Review: Eternal Mermaid (DVD)
American entertainment company Discotek Media have been a huge asset when it comes to releasing Lupin content in the West. From the entirety of Part I and Part II, along with a long list of feature films and TV specials - if you live in the US, Discotek have you covered!
They have not just been working through the back catalogue of films, series and specials either. Discotek Media have also partnered with Epcar Entertainment in bringing back the original English speaking dub cast from the Pioneer / Geneon days, which features Tony Oliver, Michelle Ruff and Richard Epcar himself. This will be welcome news to fans who’s first folly in the series was the American TV broadcast of Part II, which featured the same cast and aired on Adult Swim in the early 2000’s.
Their latest release skips ahead of a few unlicensed specials and jumps straight to Blood Seal of the Eternal Mermaid.
Lupin’s latest score is the Mermaid's Scale, a clear blue gemstone that is said to hold the secret of the mermaid’s treasure - one that grants the user eternal life. Himuro, a wealthy arms dealer aims to discover the treasure for himself and use it for - you guessed it - sending the world into an endless state of war!
Two young girls - Maki and Misa both become entangled in the affair, and even Lupin’s grandfather makes a brief but exciting appearance!
The 2011 TV special was noteworthy on release as it was not only the first in quite some time to feature a bold new visual style, but it also included new Japanese voice talent. It introduced Daisuke Namikawa as Ishikawa Goemon XIII, Miyuki Sawashiro as Fujiko Mine and Kōichi Yamadera as Inspector Zenigata.
The changeover of voice actor (seiyuu) is a big deal in Japan, and the news even made it onto daytime television shows. Replacing Makio Inoue, Eiko Masuyama and the legendary Gorō Naya would be no small feat for the new talent - however, they all did a great job and are still voicing the characters to this day.
Blood Seal of the Eternal Mermaid is generally favoured by fans of the series as being one of the best TV specials. It is a good one to jump in with, as no prior knowledge of the series is needed. The climactic, supernatural ending of the film gets a tad over-the-top, but it remains entertaining throughout and feels like a solid Lupin adventure. It is a tiny bit gory with more bloodshed than the typical Lupin episode or film, so may not be one to watch with the kids.
The DVD version of Blood Seal of the Eternal Mermaid comes in region 1 format, which means you will likely need a region free DVD player if you are hoping to watch this abroad. The runtime is 90 minutes, and it all comes on a single disc.
You can currently purchase the film from RightStufanime.com for the retail price of $19.95, however at the time of writing this article, it is out of stock. A Blu-ray version of the same film is also up for sale on that same website for the retail price of $29.95, but as with the DVD version, at the time of writing this article it is also out of stock. According to RightStuf support, additional stock of both is expected soon.
The box design for Blood Seal of the Eternal Mermaid is simple but eye catching.
The cover artwork on the front boasts the bold new (at the time) visual style of the special, which looks to be heavily inspired by some of the works of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. One of the nicest things about the Lupin franchise is that, over the years, we have seen such a vast amount of different visual styles and artwork. This much rounder, softer look suits the special and looks great on the front of the box.
Much care and attention has been paid to the rear, and the logo is a lovely cleaned up version of the same Japanese one - only with English text. The spine matches some of the more recent Discotek Media TV special releases, which means it should fit right in with the rest when sat on your shelf.
The reverse of the DVD cover features the same artwork as on the front, but in a larger size. While this could double up as a small poster, it feels a shame to remove the cover and leave the DVD “naked”, peering through the front of the transparent box.
The 90-minute feature included here is viewable with the original Japanese dub cast (plus English subtitles), or with an all new English dub. As mentioned earlier, this sees the return of some of the Phuuz Pioneer / Geneon dubbing cast from the early 2000’s TV run on Adult Swim.
Tony Oliver plays a fantastic, fun red jacket Lupin, and Richard Epcar continues to sound cool as Jigen. Lex Lang has certainly improved in his role of Goemon, and Michelle Ruff continues to slay the role of Fujiko. While he is not quite Dan Lorge (who retired from voice acting back in the mid 2000’s), Doug Erholtz brings new life into the English-speaking role of Zenigata and he certainly shines here.
While the English dub is a nice addition, we still cannot help but prefer the original Japanese cast - especially since this film was the first to feature Daisuke Namikawa, Miyuki Sawashiro and Kōichi Yamadera. With this considered, the set also includes a translated interview with the new cast members, who are sat alongside veteran voice talent Kanichi Kurita (who plays Lupin), and Kiyoshi Kobayashi (Jigen).
A lot of care and attention has been paid into subtitling this special feature, as the cast members not only speak about their roles, but also regarding the retired voice cast members (some of which are now sadly deceased). Brady Hartel, who assists in the creation of the Discotek Media releases, has done a great job at putting this together. Although it is only around 10 minutes in length, it shows how nervous the new cast members were to take on the role of the characters, and what cool cucumbers both Kurita and Kobayashi are.
To my knowledge, there has been no prior subtitled version of this interview to date. Although it has taken nearly a decade to happen, it is still a very interesting watch and only adds to the release. It is nice for new fans to see the faces behind the voices too, and get an idea of how important the switching of a voice cast is in Japan.
The final set of features include credit less opening and ending animations, which while won’t blow your socks off, are still a nice addition. The opening of this film is a lot of fun and perhaps one of the best out of all of the TV specials, so we appreciate being able to watch it raw, without the title text.
Aside from the extras included on the disc that have already been mentioned above, there are no further physical freebies with the release.
While it would have been nice to have printed liner notes as per Discotek Media’s early release of Strange Psychokinetic Strategy or the addition of a small poster that doesn’t leave the case bare, these things are not always financially viable and end up eating up additional resources. We would much rather Discotek Media spend their time and money investing in the content of the disc itself, and they do not disappoint here.
Blood Seal of the Eternal Mermaid is an excellent film, which really broke the mould of the 2000 - 2010 era of Lupin TV specials - all of which featured a similar looking art style and a bunch of cross over when it came to premises and plot points.
Discotek Media again impress with a quality release here - nice sturdy packaging, an English dub and an interview special feature with the Japanese voice cast to round things out. We can only hope to get more Lupin releases in the West, including the TV specials skipped in the process of getting to this one. Supporting this release will help make that happen.
The only thing that lets this release down is that it is, of course, on DVD. Having seen both versions of the film, the clean and vibrant art style of this special lends itself well to high-definition video. While the film still looks great in standard-definition, it does not quite have the same "pop" as it does on Blu-ray. If you do have a HD video player, we would advise going with the Blu-ray for the higher quality visuals. If the DVD version is all you can buy - don't feel too disappointed, as it still looks great!
If you are a fan of the show or are new to it entirely, this is a good place to start. Give it a watch and let us know what you think of the film by leaving a comment below!
The copy of the DVD used in this review was sourced by the reviewer alone and was not provided by the entertainment company. You can currently purchase the film from RightStufanime.com for the retail price of $19.95, however be aware that stock is limited. A Blu-ray version is also available to purchase from that same website, and retails at $29.95.