Now that was a finale! As if in response to my misgivings last week, Undead Murder Farce closes out the season with action, deduction, and enough last-minute twists to tie a lovely and blood-red knot on the series. The adaptation dials its strengths back up to eleven, with Mamoru Hatakeyama returning to storyboard the heck out of this conclusion, and the werewolf arc ends on a surprisingly uplifting note for the major players involved (if you ignore all the ones who were killed). It’s an ending befitting of ANN’s nearly unanimous favorite from the summer docket.
Before we get to Aya’s lengthy explanation of the evidence, Murderface (look, I had to call the show that at least once before I wrap up these reviews) treats us to a handful of fun fight scenes. Depending on your preferences, this might feel like eating dessert before dinner. To me, however, this whole episode feels like dessert. Kyle’s demise arrives quickly, but it’s difficult to complain when the finishing blow involves Frankenstein ripping off his arm so he can use it as a ranged weapon. Maybe we could have gotten more visual mileage out of Kyle’s chain technique in a perfect world. I’m also sad to see Alice shot down in her prime. Her projectile-based matchup with Crowley made sense, though, so at least this spunky gunslinger goes down with her pistols drawn.
The true highlight of this opening salvo is Shizuku’s rematch against Carmilla, where the direction and storyboarding go hog wild. Creative paneling and negative space make the most out of limited animation. The glowing red effect pops out of the screen and matches Carmilla’s lips against the blood drawn from Shizuku’s thigh. And when her poison takes hold, the scene turns psychedelically sapphic as the reams of colored cloth coalesce into a kaleidoscope of rainbows and nude women. It’s a perfect example of this adaptation embracing extravagance and often doing so in polarizing extremes. For instance, this scene becomes a gorgeous and intoxicating expression of the eroticism inherent in their conflict. Still, the first thirty seconds of the episode also feature the triumphant return of the garish pixelated chroma key effect. Both, to me, are indelible facets of Undead Murder Farce‘s style.
Once Aya gets talking, the show shifts gears back into detective mode, although the presentation remains just as delightfully ostentatious. Without breaking down every single clue, I’d say overall, the murder mystery comes together in a satisfying fashion. I was glad to see my Jutte = Louise = Nora theory confirmed, although I’d wager that was the most obvious part of this picture. One detail I liked—and didn’t even think about—was how the two villages’ opposing diurnal/nocturnal schedules aided in Jutte’s deception. While it doesn’t take into account the unconscionable amount of sleep debt she must have accrued; it exhibits the degree of convoluted cleverness I want from a story like this. I similarly award points to the presence (or lack thereof) of the underground moth scales, which is another smoking gun I would have never considered.
While Aya correctly fingers (to the extent that a disembodied head can) the culprit in front of both sets of villagers, she falls just short of finding Jutte’s true motive. That revelation ended up elevating this entire arc for me. Like Aya, I had assumed Jutte’s plan was stoking a war of vengeance that would wipe out both sides, but her ambitions were instead emancipatory. She rebels against Wolphinhel’s obsession with creating a lupine Übermensch, and more broadly, she rejects the whole binary supposition that she must side with one village or the other. She chooses instead to side with the other werewolf girls trapped within Wolphinhel’s regressive ambitions, and she gifts them (and herself) a chance to forge a life unbound elsewhere. It made me do a total 180 on Jutte. I wish we got more closure regarding the other girls left in the village, and I would have liked even more perspective on Louise’s role in aiding and abetting Jutte’s plot. Did Louise do so only to atone for what she did to Jutte, or did her own experiences lead her to sympathize with the girls in Wolphinhel? Her arc had to be every bit as interesting as her doppelganger’s.
The episode wraps up with some callbacks to the prior cases and a teaser for the gang’s approaching confrontation with Moriarty. I’d love a second season, but Yugo Aosaki may need to write a few more novels first. In the meantime, I leave Undead Murder Farce with two major takeaways. First, Mamoru Hatakeyama remains one of my favorite storyboarders and series directors in the industry. His unique approach injected an air of artfulness that played wonderfully into the macabre camp of this penny-dreadful detective romp. Second, I love the leading trio a whole lot. Aya, Tsugaru, and Shizuku are all individually strong characters with distinct personalities, but they shine brilliantly as a unit glued together with equal parts affection and adversity. They made these farces a ton of fun to follow, and I hope our paths cross again.
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