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Lupin III: The First brings the franchise to 3D—and it works

A still from Lupin III: The First featuring the whole main cast

It's nice to see that Japan is getting better at 3D animation. For too long we've had to put up with horrible 3DCG posing as traditional animation by using ugly flat shading and animating on twos, like Graphinica's Expelled from Paradise or Polygon Pictures' Knights of Sidonia, Blame! and Godzilla films.

Expelled from Paradise

This style always ends up looking stiff and janky, and far worse than the 2D animation it's trying to immitate. But we can all rejoice now, because it seems that the era of terrible 3D anime is coming to an end.

Lupin III: The First is the newest entry in the long-running Japanese franchise following gentleman thief Arsène Lupin III. This is the first entry to use 3D animation, and while it's not as technically impressive as your standard Disney/Pixar fare, it's fast, stylish, and damn good looking. It uses a unique art style that captures the iconic 2D character designs while using smooth animation and realistic lighting.

Some of the textures and stuff like hair physics doesn't look great, but it's still a huge step up from Japan's previous attempts at 3DCG.

A still from Lupin III: The First showing the title character grinning

The animation really shines in the action scenes, and these are the highlight of the film as well. They're full of over-the-top trickery and insane stunts, accentuated by the larger-than-life characters and Yuji Ohno's fantastic jazz score.

The other aspects of the film are just average. The characters are fun, but the villains are kind of toothless. The story is a classic old-school archaeological adventure but a lot of points don't hold up if you think about them too much. And the fast pacing requires some awkward scene transitions to fit everything into 90 minutes.

Still, it was a bunch of fun to watch, and gives me hope for the future of 3D anime.