Lupin the Third (TV 2015) Episode 20
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 20 of
Lupin the Third (TV 2015) ?
Every epic adventure needs a breather episode now and then. The last several episodes of Lupin III: Part IV focused on the mounting conflict with Leonardo and got pretty sinister near the end, so it's about time for a break. Still, is a breather episode supposed to make you more sad? I don't think so, but that's exactly what happened here.
"To Hear You Sing Again" starts off like any other Lupin caper, with our title character making off with a fancy, fire-engine-red Topolino (or Fiat 500), an old car made even more valuable by the fact that it belonged to Nora Anita, a classic Italian singer. Nora is now old and near death, left in some sort of vegetative state as her husband and former manager rushes to sell off everything that belonged to her in the hopes that it will save him from further grief. Lupin is doing something curious with the car, though; he doesn't seem to be actually racing off with it. He keeps circling the city. This taunts Zenigata, since he can't actually stop the car and arrest Lupin, for fear of damaging the precious artifact. After all, the car dealers are the ones who ordered him to catch Lupin! Right?
Meanwhile, we check in on Nora's husband, who appears surprisingly unconcerned with Lupin's theft. He just wants to get rid of the car; he doesn't actually care how much money he gets for it. It was a particularly poignant reminder of the person Nora used to be, because there were few things she loved more than driving that car through the city and surrounding countryside. He is so distraught by her failing health, he doesn't even want anyone to sing her songs around him. Even if he doesn't want to sell the car though, others do, like the vehicle broker. As Fujiko soon arrives to inform him, Lupin's theft is actually a ploy to raise the car's value, which is why he's just driving it around the city instead of making off with it.
The whole plot seems very convoluted, but Lupin III: Part IV makes it work by hinging so many of its key moments on emotional confrontations. So much of what we learn about Nora's husband and their relationship with the car is through flashbacks and his emotional expression, rather than exposition dumps. We also have the luck of this episode being carried by the series' most empathic regulars, Lupin and Fujiko, who can break through people's barriers to find secret motivations even the audience couldn't detect. This is how Fujiko realizes that Nora's husband does really want to sell the car, but only hesitates because of the baggage surrounding it. He can't let go because of what it means to him.
Luckily for his indecisiveness, the plan goes awry due to a couple of factors no one could anticipate: a) The broker divulges the secret to Zenigata, who is furious and starts arresting everyone, and b) The car seems to have a mind of its own. The show isn't direct about this, but there are implications that Nora's spirit, perhaps having departed her body, now inhabits the car, leading Lupin to the places that were important to her and her husband. This results in the episode's sentimental climax sequence, after Fujiko has left Lupin's walkie-talkie behind and Lupin drops it in the car unknowingly, so Nora's husband gets to hear the sounds of its journey as it passes through familiar places. It helps him realize that he doesn't want to let go of his mementos of Nora after all—he can cherish those memories along with the sadness when he recalls better times. Lupin eventually "loses" the car, infuriating Fujiko, who hoped to get something out of the deal, but it's a fitting ending for a story that just wouldn't stick to the path planned out for it. Grief and memory take hold of us in ways that we don't expect, and that includes our attachments to the objects that trigger those memories.
For an episode that starts off silly and random enough—with the musical cues to match—"To Hear You Sing Again" ends in a rather sentimental place. The singing that Nora's husband gets to hear is that of her car, as the walkie-talkie transfers the engine sounds he remembers from drives in days gone by. The episode is also helped by its smaller cast this time. Jigen and Goemon aren't around for this caper, leaving us with Lupin, his relationship with Fujiko, and Zenigata pursuing him. The show is distilled down to its most basic elements, for a story that's all about our most basic emotions and how little control we have over them compared to what we might think.
In the meantime, the show looks and sounds as handsome as ever. It's easy to be a broken record about how great Lupin III: Part IV's art, animation and music are, but its aesthetics actually went beyond my expectations this episode. The broker's face always looked like it was off-model, and I couldn't tell if that was a mistake or an intentional artistic choice. (In retrospect, it was probably the latter.) But the scenery was rendered gorgeously as the car entered the countryside or passed through faded-photograph flashbacks. I especially liked how the flashbacks and present-day blurred by the end of the episode, mixing the normal, bright, full colors and the sepia scheme. It fit well with the story's message about how much we live in memories, whether we're aware of it or not.
Lupin III: Part IV is great at many different moods, from funny to thrilling to even sinister. Then, just when you least expect it, it can launch another one on you: sentimental. "To Hear You Sing Again" was at first wild, but then sad and heartwarming, and ultimately left the viewer with a smile even in spite of Nora's death. Like her husband, we learned that death can be sad, but it's also a chance to remember what we loved about the departed. I don't usually expect these sort of deep meditations from Lupin III, which makes it such a thrill when it completely pulls it off.
Lupin the Third (TV 2015) is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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