Lupin the 3rd Part 6
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Lupin the 3rd Part 6 ?
Community score: 3.8
As we arrive at Part 6's first one-off episodic Lupin case (not counting Episode Zero), it becomes immediately apparent that even if Holmes won't be appearing in every episode of this series, detectives and mysteries will be a recurring factor. This one brought in another famous literary guest star, an 'Inspector Queen' based on the Ellery Queen series of detective novels which started in the 1930s. Queen even has 'nephews' along in the form of aspiring detective lads named after the real-world cousins who originally created the character. This isn't exactly new ground for the likes of Lupin of course; the previous episode admitted that the series had intersected with takes on the literary Sherlock Holmes several times before, and this is the franchise that previously gave us such delightful inclusions as Baranco, son of the famous detective Columbo. So it's fine for Part 6 to keep running in this sort of direction as it continues to find a foundation in these early episodes. The actual problem here is that the 'mystery' simply isn't very good.
Part of this episode's issues certainly stem from the sheer number of components and characters they dump into this single-length outing. Not only do we have the aforementioned Ellery Queen-based characters hanging out the whole time, but the episode also opens by very quickly introducing us to a Marquess and his butler, Morton, and alluding to the extraneous model-train-ride setup that powers the central setpiece of this adventure. From there, it's a whirlwind of details and setups of questionable utility. True, the Ellery Queen novels were from the formative golden age of detective books that codified aspects like red herrings in throwing the readers off of solving the case, but so many of the extraneous details that go nowhere in this episode feel like the writers actually had no idea what was going on either.
That shortcoming is highlighted by what the actual 'mystery' of this story turns out to be and what the solution is. The episode is extremely upfront about Morton the butler killing and replacing the Marquess before Lupin even meets him, and we even get an incongruous shot of the Marquess's corpse riding the train before any of the other characters are privy to that information. This revelation is surplus to the 'main' plot of Lupin and the gang trying to steal a historically valuable train ticket, with the 'mystery' component only arising during a chase scene where Lupin and Zenigata incidentally wonder about how Morton pulled off the supposedly-impossible feat of murdering someone while on a moving train. It could be a mildly interesting brain teaser to unravel on its own, but it has so little to do with the actual action and schemes unfolding in the rest of the story, and the solution is an arcane technicality that Lupin only figures out when he gets to ride the train himself (Morton just blocked the locomotive's progress temporarily with some big snowballs). It feels like an extraneous element tacked on simply to keep the 'Detective Story' theming up for what's otherwise not a 'main plot' episode, and I gotta say, that already bodes badly for how forthcoming Part 6 stories might handle themselves.
Even apart from the poorly shoehorned in whodunnit element, the rest of this episode's story gets clogged up by attempts to implement those aforementioned extra red herring details. It all just led to me asking more questions unrelated to the mystery as the story chugged on. Why were so many hoops jumped through to get Dannay and Lee into the Marquess's party? Why did Morton need to use Lupin and Fujiko to open a safe he already had the keys to? Why are there multiple shots and moments highlighting Fujiko having a handle on her situation after being captured if she was just going to turn out to be such a damsel here that she ends up being actually tied to railroad tracks by the end? It all throws the audience out of the story when the only payoff comes in the form of solving the snowball murder mystery, and Fujiko not getting the ticket at the end because she…hid it under an elephant and didn't get back to it before Dannay and Lee? This is further compounded by the heist component of the episode being pretty parboiled by Lupin standards, down to Goemon and Jigen sneaking in with seemingly nothing to do before the plot contrives a couple of ways for them to use their skills to help out at the last minute. At least Jigen's unique solution to the Trolly Problem is mildly amusing to see.
But even entertainment from the action component of this kind of caper seems to be a tall order for this episode. Part 6 has hardly been an animation standout among other shows this season, but there have been a few cool touches so far and the show at least managed to look functional. This episode, however, obviously received significantly less love on the production side, with designs feeling sloppy and inconsistent, and the various action bits lacking much momentum. Even some of the more basically-set scenes are hampered by this production's awkward use of CGI background elements overlaid with cel-animated characters. It just adds more of that low-rent feeling over the whole process, which is lethal to the presentation of something like this: You absolutely don't want your self-contained adventure episode to actually feel like filler.
But that's what this episode of Part 6 comes off as: filler, and not of the fun variety that Lupin has excelled at in the past. I guess if this was a story someone desperately wanted to tell just to get the Ellery Queen guest stars in, it makes sense to dump it off early rather than later in the show's escalation where it'd be even less easily forgivable. But given how it turned out, they probably should have gone back to the drawing board on what this episode overall should have been about, or simply not made it at all. As is, it leaves me nervously questioning what kind of show Part 6 is actually going to be overall. But hey, the next episode is one they're specifically promoting as being a Mamoru Oshii-penned one, so maybe they're counting on that to bring things up after this misfired mystery!
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.
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