a.k.a. Rupan Sansei: Otakara Henkyaku Dai-sakusen!!
Mark Williams, an aged former rival of Lupin, dies, and the master thief is the one he wants to inherit his most prominent possession, the seemingly worthless Trick Diamond. However, his testament has a catch: to accept the heritage, Lupin must first return several other items to their rightful owners that his former rival stole from them during his long and happy life. And as if returning well-known public attractions to their original locations wasn’t difficult enough, the Russian mafia has taken an interest in Lupin’s latest operation. Zenigata has a lead on him, and Fujiko is up to something fishy, as well.
summary by Taleweaver
Highs: Breathtaking action sequences; flawless art and animation; great antagonists
Lows: Uninteresting “love interest”; sudden change in plot focus; over-the-top climax
Unlike many action heroes of the past, Lupin III will probably never get old. His character allows for easy adaption into virtually any setting, and the trademark action/humor blend his style delivers is a guarantee for great entertainment. And of course, Operation Return the Treasure is another hilarious special and only slightly inferior to Stolen Lupin and First Contact.
As usual, the art and animation are absolutely great for a television production. Lush backgrounds, smooth action sequences and the right mix of cel art and CGI animation make this anime very pleasant to watch. The drawing style is (necessarily) not as realistic as that of many recent series, but it’s hardly a problem as it fits the setting like a glove. An additional bonus is the general lack of gravity-defying stunts; this time, the action looks much more down-to-earth. Recent Lupin III specials have always introduced some worthy opposition for Lupin, Jigen and Goemon, and this one is no exception. Mark Williams is a lovable character who manages to raise some smiles even after having died, and the Russian mafiosi are highly interesting people with some traits far from the usual stereotypes. You wouldn’t expect villains fleshed out so beautifully in just a movie, something anime usually reserves for long series.
Unfortunately, Lupin’s “love interest” is hardly worth mentioning. She only has a few scenes, and in the end, there’s hardly any connection, making their final moment lack in impact. The main problem, however, is the sharp break within the plot after two thirds of the movie. As soon as Lupin’s “main quest” is complete, a new hook is introduced all too suddenly. The mood swings from happy-go-lucky to gloomy within minutes, only to remain like that until the climax. As for that climax itself, it’s insanely huge and over-the-top, even for a Lupin III movie. Even worse, the climax is so reminiscent of the final battle in Castle of Cagliostro (including the believe-it-or-not result) that it’s almost a Miyazaki ripoff.
Operation Return the Treasure is a great movie on its own, though not necessarily a must-see for Lupin III fans. The preference of gritty action to the usual carefree humor in the last third might turn off fans who liked the series for its lighthearted touch. The ending is just too big for its own good. Fortunately, great animation, well-defined antagonists and an intriguing setup make for 91 enjoyable minutes. If all Lupin III specials can keep that high standard of quality, we’ll be able to watch the adventures of the master thief for many years to come.
Lupin III: Operation Return the Treasure can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.