his good traits that he does care deeply about people. But he is also a very horny person who will not hesitate to go after Fujiko whether its “rescuing her” from the plot she joined to just going after her for sex even if she resents. This is the raunchier and ont so family friendly lUpin we are talking about anyway. But it’s good stuff. I really love it honestly because it is just a great package all together. Have I spoiled a lot of things? Yes, but I do not think that what I wrote will explain the very out there nature of the film itself.


    1. Lupin is one of those franchises that you can just pick where you want to start because even the first season doesn’t give you any exposition. The characters just live and vibe together while being doing crimes.

      Liked by 1 person

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