Anime Movie Review: Lupin the 3rd vs Detective Conan: The Movie

Lupin vs Conan

I was very surprised to see the Lupin the 3rd vs Detective Conan: The Movie go up on Hulu since it had been a couple years since the movie came out and the release in February was done with little to no fanfare. There is no English language DVD or Blu-ray release and it was not put out by the US licensees of Lupin III or Detective Conan (Case Closed in the US). Instead, the original Japanese production company was the one who posted it to Hulu.

I never watched any of the Lupin III series before largely because I’m not fond of the older art style (Lupin III started in the 1960s and doesn’t look like what we typically consider anime) and because I’m not really in the target demographic for his hijinks. Lupin is a womanizing thief who is constantly trying to get into the pants of various women, particularly a busty femme fatale who he both adores and is constantly being crossed by.

But Detective Conan was one of my favorite anime series when I was in college. I never saw the whole thing (it’s still running new episodes even today!), but Conan as a character is a nice mix of smartass and brilliant detective that it’s fun to watch him solve a case. He also has a bit of a problem in that he’s actually a teenager, but a mysterious drug that people used to try to kill him had the unexpected effect of de-aging him by about ten years instead, making him look like a first grader. Most people aren’t aware he’s really Shinichi Kudo and Conan Edogawa is just the alias he’s using while hiding his survival.

After the cold open, the movie helpfully gives the background of both the Lupin III and Detective Conan characters for those new to either one, but I think someone who has never seen either would have a more difficult time getting into the movie. Having never seen Lupin III I was only vaguely familiar with his crew of helpers and whenever one of them showed up and did something amazing it was all right, I could follow the story, but some of what they did felt out of character for a Conan movie. I imagine that fans in the reverse situation felt the same.

The mix of art and storytelling styles felt very jarring. Conan debuted in the 1990s, and while the art style is distinctive, it’s much closer to modern anime than Lupin III. When you put the characters together, they don’t look like they should be on screen at the same time. Lupin III’s art leans towards very thin individuals, particularly in the legs, with more realistically proportioned facial features. Conan’s male adults are bulkier and everyone has larger eyes. Conan also doesn’t do busty, but Lupin III’s Fujiko has a gigantic chest.

As far as the storytelling styles go, crossing Detective Conan and Lupin III is probably best likened to doing a James Bond and Encyclopedia Brown crossover. That’s a rather extreme comparison, but the target demographics are probably similar between countries. Lupin III is aimed at young men, older teenagers and adults. Hanky-panky is okay and expected. Detective Conan is aimed at children and families (though due to differing cultural standards, Conan routinely deals with murder and on screen blood and it’s okay since the criminals are caught in the end).

Which leaves me wondering: Who is this movie aimed at?

While Detective Conan has plenty of adult-aged fans, it’s still feels out of character to see Lupin trying to get frisky with Fujiko when that’s not something a fan has come to expect when watching Conan.

Moving past the rough style merge, the movie does all right. It’s a sequel to the Lupin the 3rd vs Detective Conan TV special that was not translated into English, but it’s possible to get by without having seen it. I haven’t.

It only really serves to explain the villain’s motivation in the end, but being a crossover movie I think most viewers are here to watch Lupin and Conan do their things, and they do them well. Conan not only solves a couple different mysteries at the same time, but manipulates multiple parties so when a big confrontation happens, no one gets hurt. And Lupin manages to pull off some fanciful getaways.

I’m not likely to track down any Lupin III material, but he’s scene stealer. I can see why he’s been such an enduring character, I’m a little surprised by how often he gets himself handcuffed only to escape later considering how Detective Conan’s own recurring thief character never gets that close to arrest.

And speaking of said thief… While he does appear in the movie, it’s not for very long, but he does get the last laugh. Kid fans should be pleased.

Overall, I’d say fans of one or the other franchise would be fine giving this movie a shot. It’s not as impenetrable to understand as I thought it would be, and better than I expected, but definitely has some rough edges.

Lupin the 3rd vs Detective Conan: The Movie is currently streaming subtitled on Hulu.

laurietomLaurie Tom is a fantasy and science fiction writer based in southern California. Since she was a kid she has considered books, video games, and anime in roughly equal portions to be her primary source of entertainment. Laurie is a previous grand prize winner of Writers of the Future and since then her work has been published inGalaxy’s Edge, Strange Horizons, and Crossed Genres.