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Episode 7 – Undead Murder Farce


I finished this episode, looked down at the title, and laughed, because in three short words, “Free for All” so precisely captured the experience I just had. We begin as we ended last week, in the rapidly flooding treasure chamber, and that sense of urgency never lets up during any of the runtime. The narrative only grows more chaotic as all of the competing factions converge and collide on Fogg's estate in (literally) hot pursuit of the diamond. It's the best Undead Murder Farce has been at pure entertainment.

First, let me tip my hat to Aya's gambit. I didn't think to tie Goemon's story directly into “The Pot Thief,” and I definitely didn't think she'd hide inside the safe. Anyone with sufficient lateral thinking skills probably could have seen this coming, but rather than get too down on myself, I'd like to highlight some of the details that make this a pleasant surprise. For example, a western author almost certainly would have gone with the Trojan Horse metaphor, so alluding to Goemon and rakugo made for a more eclectic hint. I also love the physical comedy of Aya whacking Lupin with the safe door to reveal herself. Lupin's been suave and in control of this whole arc, so it's fitting for Aya to pair a blow to his ego with a blow to his face. That shot of her holding the door shut with her teeth is quite funny too. While Aya's immortality means she wasn't in any danger, she was willing to put herself in that uncomfortable, goofy, and demeaning position if it meant catching the culprit. How could you not root for her?

Lupin still has charisma for days, though, and it's fun to watch him pull one over on the stodgy Holmes—several ones. The gentleman thief grows more frantic as the situation spirals out of control, but that just makes him appear more human and somehow even more charismatic. I suppose it also helps that true bastards like Moriarity's posse and the Royce company's Reynold crash the party. It's nice to see that Holmes stands indefatigable despite his oversights too. When Lupin outplays him, he at least correctly deduces how Lupin outplays him, and his quick takedown of Crowley's “magic” proves his wits remain sharp. I don't think there's any doubt that the audience is expected to side with Aya over Sherlock in their frenemy detective rivalry, but that doesn't mean Sherlock can't be a compelling co-protagonist in this arc.

Moriarty's crew finally gets their proper—and properly explosive—introduction, and they're a colorful bunch. I'm very amused that, in a sea of public domain entities, Crowley alone is based on a real dude. He was a very strange dude, mind you, but he did exist, and that's probably why his powers are more practical than his fictional kin. Carmilla is the lesbian vampire from Sheridan Le Fanu's novella of the same name. Unsurprisingly, her design and personality are sexed up to high heaven (and a couple of animators pay quite particular attention to her posterior). In one sense, it's an eye-rolling choice for the sole woman on the squad, but in context, it does feel in line with the penny-dreadful tone Undead Murder Farce aims for in this arc (incidentally if you like this anime you may enjoy the series Penny Dreadful). We don't see much of Jack the Ripper outside of his knifework, so no surprises there. And there have been so many iterations of the “actually, Frankenstein is the name of the doctor” meme/joke, that I feel like naming the big guy Victor has to be a tongue-in-cheek move on the author's part. I respect it.

In such a contrapuntal narrative with so many moving parts, it takes real skill to wrangle the chaos onto a track that feels like it's constantly accelerating to a definite conclusion. To do so, Mamoru Hatakeyama returns to the storyboard while Shingo Kaneko directs, and their voices meld to make my favorite episode yet. Kaneko has been a frequent collaborator on Kunihiko Ikuhara's works, and the idiosyncrasies he learned there seem to gel well with Hatakeyama's theatrical flair. There is no shortage of eye-popping stills. We get some neat cuts of animation when Tsugaru gets the drop on Lupin. I also love the occasional application of cinematic techniques towards comedic ends, like the quick rack focus onto a merry Tsugaru popping out behind Lupin's shoulder. It makes these scenes even funnier.

By chance, I happened to watch True Lies right before this episode, and that lineup clarified for me how piecing together a proper farce requires competence and confidence with craft and technique. True Lies' genre-savvy winks would be much less amusing without Cameron's particular eye for blockbuster excess, and Undead Murder Farce's literary hodgepodge could easily become incomprehensible without Hatakeyama's gonzo laser-sight guiding this production. Having not read the novels, I can't say whether or not the material is being elevated, but I can say that I feel like I'm watching a great page-turner.


Undead Murder Farce is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Steve is on Twitter while it lasts. He's just trying to get ahead in life. You can also catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.

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