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Anime: Lupin III: Dead or Alive
Characters on top, from left to right: Jigen, Fujiko, Lupin, Olčander, Goemon.
Characters on bottom: Zenigata, and the entire Zufu army.

The fifth theatrical movie, released the 20th of April, 1996. It has the proud distinction of having the original creator, Monkey Punch, as Supervising Director. Funimation licensed this film for US release in 2002, along with Farewell to Nostradamus and eight annual TV specials.

Lupin and gang are attempting to recover the treasure on "Drifting Island",note  an island inside another island, and part of the fictional country of Zufu. Zufu has recently undergone a bit of political upheaval: The king and his son, Prince Pannish, have been killed in a military coup d'etat. General Headhunter has been in charge for two years, now. And he wants the treasure that the king left on Drifting Island, too. He's willing to put out a bounty on the foreign thief to keep him away, one million dollars to the bounty hunter who brings in Lupin the Third, Dead or Alive!

While Fujiko works her way into General Headhunter's service, Inspector Zenigata arrives by plane. Is Pannish really alive? What is the treasure guarded by the Nanomachines? Will the bounty hunters capture Lupin and his gang? Is anyone who they say they are?

Complete spoilers below — don't read further if you don't want to know how this caper turns out!

This theatrical movie features examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade:
    • Goemon cuts boats in half without any of the guards at the river outpost realizing it.
    • General Headhunter's knives are sharp enough to slice apart Lupin's gun.
  • The Alcatraz: The jail for Zufu boasts that are only two ways out. Death by natural causes, and death by execution. To prove that, they annually select prisoners and giving them a Win Your Freedom challenge, playing the prey while the guards try to kill them.
  • Banana Republic: The fictional country of Zufu gets a subtle Lampshade Hanging by being placed in the Banana Republic. The corrupt government is a military dictatorship, which has actually sent the previously prosperous nation into a sharp decline. At the end, the dictatorship is overthrown, but no government is set up to replace it, yet. Other indicators suggest that the nation is Latin American.
  • Big Bad: A rare work where the "villain behind everything" isn't even a character. The Nanomachines are the ultimate conflict, providing an initial challenge, and defeating the Protagonists several times early on. The main plot for Lupin's gang is to discover the secrets of Drifting Island, which is protected by the nanomachines. Even General Headhunter is subordinate to the nanomachines, because he is a robot constructed by them.
  • Bit Character: Lupin rescues four people from the prison in the opening scene. One turns out to be important to the plot later, as a Chekhov's Gunman. One shows up again as a bit character, helping Emerah to escape. The other two are just there to be saved, and don't contribute anything else.
  • Bland-Name Product: The portable television that Inspector Zenigata has is a "Somy".
  • Blasting It out of Their Hands:
    • Olčander does this to Jigen and Lupin before revealing her identity to them.
    • When three cops tried to arrest Inspector Zenigata, he defeated the last one by shooting the gun out of his hand.
    • Pannish does a variation on this against Crisis during the climax, shooting down the barrel of Crisis's golden gun, making it explode.
  • Booby Trap: The Zufu national treasury is protected against thieves by programmed Nanomachines. It beats Lupin twice before the gang is finally able to fool the traps.
  • Bounty Hunter: When Crisis puts out the Dead or Alive bounty on Lupin, at least three bounty hunters enter Zufu to attempt to capture/kill him. Lupin is so busy trying to escape from them that Zenigata manages to arrest him.
  • Calling Card: Lupin uses two calling cards in this film. One is in the form of a video where he uses a Parody Name of 20th Century Fox, announcing that he would steal the treasure of Drifting Island. In the other, he uses an advertising balloon to announce his theft of Headhunter's Daughter.
  • Cool Copter: Lupin and gang first visit "Drifting Island" via gyrocopter. It's only built for one person, so they're actually overburdening it by having Lupin, Jigen and Goemon on it. The mechanic they borrowed it from also builds them two other flying devices.
  • Darker and Edgier: This is the darkest of the Lupin Theatrical Releases, and has the honor of Monkey Punch (who is responsible for the dark tones of the original Manga) working on it.
  • Delayed Causality: After Goemon slices apart boats and telephones, they continue to hold together for several seconds afterwards. As does General Headhunter, before turning into a pile of gold dust.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: General Headhunter first sees Pannish when he takes over the national broadcast to announce to the country that he has returned, and that Headhunter had falsely taken control of the kingdom.
  • Environmental Symbolism: The general decay that we see in establishing shots of Zufu hint to the suffering of the people under General Headhunter's rule.
  • Explosive Cigar: Two examples in the opening:
    • The stogie the Warden is smoking while collecting prisoners turns into a smoke bomb that sends the guards into a coughing fit while the Warden takes the prisoners out of the jail in a jeep.
    • While being chased, the Warden lights up several, and throws them behind to act as grenades against the guards.
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: The movie ends with the gang splitting up; Goemon says that the wind calls him east. Jigen wishes to go west. Fujiko says she must go "down south". To make everything neat, Lupin heads north.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: While Lupin is researching the "sand" he found at Drifting Island, his computer screen gives out the atomic weight and number. The computer Engrish calls it Atomic Quantity, but the numbers are for the weight and number of Gold.
  • Gun Stripping: After kidnapping "Headhunter's Daughter", the crew are back at one of their hideouts, and Lupin can be seen cleaning his Walther, making sure it's ready for action.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: The prison for Zufu holds an annual event, selecting a few prisoners to attempt to escape. So far, the guards boast that noone has succeeded, and call it "target practice".
  • Montage: We are treated to an information gathering montage as Olčander tries to find out if Pannish is really alive or not. The audience hears a nice walking song, while Olčander spends all day searching the city. She starts from the market, but by the end of the day, she's walking around in the shady parts of the city.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Lupin escapes from Zenigata by switching places with the bartender Zenigata has been hanging out with (along with a dash of Latex Perfection to prevent Zenigata from figuring out the switch until too late).
  • Nanomachines: The previous regime had been very technologically advanced, in both construction and computer programming. Nanomachines were left to guard the island against thieves, and it has proven very effective, defeating Lupin's attempts to gain access twice before General Headhunter brought Olčander to blackmail Pannish.
  • No One Could Survive That: When Crisis, the national chief of police, says that Lupin and his gang couldn't have survived a high fall from a cliff onto rocky waters, Inspector Zenigata laughs at his foolishness. He points out that Lupin has survived the same situation many times before, and he'll stay in Zufu until Lupin is gone.
  • Off with His Head!: To show Olč how serious he is, General Headhunter casually decapitates one of his subordinates.
  • Omniscient Database: Lupin's computer is capable of analyzing "sand", and determining the atomic composition of Nanomachines.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Amazingly averted in the opening, when the Warden of the prison drives the car into a cave where the missile explodes in front of him. He keeps driving through the explosion, which destroys the latex disguise, revealing that the Warden is really Lupin!
  • Parody Names: The opening for Lupin's Calling Card, announcing his theft, is a modification of the 20th Century Fox Vanity Plate.
  • The Roddenberry Line: The film does its best to straddle the line of this trope. Nanomachines are first introduced as a Booby Trap protecting the national treasury of the Zufu nation. Explanation occurs at a mostly gradual pace, as the gang learns more and more about how to bypass the Nanomachines to get to the treasure.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: In some of the promotional works for Dead or Alive, it depicts Lupin aiming his Walther at the audience against a gold-to-black gradient background.
  • Shoot the Messenger: In General Headhunter's opinion, the trope is "cut the head off of the messenger". Not even for bringing him unexpected news: just bringing the news that he might already expect is dangerous if he's already in a bad mood.
  • Sleeping Dummy: Fujiko sets one up of Emerah, along with a voice recorder, to fool General Headhunter and allow Emerah to escape.
  • Street Urchin: One of the scenes used to establish the current tone/mood of the Zufu nation is an open-stall market, where people are arguing over the price of apples. When two boys hiding in a Totem Pole Trench are caught stealing apples, they run away from the proprietor, bringing the apples they stole back to their gang of a half-dozen group of similarly poorly clothed kids.
  • Totem Pole Trench: Two children are in the market, hidden inside an adult's cloak and mustache. Street Urchins, stealing apples from a stall.
  • Translation Style Choices: While most of the film is dubbed in a Dynamic Equivalence, Jigen's lines regarding Fujiko are all changed to comment more favourably on her.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: One of Monkey Punch's only rules while producing Dead or Alive was that Lupin and the gang had to escape with the treasure.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: How Olčander fools Lupin & gang. Obviously, Inspector Zenigata is taking lessons from Lupin, now. Zenigata had disguised her as Emerah when Lupin announced that he would steal General Headhunter's daughter.
  • Win Your Freedom: The Warden, of the Zufu prison in the opening, tells the prisoners they have a chance to escape the jail. They have five minutes to run before the guards start Hunting the Most Dangerous Game.

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