a.k.a. Rupan Sansei: Ikiteita Majutsushi
Lupin’s after the seven crystals of the sky, which is a precious jewel set. As he makes his way about the world to acquire them, he runs into an old nemesis thought long dead, the magician Pycal. Bent on getting the crystals for his own, unknown purposes and consumed with the thought of revenge on Lupin, he’s got a couple of new tricks up his sleeves. Can Lupin foil Pycal’s desire for vengeance or will he finally pay the piper? Lupin vs. Pycal round II is about to begin.
summary by Mugs
Highs: Action; fun-filled Lupin insanity; Return of the Green Jacket!
Lows: CGI is extremely out of place; a little on the slow side
Only the second Lupin OVA to be produced in its thirty-plus year anime history,Return of the Magician goes back to the beginning and brings back one of the original series’ most memorable villains. The magician Pycal, who first appeared in Lupin III episode 2 and was presumably burned to death, is back. It makes for an interesting story and for some manga overlaid flashbacks, but not enough is really made of the connection; the villain could have been just about anyone in retrospect.
The animation is good overall, and the characters have the same look as recent television specials such as First Contact or Alcatraz Connection. The only major difference is that Lupin dons his original green jacket once again. There is, however, a problem and it presents itself in the form of CGI; Watching Lupin and Jigen running from a giant rock, a la Raiders of the Lost Arc, is a prime example. Seeing two-dimensional characters running from an amazingly polygonal rock borders on the ridiculous and it feels absurdly out of place.
The five main characters are there, although since this is only a fifty minute OVA something had to give; in this case, Zenigata makes token appearances in the opening and prologues and is absent otherwise. Everyone else is standard Lupin: Fujiko betrays him, Jigen can’t believe Lupin falls for it yet again and Goemon fights random people with his trusty Zantetsu. There’s plenty of action, even if the slower pace manages to drag it down a notch. The comedy is standard, guaranteed to bring a smile but nothing that’ll have you laughing uncontrollably.
Maybe I’m spoiled, but I’d rather have a longer show like the television specials than an OVA. They don’t seem to cram as much CGI into those. I can easily recommended this to all Lupin fans, especially ones of the green jacket. If you’ve never really liked Lupin, steer clear.
Highs: Same old characters; fun as usual
Lows: Same old storyline; poor use of CGI
I never expect incredibly developed villains in Lupin features whether they be series, movies or OVAs, but Pycal, being a recurring character, had my expectations higher than usual. The scenario in which he had a part during an episode of the first television series was perfect in length. This OVA have a relatively similar storyline but it lasts three times longer, which makes it either too long as a follow-up episode or too short as a full-fledged Lupin movie.
What made Pycal an interesting antagonist was discovering all the tricks he used to appear unbeatable. Here his deceits are hardly exposed and explained, making anyone who has not seen him in the first Lupin series think he is some sort of supernatural being. Instead, the generic “treasure of mysterious powers” gets all the air time. You can always count on the supporting characters to liven up the show. Goemon’s swordsmanship, Jigen’s aim and Fujiko’s… talents are as dazzling as ever and, combined with Lupin’s personality, make it all worthwhile.
So far, this OVA sounds much like a standard Lupin special with a middling story jazzed up by amazing characters. Yet, as enjoyable as Return of the Magician was, I hope its animation style will not become a trend in upcoming features. The horribly intrusive computer generated sequences that afflicted the second half are amongst the most empty and sterile I have seen in anime. Thankfully, these sequences are infrequent, short and paired with fine animation. Yet, I can only shiver at the idea of Lupins featuring more and more of these eyesores.
There you have it: one more notch on Lupin‘s belt. Nothing breaking the norm. A few details that rubbed me the wrong way, but like others in this franchise, it was still a fun ride.
Highs: Lupin always looked best in green
Lows: Zero story flow; intrusive CGI; uninspired voice acting; terrible animation; weak musical score
I’ll get to the point: Return of the Magician may possibly be the worst Lupin anime I have ever seen. I mean it. This movie is just plain terrible.
Oh, where to begin? Let’s start off with the poorest use of computer graphics imaginable. Not only are the computer, uh, “effects” amateurish to begin with, but they are so out of place in this film. Compounding the problem is the blatant inclusion of unnecessary scenes just to show off the horrid effects; this is akin to showing off your abscessed scab to your date to impress her/him.
Aside from its wretched looks, Return of the Magician has a lot wrong going for it in the sound department, as well. Not only are the tunes poorly composed, but they are placed in all the wrong places. The seiyuu cast must’ve known beforehand that they had signed on for a bad anime because their performances are both tired and off-kilter.
And just when you thought I had ranted on long enough about the negatives, the jerky pacing and odd character behavior are there to put the final nail in the coffin. Zenigata? He makes a brief, useless cameo that lasts, oh, all of thirty seconds. The motives of Jigen and Goemon are either inexplicable or so groundless that you wonder if their stunt doubles were the ones delivering the dialogue. Fujiko has, of course, her obligatory nude scene but otherwise adds nothing to the story… a story that is nothing to write home about in the first place.
If you ever wondered how not to make an anime, here’s a great example.