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Anime / Lupin III: Island of Assassins

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Lupin III: Island of Assassins, with the original Japanese title In Memory of the Walther P-38, is the ninth of the Lupin III Yearly Specials, and was released in 1997. It was directed by Toshiya Shinohara and Hiroyuki Yano, who also helped co-direct Lupin III: Dead or Alive alongside Monkey Punch. It has been released in English by Funimation as a single disc in 2005 and as part of the "Final Haul" boxset in 2006. In 2016, Discotek Media announced that they were doing a re-release in the future, which arrived a year later on Blu-Ray.

Inspector Zenigata has been called to a millionaire's elaborate birthday affair by one of Lupin's infamous calling cards, but when the titular thief arrives and is surrounded, he claims he didn't send it! As he attempts to escape, the mansion is suddenly raided by unknown assailants, the guards murdered, and the host assassinated. Zenigata eventually corners his longtime rival in the chaos, but ends up shot by someone wielding an elaborately decorated Walther P-38.

Furious at Zenigata's shooting and recognizing the gun that did it as one once belonging to him, Lupin finds out the identity of the mystery assailants: Tarantula, a network of world-renowned assassins. They live on an unmarked island together, kept in check by a special tarantula tattoo; if an assassin is away from the special gases native to the island for too long, they will slowly be poisoned by it. He and Fujiko go there and are branded by the assassins, becoming part of their organization. They, along with the behind-the-scenes Jigen and Goemon, become entwined with an impending island rebellion, the complex scheme of Tarantula's mastermind, and, most importantly, the mystery wielder of the gun from Lupin's past. With help from Elen, an assassin seeking revenge for the death of her brother, Lupin and his gang must find a way to stop Tarantula for good.

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:

  • Acrofatic: One of the assassins, Bomber, is very fat but also extremely fast, capable of covering a person in explosive mines in a second.
  • Action Girl: Fujiko doesn't see quite as much action this time 'round, since Ellen is the film's primary example, though it's largely involuntary (noted in the Broken Bird entry).
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: As with The Castle of Cagliostro and Lupin III: The Secret of Twilight Gemini, this special is one of the rare instances of Fujiko having blonde hair.
  • Arm Cannon: Gordeau has one.
  • Art Shift: Lupin's initial flashbacks are shown in negative.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Which is why Gordeau's the one in charge, because the others are terrified of him. Except for Doc.
  • The Bermuda Triangle: Used as both a plot point and as one of the film's big reveals, since it's where the titular island is located.
  • Blinded by the Light: Lupin uses a flashbomb to escape Zenigata and his men, during the gala at the start of the film.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The most violent Lupin special at the time it was made.
  • Boom, Headshot!: How Doc dies.
  • Broken Bird: When Lupin first meets Ellen, she's withdrawn and doesn't trust anyone because her father sold her and her brother into slavery, in order to buy booze. Which is how she eventually wound up being conscripted by the Tarantulas. All she'd ever known since then, was being treated as a tool, rather than a human being.
  • Calling Card: Tarantula forges one of Lupin's to get him involved in their organization.
  • Carrying the Antidote: Using the taunting-the-hero version, Doc has the antidote to the island gas on him during the final confrontation.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the scene where Lupin swipes Ellen's pendant, he opens it and reads the inscription: "Look up to the sky, Elly, it's beautiful." Later in the film, she gets cornered in the basement, by the security team at the satellite control center. So Lupin plays her pendant's musicbox, causing her to recall the inscription and look up in time to notice the ventilation duct above her, just as he drops a set of live wires into the water to electrocute the guards.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: NOT Fujiko... for once! Instead, it's Doc who backstabs (in order of betrayal):
    • Years prior to the start of the film, he was Lupin's original partner, before meeting Jigen. He ended their partnership the day he double-crossed Lupin, during one of their getaways, by shooting him with his own Walther P-38. Which is how Lupin knew who shot Zenigata.
    • He also spent years pretending to be Ellen's friend, when he was just using her and the other defectors. Once he no longer needed them, he conspired with Gordeau to have all of them killed.
    • And finally turned on Gordeau, himself, knowing well in advance that Gordeau was planning to do the same. Doc had already beaten him to it by giving him the fake antidote, then shot him point-blank, while he was suffering the effects of the toxin.
  • Combat Pragmatism: Several of the Tarantulas pick a fight with Lupin. But after he drops 4 of 'em 1-on-1, the rest rush in and attack him from all sides at once. Lupin goes down quickly.
  • Continuity Nod: ICPO files on Lupin include a profile on Count Cagliostro and a photo of his famous castle.
  • Darker and Edgier: It's mostly PG-13, though still pretty grim, due to the overall tone of the narrative and the film's bodycount.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Noted in the Broken Bird entry.
  • The Determinator: Not even flatlining and being declared dead can stop Zenigata when the commissioner mentions Lupin's name in his presence after the fact.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Ellen is initially put-off by Lupin's attempts to hit on her because she doesn't trust him, which changes during the course of the film. Still, the closest he gets is when she thanks him for the brief moment they shared off the island, which was her first taste of freedom. Said with her dying breath.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: At the film's climax, Ellen saves Lupin by diving in front of Doc's gun, just as he fires. Once Doc has been dealt with, Lupin cradles Ellen during her Last Words.
  • Downer Ending: Everyone, except for the main cast, dies; including Bomber and Ellen.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Doc plays Gordeau and the others like puppets, and ultimately betrays all of them by arranging their deaths. Just as he'd done to Lupin, years ago.
  • Driven to Suicide: After finally being freed of Gordeau's control as she'd been lead to believe, Ellen was determined that she'd never become his prisoner again. So when she gets cornered by the security at the satellite base, she put her own gun beneath her chin and nearly pulled the trigger.
    • Interrupted Suicide: She would've gone through with it had Lupin not played the musicbox hidden in her pendant, at that moment. Which gave her a reason to keep living.
  • Dying Smirk: After being fatally wounded by Gordeau, Bomber flashes a grin at Jigen and gives him a thumbs up, then activates the bomb strapped under his vest in an attempt to take Gordeau with him.
  • Expy: The resident Knife-wielder looks like a deranged version of Andy Bogard, from the Fatal Fury OVAs.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: Lupin and Ellen first spot each other amidst the shoot-out at the gala, just as someone shoots down the ballroom chandelier.
  • False Friend: You saw the Chronic Backstabbing Disorder entry, right?
  • Femme Fatale: One of Fujiko's unsuccessful attempts to play the part, since the Tarantulas didn't fall for it. By the time Lupin and co. arrive, they were already onto her and had forced her to become one of them.
  • Forced into Evil: Many of the assassins, such as Bomber, were guilt-ridden over being forced to commit murder, but had no other choice. At least, not until Doc told them about the antidote he was working on.
  • Fragile Speedster: Ellen moves like greased lightning and her attacks are just as fast. Which is how you know Lupin is even moreso, since she couldn't lay a finger on him even while both his hands were in his pockets!
  • Girl of the Week: Downplayed with Ellen. While Lupin does hit on her, it's mostly just fun 'n games for him until he starts to learn more about how she became one of the island's assassins.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Most of the deaths occur just off camera, usually only allowing you to hear blades piercing the the victims' bodies, along with a bit a bloodspray. Or simply seeing an arm in the foreground, or their backs slumped against the wall, as the victims collapse from being riddled with gunfire.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Ellen thanks Lupin for the brief moment they shared off the island and said she'd treasure it always, before going limp in his arms, with a faint smile.
  • Government Conspiracy: The island's location is unmarked on any map, as the world's major governments all have a vested interest in keeping it hidden: because the Tarantulas are their private hit squad. So there's a weapons satellite in place that's been programmed to shoot down any ships that come near the island, or attempts to leave it without authorization. Which Lupin reveals is the secret of the Bermuda Triangle.
  • Handgun: Lupin's trademark Walther P-38 serves as a plot point.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Noted in the Died in Your Arms Tonight entry.
  • I Just Want to Be Free: All Bomber and the other defectors wanted was a chance to live normal lives, where they'd no longer be forced to kill. None of 'em make off the island, except Ellen... and she dies too.
  • Left Hanging: At the end of the special, Lupin and Fujiko still have the poisoned tattoos stuck on them, which means they have to keep the gasses from the island around (they do so by loading some on a blimp) or they'll die. It's left unclear if they'll be able to recreate Doc's actual antidote to cure themselves of the poison.
  • Kill Sat: Nothing is allowed near, or off the island without clearance. Anything that approaches is shot down by a high-powered satellite laser. Thus explaining one of the world's greatest mysteries.
  • Made a Slave: Bomber and the others have no choice but to work for Gordeau, because the toxin in their tarantula tattoo ensures they can never leave the island. And since he's the only one who knows the antidote for it, they have to follow his orders. Plus, they're intimidated by him because he can kill any or (or all) of them with ease.
  • Make an Example of Them: Shortly after Lupin first arrives on the island, he witnesses one of the Tarantula's "manhunts", where they hunt and kill one of their former members. Ellen explains that it was because he failed to carry out his assignment.
  • The Mole: Subverted. Fujiko was sent to the island ahead of time, to work her way into the Tarantulas and find their gold depository, but they were already onto her by the time she arrives.
  • Odd Friendship: Bomber takes a shine to Jigen. Midway through the film, he suggested they partner up if they managed to escape the island. While Jigen appreciated the offer, he politely declined by telling Bomber he already had one.
  • Picky Eater: Averted by Goemon, who eats beans like a trooper while he's protecting Fujiko in secret. Though, he is really, really happy to see the Japanese food Jigen brings.
  • Pocket Protector: Zenigata's ICPO badge is what slowed the bullet enough to prevent the shot to his chest from being lethal.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Lupin administers one to Doc, with an assist from Ellen.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: After he's shot in the pre-credits sequence and spends the majority of the special hospitalized, Zenigata only appears a handful of times in total.
  • Smoke Bomb: Used by the assassins during the opening mansion raid.
  • Stock Scream: In the FUNimation dub, the classic Wilhelm scream is buried in the mix during the opening fight scene.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Lupin's pretty light on his feet and knows how to handle himself 1-on-1. But up against 10+ highly trained assassins, while they had him surrounded and attacking him all at once? There was only one way that was gonna end.
  • Taking You with Me: Bomber knew he was done, once Gordeau cornered him. So, he figured he'd take Gordeau with him. Naturally, it didn't work.
  • Tragic Keepsake: The pendant Ellen wears was given to her by her brother, so it's all she has to remember him by since he was murdered, days later, by Doc.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Fujiko belts Lupin for sending her to infiltrate the island on her own, without telling her what the Tarantulas were like; especially since he had assured her that he'd send to Goemon protect her. Goemon does eventually show up, but not until after Fujiko's life had been threatened.
  • Wire Dilemma: Faced by Jigen, Fujiko, and Goemon. Solved by Goemon, who cuts the red wire. Why?
    Jigen: Okay, now how the hell did you know it was red?
    Goemon: It reminded me of...pickled plums.
    (Jigen groans, Fujiko faints.)
  • You Have Failed Me: One of the Tarantula's former members gets his throat slit, followed by being brutally gunned down for failing a mission.