Lupin the Third (TV 2015)
Episode 23

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 23 of
Lupin the Third (TV 2015) ?

The penultimate episode of Lupin III: Part IV is here, and we're digging right into the action. Da Vinci is planning something, as he forces our main characters to watch him on the TV. Not long after, a deafening screech resounds throughout the entire Italian peninsula, with everyone fainting as a result and spending most of the episode unconscious. In spite of this, it results in one of the most action-packed sequences in the show.

That's because everything that follows is all in their minds. Da Vinci has grand plans for reshaping modern Italy in his image, and with this episode, we finally get to see them come to fruition. He plans to turn modern Italy into the garden of art and culture he thinks it should be by entering people's brains. He will give them all his personality, the one he thinks they should have—but first, he'll see if they can overcome his test and escape assimilation. The characters each have to "prove they can do something better than him"—best him in a challenge of their own skills.

You can imagine the challenges posed to each Lupin III character. For Jigen and Goemon, this means they get to show off their fighting skills in duels with Da Vinci. This is where it helps to know that this famous artist was such a polymath; it's easy to believe that he could be good at anything. Of course, in order to match the skills of our main characters, we have to indulge a little anachronism. Guns were just making their way into European culture during Da Vinci's lifetime, so it's difficult to believe that Da Vinci could go one-on-one with sharpshooter Jigen. With Fujiko's contest, a game of poker, that's an even bigger stretch, as the game wasn't invented for centuries after his death. Even so, the duels make for some tense moments. Weirdly, Goemon, usually the sort of character to get a dramatic fight scene, is left out of focus. We don't see his drawn-out confrontation, leaving the flashy animation for Jigen's bullet-dodging and Nix's fistfight. (The series really loves emphasizing how superhuman Nix's abilities are with slowed-down, detailed sequences.) In Fujiko's scenes, we get tense close-ups of both characters as they (literally) hold their cards close to their chests, quietly plotting their next moves. Most humorously, Zenigata's challenge is to "arrest" Da Vinci.

Of course, Lupin gets a battle of wits. He quickly bests Da Vinci at this, revealing that he's figured out this is all a dream. None of the passersby were unnerved by Da Vinci's strange appearance after all, unlike they would in the "real" world. Lupin also can't seem to get anyone else's attentions. By revealing this, Lupin learns that he has "passed" Da Vinci's grand challenge. His "prize" is a place in Da Vinci's new world full of geniuses, along with Jigen, Goemon, Fujiko, Zenigata and Nix—the whole gang.

Everyone passed except for Rebecca, Lupin's beautiful bride. I avoided mentioning her in the summaries of characters' dream challenges, and the episode does a careful dance in this regard too. We see match cuts of Da Vinci zipping from character to character as they stumble with (but eventually best) their challenges. We only see each challenge's ending after Lupin has spilled Da Vinci's secrets, knowing it means that our other leads will survive into the new world. Still, there's not a peep from Rebecca until the devastating thud of a conclusion, when Lupin reaches Da Vinci's tower to be the "first" at his banquet.

Rebecca comes up to him as a glassy-eyed, soulless zombie. Lupin learns this was the fate of the people who "failed" the challenge, but he never guessed his wife would be one of them. Angered—Lupin "can't let a lady be harmed"—he insists that he'll change her back. He can steal anything, after all, and that includes a personality. Lupin marches up to Da Vinci's machine that he uses to enter dreams and goes into Rebecca's head to fight his adversary one-on-one. As he spirals into the psychedelic floating well in Rebecca's mind, the episode comes to a close. It's all set-up for the final installment, but what a set-up it was!

Watching Da Vinci's plan unfold to impose his own personality on everyone in Italy, it struck me how much this Da Vinci himself is seeking revenge through his own utopia. He was an ordinary person that MI:6 brainwashed with Da Vinci's consciousness. Perhaps the reincarnated Renaissance man's modern skills, like gunslinging and poker, are evidence that the modern man isn't gone completely; he's clearly fused with the Da Vinci personality to some degree. That leaves hope for Rebecca, who I'm sure Lupin will find a way to rescue in the final installment. It's interesting that even when the final conflict is spelled out—and in the grand tradition of Lupin III, it's completely bananas—there are still more mysteries left to unlock. There's always more to chew on with this show's plot.

Lupin III: Part IV has been one of the most satisfying Lupin III series ever. It has a cohesive theme and overall story, while still being full of the episodic hijinks that built the series' reputation. It keeps the classic characters familiar while still feeling fresh. Perhaps even more importantly, it fully integrates new characters like Rebecca and Nix into the group. Rebecca's takeover by Da Vinci feels as devastating as if it were anyone else on Lupin's team, considering how much this series is defined by her expectation-breaking presence. Whatever the finale has in store for her and the rest of the crew, I'm sure it will be fun, satisfying, lushly animated, scored, and most of all, crazy.

Rating: A

Lupin the Third (TV 2015) is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rose is a music Ph.D. student who loves overanalyzing anime soundtracks. Follow her on her media blog Rose's Turn, and on Twitter.

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