sweet lost night ~Magic Lamp's Nightmare Premonition~
Lupin scores a "magic lamp" and finds it does hold a genie. However, the stroke of 7PM strikes, and that is the last thing he remembers. Finding himself in Singapore, Lupin must battle his way past the forces of Colonel Garlic and discover the secret behind the lamp. But every time the clock strikes 7PM, his memory is wiped clean! How can Lupin piece together this puzzle, when he can't even remember what he is doing?!
After the release of Green Vs. Red, speculation and hope ran wild with the thought that the franchise might be taking a different direction. Would GvR simply be a fun, alternate world story, or would it have an actual impact on the Lupin universe? Would the 2008 TV special pick up where the OVA left off? When the first bit of information about the 2008 special hit, it was clear that this wouldn't be the case; so, the question became "Would the 2008 special at least be entertaining?"
A brilliant opening act
Sweet Lost Night (unecessary secondary title omitted) opens with Lupin riding across the desert on a camel with no name. His goal is a "magic lamp" that has recently been discovered. No treasure Lupin is after goes unguarded by Zenigata; the pair soon square off in a battle of wits and gadgets. The laughs and the action came fast with Zenigata pulling out some of Lupin's old tricks. Goro Naya is in good voice, and the chase through the building was fantastic, some of the best work I've seen in a special for awhile.
Lupin rockets away with Zenigata in tow and ends up on a remote island near Phuket, Thailand. Zenigata's landing is quite rough and leaves him an amnesiac; however, Lupin is safe with the magic lamp and gives it a rub. To his surprise, a beautiful genie appears! Perhaps the legends are true... But, the clock strikes 7PM, and Lupin suddenly finds himself running through the traffic in Singapore. How and why he is there, he cannot recall. His memory is a complete blank.
We are soon introduced to Colonel Garlic, the Teutonic baddie after the lamp, Fujiko's inevitable and quick betrayal of Lupin, and Dahlia (the katakana runs through translators as "Drew", but the cast sound like they are pronouncing Dahlia. I'll go with what I hear) the mysterious woman behind the genie.
Into the plodding narrative of the second act
After an entertaining first act filled with classic Lupin humor and action packed chases, the special ran right into the main problem recent specials all have. The middle act spends too much time on exposition, outlining exactly what the treasure Lupin is after is all about. It may leave a few secrets for the third act, but it chews up screen time with long stretches of dialogue punctuated by brief, token action bits.
The best Lupin specials manage to weave the narrative and action into a cohesive, flowing story. There is a sense of movement and discovery as the plot points are revealed. Here, we simply are handed most of the information behind the lamp; it happens to be a Laser Assisted Memory Program developed in part by Dahlia. It targets specific areas of the brain and can block people's memories. She helped Dr. Eichmann develop the system but started to balk at his methods and goals. Then, she found herself without three years worth of memory.
With all this information given to us, there is little else for the special to do except gather the various parties together and have their explosion filled showdown.
Does the wheel go round and bring an exciting third act?
Lupin and Jigen must head to Dr. Eichmann's island to find a way to restore the memories of Lupin, Dahlia, and Goemon (previously captured and brainwashed). There is one final twist left on who is really behind the power of the lamp, but it is a rather transparent, unimpressive, and outright boring twist. The action is not even worth mentioning here, as it is clearly just token material to pad out the special and meet the expected Lupin formula. Everyone's memories are restored at the end, including poor Zenigata's.
I had hoped that the 2008 special would be something different like GvR was, and for the first twenty minutes or so, I thought my wish had come true. This was the first opening sequence that captivated me for quite some time; it was hitting all the right strides including having an intelligent and resourceful Zenigata chasing Lupin at the start. If the special ended there, I would have been a happy fan; however, the special quickly slid into mediocrity and couldn't recapture the energy it started with.
There were brief moments sprinkled through that were funny or exciting, but they were tiny bits of jetsam in the tidal wave of exposition about the lamp and Dahlia's past. The finale felt perfunctory, just a way to wrap things up with one final reveal that has little impact on the character's or the treasure. Zenigata was out of commission for most of the special with amnesia; though Goro Naya sounded better than he did in GvR, I'm still convinced Zenigata's role is minor lately because his voice can only hold out for so long. The few scenes he is given though are brilliant and some of the best parts of the special.
The other part I enjoyed was a brainwashed Goemon foiling Lupin's every attempt to pull a gadget out to free himself. The visual of a frustrated Lupin staring at Goemon nonchalantly holding his favorite toys was priceless. Again though, these bits of comedy couldn't break through the monotony of sitting through the narrative that left little for the group to chase after in the end. We are given a perfunctory finale with one last gasp of a twist, but the life had already been sucked out of the story. Would I watch this again? Yes, there is enough entertaining material in it; I'll just have my finger on the fast forward button to get to those bits.