Lupin III: The Secret of Twilight Gemini
If the anime world is a gigantic smorgasbord, then with all of its various incarnations over 25+ years, Lupin III should be considered a staple like the bread and cereal group. A small number of the Lupin adventures are like fantastic sticky buns. Many are minor goodies like cinnamon raisin. A few are a little stale, and one or two have mold growing right out of the bag. In comparison, The Secret of Twilight Gemini is plain-wrapper white bread. It has a little flavor and tastes OK, but one wishes for some condiments or peanut butter spread. It has the characters we've come to enjoy and a nice new love interest, but the rest is unremarkable.
In this film, which was made for television and aired in 1996, Lupin is given one half of a gem called Twilight, a beautiful diamond that's been shorn in two. He is told that it is the key to a treasure beyond imagining in Morocco. With his hapless nemesis Zenigata close behind, Lupin arrives to find himself in the middle of a centuries-old clan feud between the Igo and the Gelts. The Gelts, a nomadic tribe that have often been oppressed by the Igo, have developed into two sects. One simply wants peace and a modicum of independence; the other wants to bring about change by violent means and is after the same treasure Lupin wants for himself. After meeting Lara, a beautiful Gelt woman with a secret that may lead Lupin to riches and to an untimely demise, Lupin gets the love bug. He might be blinded by lust, but his friends Jigen, Goemon, and Fujiko are clear-sighted enough to show up when Lupin needs them most. Together, they will discover untold wealth and face a revolution in the making.
Now, for a telefilm, Twilight Gemini certainly looks quite good. The physical characters look great, and it's a beautifully colored, slick-looking package. However, the actual animation is limited, and so we often look at beautiful still shots or mouths moving. Still, I liked the picture's look, so no problems there.
Twilight's problems lie primarily in its origins and in some directorial choices that make this a second tier Lupin production. There are clear commercial breaks within the film, and they break up the flow of things significantly. If each segment took off with humor or action, it might be more understandable. However, this is one of the least humorous Lupin pieces I've seen; even some of the worst parts of the franchise made me laugh more. It's not unfunny like The Avengers where jokes are attempted and fall face down in the mud; there's just not as much goofy stuff that makes Lupin so loveable. With mediocre pacing and not much comedy, the film lags. There are also signs of laziness in this one, including not one but two deus ex machina rescues by Goemon and Jigen and at least three unnecessary nude scenes (which is a real surprise for a TV show in the modern Japanese era). Although I suppose one could say the sexual side of things returns Lupin closer to his comic book escapades, it feels a bit forced.
I can't bash Twilight Gemini completely, though, because the characters still sparkle. It's still Lupin. There's a nice payoff ending, a good denouement during the end credits, and a rare real romantic side to this story. I haven't seen a heroine in a Lupin show I've liked this much since Clarisse in Castle Of Cagliostro. Lara is beautiful, sexy, and smart, but in a softer, more feminine way than the ever-scheming Fujiko who tags along for each adventure. Although there's never quite enough time for love in a Lupin outing, at least seeing it is quiet a welcome change. If nothing else, Twilight Gemini does attempt at times to get out of the basic Lupin formula. Although it's receiving the same rating as another Lupin film I saw recently, Legend of the Gold of Babylon, this one will appeal much more to your typical 21st century anime viewer.
Ultimately, The Secret of Twilight Gemini is simply white bread...you eat it, you feel full, you move on, you forget about it. With tasty Lupin titles like Cagliostro or Plot of the Fuma Clan available, this one might stay on the shelf until you're done with those cinematic sweet rolls.
Lupin III: The Secret of Twilight Gemini -- violence, nudity, adult situations, profanity -- B-