Lupin III: Episode 0: First Contact first aired on Japanese network NTV on July 26, 2002 and is the fourteenth of the Lupin III Yearly Specials. Directed by Minoru Ohara, it was created to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Lupin III franchise on TV, as marked from the debut of the first series.
In a smoky bar, a reporter named Elena begs Jigen to tell her the story of how the Lupin gang originally met and came together. She tells him how Lupin is always too distracted to tell her the story, so she needs Jigen to tell her. After much cajoling, Jigen begins to tell the story:
Years ago, he was in the employ of a mafia boss named Galvez. Galvez's most precious possession was a rare treasure from Japan, an indestructible metal case containing the instructions to a great treasure. Two rival thieves, Lupin and Brad, are after the treasure. But when tragedy strikes, Brad's girlfriend Fujiko takes up his cause in revenge. She, in turn, is being pursued by a dogged Japanese detective, Zenigata, for her crimes in his country. Meanwhile, a samurai named Goemon is searching for a lost sword that would be worthy of his skill, one that would also open Galvez's sealed case. As the plot thickens, all five characters are drawn together
This special was extremely well received, especially by the (small in number but very dedicated) Western fans. After multiple entreaties by fans to Funimation failed, Discotek Media licensed and released it in 2009. It is notable for being the first Lupin III anime released on DVD in North America without a corresponding English dub.note There is, however, a DVD Commentary track from Fandom VIP Reed Nelson.
Complete spoilers below don't read further if you don't want to know how this caper turns out!
This TV movie features examples of:
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: Zantetsuken's cutting ability is a major plot point of the film.
- All Asians Wear Conical Straw Hats: Justified in the case of Goemon, the tradition-obsessed samurai is wearing it to keep his head dry.
- Back-to-Back Badasses: Jigen and Goemon when they're attacked by Galvez's men.
- Big Eater: Zenigata orders ten hamburgers and finishes them all.
- Biker Babe: Fujiko rides a motorcycle for much of the movie.
- Bound and Gagged: Fujiko is captured, bound and gagged and used as a hostage to force Lupin to shot Jigen.
- Chase Fight: The duel between Lupin and Goemon. Lupin runs away as an increasingly frustrated Goemon tries to fight him. It begins with Goemon on foot, chasing Lupin in a car, then they're running on top of cars, as well as around Central Park. Lupin mostly just wants to escape.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Fujiko, of course. During the course of the movie, she manages to betray Lupin, Galvez, and Shade.
- She's accused of betraying Brad as well, but the Narrator hints that Lupin picked up some subtle body language from her telling him that she truly loved him.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Zenigata singlehandedly takes down three drug dealers. Who later turn out to be undercover officers. Whoops.
- He also takes out a STREET of toughs, in order to interrogate them on Lupin's location. Subverted when you see Zenigata is just as badly beaten up as the people he's left on the street.
- Embarrassing Rescue: Lupin saves Jigen from Galvez's goons. Jigen is not pleased.
- Episode 0: The Beginning: The movie is a prequel explaining how the gang all met. Maybe. Not the only Origins Episode this franchise has had, but it is an Origin.
- Everyone Meets Everyone: The whole point of the "Episode".
- Expy: Shade heavily resembles Neo.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Pretty much how Lupin's gang comes together.
- Foreshadowing: Lupin tells Jigen that robbing the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is his dream, and he could do it if they worked together. Guess what Lupin and his gang rob during the credits.
- HeelFace Turn: Jigen at the end, when he decides to join Lupin instead of fighting him.
- Ignore the Fanservice: Fujiko takes a shower in Jigen's apartment, comes out in just a Modesty Towel, and tries to seduce him by leaning over to show her generous cleavage off, and then when he ignores that, starts to drop the towel. He uses the barrel of his magnum to hold it on her body while simultaneously threatening to shoot her if she tries that again. This is also a slightly defining moment for Jigen, as he is the only one consistently unaffected by Fujiko's appearance (even Goemon is affected; he just blushes and looks away when she's naked, though).
- Implausible Fencing Powers: Goemon can cut lightning.
- Incendiary Exponent: Lupin and Goemon's fight, just as in the other two versions of their meeting.
- Infernal Retaliation: Lupin sets Goemon on fire, with a squirt gun! Goemon returns the favor with rope. The next time Lupin tries it, Goemon deflects the liquid, and the fire sets a tanker truck on fire.
- Latex Perfection: Lupin begins the movie disguised as a woman, and steals the key to the Clam of Hermes disguised as Crawford. In the end, it's revealed that Jigen, our Narrator, is really Lupin.
- The Mafia: Jigen worked for them as a gunman.
- MacGuffin Delivery Service: Galvez and Fujiko plot to have Lupin steal the key and then steal it from him. Lupin is aware of this, but he still ends up captured.
- Mugged for Disguise: Lupin lures the NYPD director into a news van, and after the sounds of a scuffle, steps out wearing his clothes.
- Mythology Gag:
- The movie contradicts Goemon's introductions in the manga and the first TV series, but the fight between Lupin and Goemon is filled with references to both of them.
- George McFly resembles and plays a similar role to Akechi Kogoro from the original pilot film.
- No MacGuffin, No Winner: The scroll ends up being destroyed. Which technically means Goemon wins.
- Older Sidekick: George McFly for Zenigata.
- Sleeping Dummy: Lupin uses one to fool Galvez's hit men.
- Theme Music Powerup: When Lupin, Jigen, Fujiko, and Goemon are together for the first time in Galvez's basement, the new version of Lupin III '78 starts playing just as they begin kicking ass.
- Unreliable Narrator: At the end it's flat-out said that things didn't go how they're narrated. While the credits make clear that some of it happened, how much and when remains unknown.
- Whole Episode Flashback: Except for the frame story with Elena, the entire special is one big flashback.