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The Secret of Mamo, or The Mystery of Mamo, is the most common English name for the first animated feature film in the Lupin III franchise, made in 1978 and known in Japan as simply Lupin III (Rupan Sansei). (The film is now known there as Rupan Sansei: Rupan tai Kurōn -- Lupin vs. the Clones -- in order to differentiate it from the four others that followed it.)
The movie opens with a slow walk up black/white lines, and the outline of Lupin being hanged. Teletype, in a style similar to the Red Jacket series' episode titles informs us of a coroner's report regarding the death of Lupin. We then see Inspector Zenigata in an old castle, attempting to put a stake in the heart of Lupin's corpse (dressed like a vampire). An explosion occurs -- a booby trap placed by a living Lupin. The two of them discuss the coroner's report, but Lupin explains that he doesn't know how it happened before escaping. Zenigata cheers and curses Lupin and declares his intent to capture the international thief yet again.
With that, we switch to opening credits played over scenes involving cells and embryos in a scientific setting. Foreshadowing?
The plot develops as Lupin and Jigen steal the Philosopher's Stone from an Egyptian pyramid, in a way that invoves a motorcycle chase inside the pyramid tunnels. Lupin tries to trade the stone with Fujiko for a date, but is left high and dry. But when Fujiko's mysterious contractor discovers that the stone she took from Lupin was fake, he expresses his displeasure using an helicopter gunship for a drive-by, followed by an 18-wheeler out for the Lupin gang's blood.
The plot develops from there to include American secret agents, a mysterious island with historical figures walking around, an ancient conspiracy, and several feats of what seem to be magic -- all revolving around Fujiko's contractor, a shriveled old man named "Mamo". Can Lupin and his companions discover where the dead Lupin came from or what Mamo's plan is, or will they fall apart from the strain?
The Mystery Of Mamo contains examples of:
- A God Am I: Mamo thinks of himself this way, and he goes to a lot of trouble to convince Lupin and his friends.
- Ambiguous Clone Ending: Averted at the last minute -- Mamo eventually admits that the Lupin that died at the start of the film was a clone, and the protagonist was the real Lupin the Third. Lupin tries to invoke this at the end when Zenigata captures him, but the Inspector doesn't care.
- Big Damn Movie
- Brain In a Jar: Mamo eventually reveals that his real self is a gigantic disembodied brain, that controlled his clone bodies by implanted microchips.
- Breaking the Fellowship: For a change, Fujiko's antics get Lupin to swear off her -- until she's found abandoned in the wilderness and The Dulcinea Effect kicks in. This is the last straw for both Goemon and Jigen, and the trio only barely avoids coming to blows before turning their backs on each other. (And, naturally, Fujiko's running the Wounded Gazelle Gambit for Mamo.) The gang regathers at Mamo's Caribbean island, but after Fujiko getting kidnapped and Goemon suffering a Heroic BSOD, Lupin is eventually forced to Storm The Castle alone, despite Jigen's attempts to talk him out of it (with bullets).
- Captain Obvious: "Ladies and gentlemen: The End."
- Cassandra Truth: The Egyptian police initially don't believe Zenigata when he claims Lupin's broken into the pyramid to lift the Philosopher's Stone.
- Chained Heat: At the end, Zenigata handcuffs himself to Lupin -- just in time for the duo to outrun a Macross Missile Massacre over the credits.
- Chekhov's Gun: The tip of Goemon's Zantetsuken, which breaks off about halfway through the film.
- Clone Degeneration: Mamo admits that he's suffering from this.
- Cloning Blues: The question about whether the dead Lupin in the opening scene was a clone or not. Also, Mamo is a giant brain using a series of clones of himself to interact with the world. The clones are beginning to decay more quickly because of the original materials decaying; he wanted the Stone and the other items Lupin stole as ways to counteract the decay.
- Complete Monster: Jigen describes Mamo as this, and Lupin echoes such sentiments to the original Mamo (a gigantic brain) at the climax.
- Continuity Nod: Lupin mentions a levitation trick from the TV series.
- Depending on the Writer: Whether Zenigata wants Lupin dead or alive in this movie is up to who's translating. The HK dub's Zenigata could very well be the most extremist portrayal by an English dubbing company for the film.
- Disney Death: Lupin in the opening scene.
- The Dragon: Frenchy.
- Dueling Dubs: On the short list of anime films with the most English dubs made. First, Toho made a dub in Hong Kong to show in trans-Atlantic flights on Japan Airlines. Next, Streamline Pictures dubbed it in the '90s. Manga Entertainment made its own dub. Finally, Geneon redubbed the film in 2003.
- Eagle Land: The villainous variation, with CIA agent Gordon kidnapping Jigen and Goemon so a Kissinger expy can use them to find Lupin and Mamo. The pair has a habit of carpet-bombing Mamo's hideouts regardless of who's in the area.
- Leave No Witnesses: At the end, while Gordon is having a wargasm over bombing anyone who knows of Mamo out of existence, not-Kissinger is making a call to have everyone else with him killed -- yes, including Gordon.
- Flat Earth Atheist: Lupin. Justified, as he's able to accurately predict Mamo's constant parlor tricks the minute he sets foot on transparent glass.
- God Test: After Lupin Does In The Wizard of the psychedelic vision Mamo showed him in Colombia, he rhetorically challenges Mamo to prove that he's a god by doing something like causing earthquakes instead of "parlor tricks". The response is enough explosives set off to measure on the Richter scale.
- Kill It with Fire: Lupin deals with Mamo in this fashion at the climax, incinerating him with his own lasers by reflecting them at him with the Zantetsuken tip.
- Mind Screw: Mamo arranges several of these for Lupin.
- Obligatory Swearing: One of several things the Geneon dub is criticized for, particularly since the usually silent Flinch swears twice where he didn't even speak in the original.
- Rage Quit: Inspector Zenigata goes rogue just so he can continue chasing Lupin even after things complicate his police department's case against the latter. Such complications may be why he joined up with Interpol in the first place.
- Single-Stroke Battle: Goemon's battle with Flinch; after chipping Zantetsuken on The Dragon's armored vest, they exchange another strike. The tip of Goemon's sword falls off -- and then the screen splits in three pieces that slide apart, corresponding to the three pieces of Flinch's head that he tries and fails to hold together.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Mameaux/Mamo; Frenchy/Flinch/Flintstone; Starky/Stuckey.
- Superlative Dubbing: For all its boners, at least the Streamline dub gets some things right that Geneon didn't, including humor.
- Those Wacky Nazis: Hitler is among the clones Lupin encounters. Lupin gives him the appropriate greeting.
Lupin: [upon walking into the Hitler clone] Heil Hitler!
- Translation Train Wreck: Geneon committed a boner in one scene by having Lupin say "Okey-dokey!" when "You mean a real nut?", as demonstrated in every dub up to that point, would've worked perfectly well with the lip synch.
- The Untwist: The Lupin that was hanged at the start was a clone all along.
- Villainous BSOD: The Mamo clone Lupin intercepts undergoes this in his last moments as he goes on about how clones degenerate over time. The not-original Mamo subverts this when he realizes the Philosopher's Stone doesn't help much, if at all. When Fujiko asks if eternal life is just a dream, he responds that there's another way and takes Fujiko to a launching pad.
- Villainous Breakdown: When Mamo receives a Humiliation Conga at the climax. First his attempts at immortality go awry, then the government tracks him to his hideout (because he couldn't pass up a challenge from Lupin to perform a miracle), and then Lupin foils his attempt at bringing about the end of the world. That's enough for him to go bat-shit crazy and take Fujiko for himself, trying to roast Lupin with lasers whenever he tried to get near. He even sounds crazy yet truthful when he reveals that Lupin's death at the gallows had indeed been staged all along.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Lupin gets quite a bit of flack from his own associates for associating with Fujiko.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: This is Lupin's immediate reaction to Mamo's offer of eternal life and youth. Fujiko's motivation is to have both Lupin and herself immortal; when it becomes clear that Mamo's not interested in making Lupin immortal, she loses interest. As she puts it, she doesn't want to live forever just to see Lupin grow old.
- Wrecked Weapon: Goemon's face-off against Flinch leads to the tip of his Zantetsuken breaking off, which puts Goemon in shame, as he believes that he's unworthy to use the sword if it breaks even a little. That chipped-off tip later becomes the Chekhov's Gun when Lupin receives it from Jigen.
- Lupin later destroys Mamo's missiles to leave Mamo completely helpless.
- Xanatos Backfire: Mamo is killed by lasers he was trying to use in his last attempt on Lupin's life.