Image source: シネマトゥデイ on YouTube

Lupin The IIIrd: The Blood Spray of Ishikawa Goemon is so brutal, bloody, and ultraviolent that it made me sick to my stomach–though that’s not a bad thing.

Following the more adult take on Lupin III seen in Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine and Lupin the IIIrd: Daisuke Jigen’s Gravestone comes Lupin The IIIrd: The Blood Spray of Ishikawa Goemon. Around an hour long, this film is centered on the titular Ishikawa Goemon–and having the words “blood spray” in the title seems like a bit of an understatement by the time the final credits roll.

[This review contains moderate spoilers for Lupin The IIIrd: The Blood Spray of Ishikawa Goemon]

The film begins on a casino ship run by the yakuza. Goemon has been hired by the head gangster as a bodyguard–much to the jealousy and chagrin of the high level yakuza in the organization. Soon, the ship finds itself under attack by a large man dual wielding hand axes. In the ensuing chaos, the yakuza boss dies and, as his bodyguard, Goemon is duty bound to get revenge.

There’s just one problem: “The Ghost of Bermuda,” as the large man is called, is more than a match for Goemon.

While Goemon has met and faced off against sword masters in past adventures, the Ghost challenges him not as a sword fighter, but as a warrior. Goemon is a warrior of technique rather than one of brute strength. The Ghost, on the other hand, has a similar level of technique but with far more brute strength to back it up. This leaves Goemon at a severe disadvantage–so much so that he is defeated swiftly and brutally during their second encounter.

Thus, we see Goemon at his weakest in this film. While his defeat is a physical one, the true damage is mental. His loss to the Ghost is so devastating that Goemon finds himself defeated over and over again in his own mind. His normal mental cleansing techniques fail him one after another as the presence of the Ghost haunts him. There is no way Goemon has a hope of defeating the Ghost unless he is first able to overcome his own doubts and fears.

While Goemon is the title character of this movie, it is just as much about Lupin, Jigen, and Fujiko as it is him. The night the Ghost attacks the casino ship, Lupin and the gang are also on the scene–though they are hitting the casino vault and have no idea Goemon is on board. In the ensuing confusion, the three escape easily with a large fortune in mob-owned money and thank their blessings for the easy payday. But, before long, they discover the truth: The Ghost wasn’t there for the yakuza boss. He’s after Lupin and the gang.

Normally, Lupin, Jigen, and Fujiko would turn to Goemon in a case like this. However, with Goemon defeated, the three are outmatched–the best they can hope for is to run. But even this is a temporary solution against such a relentless foe. Their only real hope is that Goemon regains his inner strength and can defeat the Ghost. But how does one help someone as solitary as Goemon?

In this way, the film is also about how Goemon’s friends deal with him suffering from a crisis of confidence, teaching us a bit about each one in the process.

Fujiko becomes frustrated and leaves, deciding to run on her own rather than wait and believe in Goemon. Jigen wants to do something active to restore their companion’s confidence. It’s only Lupin who knows doing anything to interfere would have opposite effect of what they want, turning Goemon against them. Lupin understands his friend enough to know that watching over him and supporting him is the best–and perhaps only–thing they can do for the samurai. Of course, doing nothing but waiting and trusting is perhaps the hardest thing for men like Lupin and Jigen to do.

The film, as alluded to above, is exceptionally brutal. People are beat to death, burned to death, dismembered, and carved up in horrible ways. The is brought to an even higher level in the film’s climactic final battle between Goemon and the Ghost. It’s not a euphemism to say that I was feeling more than a little sick to my stomach by the time the final credits rolled.

However, what’s great about this brutality is that our heroes aren’t immune to it. There a wounds taken by the Lupin gang that aren’t simply healable by a few stitches. Once it becomes apparent that the wounds being given and taken are serious, it raises the tension of the film dramatically–truly making you wonder if our heroes will make it out in one piece.

All in all, Lupin The IIIrd: The Blood Spray of Ishikawa Goemon introduces an opponent for the gang that truly seems unstoppable–even for them. Moreover, it gives Goemon a different kind of opponent than usual, allowing him to grow in the process. While those with weak stomachs may want to avoid this one due to the violence alone, this film is a great addition to the sprawling franchise.

Lupin The IIIrd: The Blood Spray of Ishikawa Goemon was released in Japanese theaters on February 4, 2017. There is currently no word on a Western release.

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