The Lupin the Third franchise is currently undergoing a bit of a renaissance. Recent films and TV series are a fresh breeze bringing new takes on familiar characters and invigorating long time fans. However, ten years ago, it was business as usual, and Seven Days Rhapsody became the eighteenth straight TV special to air in Japan. With few exceptions, Lupin TV specials were entertaining but formulaic. Seven Days Rhapsody suffered from the same problem its predecessors experienced. It had an intriguing premise but could only do so much within its ninety minute run time.
It does start out on an amusing and unexpected note. If you have watched enough Lupin, you know that he tends to disguise himself in elaborate masks. When they are removed, they tend to explode allowing him to escape and start an elaborate chase sequence. Lupin has disguised himself as a horse jockey in order to fix the race and rake in the winnings he made from local bookies. Zenigata catches him in the locker room but does not remove the mask right away. Instead, he calls in the bomb squad and dumps the mask into a steel box — a well executed callback to the franchise’s roots while acknowledging that this gag is so old, that even Zenigata has figured it out by now.
This moment of brilliance is brief, and Lupin makes his usual escape right into the well established formula of finding a damsel in distress. Michelle is the daughter of a very rich man, and despite Lupin’s attempts to help her is captured by some thugs. The formula also dictates that one or more of Lupin’s gang are off on their own (mis)adventures. Jigen is working with an old mercenary buddy he worked with in South Africa; their employer is none other than Michelle’s father. Goemon and Fujiko are working together to steal a large diamond. The large diamond is the MacGuffin tying the individual adventures together.
This diamond is the product of the “NDW system,” a way to turn diamonds into powerful explosives. Michelle’s father and Jigen’s friend are trying to double-cross everyone to obtain the diamond and the details of the NDW system. Herein lies the biggest opportunity for this special. Jigen is loyal to whoever employs him, but is his loyalty to his friend Lupin stronger than that? Instead of answering this question, this point is merely used as a catalyst for some decent action sequences and little else. It had no tangible impact on the plot or the relationship between the characters.
This can be said of all the plot lines in this special. The NDW system ties all the plot threads together, but each thread was given so little development rendering the ending anti-climatic. It is difficult to call Seven Days Rhapsody completely boring or terrible. It was paced well with a good balance between narrative and action. Given a longer run time, it had the potential to be a really engaging story. That is, perhaps, the biggest fault of the special — plenty of potential but inability to realize it and break out of the formula.
It is interesting to note what I wrote in my review from ten years ago, when the special initially aired. I called this special out as a primary example of why the franchise needed a new TV series. To break out of the formula and really do something interesting, you have to give the story more time to develop. Six years later, we got that new TV series, and the franchise’s renaissance began. Seven Days Rhapsody has yet to be released in the US market. If it ever does see a release, it is not without merit and worth watching once. Just don’t expect it to be as engaging as the more recent entries.