Lupin the Third (TV 2015) Episode 17
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 17 of
Lupin the Third (TV 2015) ?
There have been many episodes across Lupin III: Part IV that feel distinctly tailored to their Italian settings, and then there are the ones that could have been in any Lupin III series. This week's episode is the latter. It's a caper full of recurring Lupin themes: mind control, dungeons, the team turning against each other. Save for the Italian villa the characters are staying in at the end, it feels like a classic episode dropped into this new 2015 series.
Lupin, Jigen, Goemon and Fujiko are lounging around when they learn a mysterious priest named Greco has marked them for death. Greco has a fanatical following, and he demonstrates the power of God by doing away with any target he names. Even after all their latest feats, the odds are against Lupin and friends: literally! Bookies start setting up betting pools, and everyone is placing their money on Greco. Why the Lupin gang would go anywhere near this guy and worsen their odds is anyone's guess, until he offers them a reward if they survive: a gold goblet belonging to his church. With this, Lupin decides "nothing ventured, nothing gained" and they go off to navigate his labyrinth to the treasure.
Navigating to the goblet seems easy enough, but there's a twist: Greco has replaced one of their members with a marionette. This quickly turns the group against each other. First, they split up after a fight, dropping Fujiko into the enemy's clutches. Then, Jigen and Goemon reunite, but grow increasingly suspicious of each other, leading to a tense fight with both dying. That leaves Lupin, who it turns out is the marionette; Greco is using his mind control on him. He makes him point his gun at his own head. All looks lost for the Lupin gang. How will they get out of this one?
The fun is in knowing that Lupin's gang will always find some way to squirrel out of the enemy's clutches and triumph. The series just isn't that dark, and it especially wouldn't kill off the gang with seven episodes left to go. So even when things are at their bleakest, we know there's a way that Lupin and friends can turn the tables on their captor. Still, Lupin III always surprises you with the details of the final twist. While it's easy to predict some things (I had a feeling things would end with him Lupin snapping out of hypnosis and turning the gun back on Greco), the end result is always convoluted and unbelievable in a way that's immensely satisfying.
That was less the case here than usual, though. "Controlling people with drugs" has shown up in more than a few previous episodes and series before. Lupin is always able to escape its clutches or snap out of it, whether through tenacity or planning ahead, as he did here. What I didn't predict is that the whole plan to turn against each other was staged from the start, though I did figure everyone was playing dead. As usual with Lupin III, it's pretty fantastical that the group could communicate their convoluted plans without alerting the enemy. The most magical thing about the franchise is the main characters and their chemistry.
In the meantime, this episode demonstrates some amazing fight scenes. Every week, Lupin III: Part IV finds some way to put its stellar animation and art to work, and this time, the star attraction was the battle between Goemon and Jigen. They move fluidly and delicately, especially in the slow-motion moments where they whip past each other. The show's color palette is amazing here, especially in the backgrounds. The darker colors of the dungeon make it reminiscent of the deep hues and shadows from The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, but that series could go too far in that direction, sometimes making darker scenes difficult to work out in the wrong lighting. Part IV keeps its colors just bright enough to be clearly visible and still immersive. The whole scene is a master stroke of tension and fight choreography.
The episode as a whole nails the tension required to pull off this dungeon crawl. The pace never slows, even when the characters are standing around arguing about who is the fake. This series in general has excelled in never letting audiences get bored, but this is one of the most fast-paced, eyes-glued-to-the-screen segments so far. It's not quite as fun as the series' goofier episodes, especially with the lack of Zenigata, but it's a thrilling half-hour, pumping me up for the road to the series finale.
Lupin the Third (TV 2015) is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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