The story that began as a book series called “Undead Girl Murder Farce” and later adapted into a manga by Haruka Tomoyama and an anime, “Undead Murder Farce” is a standout title from 2023 due to its originality, intrigue, and entertainment value.
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The tale begins in 1897 in Japan, as the nation eradicates all types of monsters that roam its streets. Tsugaru Shinuchi, known as the “Oni Slayer,” earns a living by participating in cage fights as a circus performer to kill some of these creatures. One night, he encounters a woman dressed as a French maid carrying a birdcage, and they engage in a fight. It turns out that the voice coming from the cage belongs to Aya Rindo, an immortal being, who introduces herself as well as her bodyguard Shizuku Hasei. Aya requests Tsugaru’s assistance in locating her body and offers to extend his lifespan since he is a half-demon in danger of losing himself to his demonic side. As they search for Aya’s body, they end up in Europe and are hired by various individuals to solve a series of crimes.
Although the overall story is excellent, there are three main aspects that stand out. The first is the trio of main characters. Tsugaru, a half-oni, is notable for his ability to not take anything seriously, including his deadly fights, yet still come out on top. His cocky and seemingly naive attitude is entertaining to watch. In contrast, Shizuku is serious and disciplined, always following Aya’s orders. This creates a dynamic contrast between the two, and also leads to humorous tension as Shizuku punishes Tsugaru physically. While their relationship may develop in future seasons, it is currently amusing to watch. Additionally, Shizuku’s maid outfit adds an extra layer of humor, which ties into the concept of Aya, the genius woman who is essentially just a head in a cage. This element is one of the most appealing aspects of the entire series, largely due to director Mamoru Hatakeyama’s use of the concept.
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Aya’s overarching concept leads us to the second aspect, which is how Hatakeyama portrays the absurd. This is evident in the way the three comical characters find themselves in increasingly ridiculous situations and interact with even more absurd individuals. Surprisingly, this actually makes the aforementioned characters, including the detective who has a head in a cage, seem normal. As a result, viewers can easily focus on the story and the cases that the trio becomes involved with, without being distracted. This clever and entertaining approach is one of the main strengths of the entire series.
The third aspect, in connection with the previous one, is the introduction of various mythical and iconic pop figures, which adds an extra layer of entertainment to the narrative. Vampires, werewolves, Alister Crowley, Sherlock Holmes, The Phantom of the Opera, Arsene Lupin, Moriarty, and Jack the Ripper are among the characters featured. While the inclusion of such figures in anime is not a new concept, “Record of Ragnarok” also attempted it recently, the way they are incorporated into this story is notably seamless and fits with the overall “absurdity as normalcy” theme mentioned earlier.
One of the main aspects that will likely attract fans of Agatha Christie and murder mystery enthusiasts is the central mystery/crime that propels the story forward. Aya’s method of solving the crime is reminiscent of Poirot, but with Hatakeyama adding a refreshing level of diversity in the three story arcs. The first arc follows a traditional whodunit format, the second explores how the crime was committed, and the third presents another whodunit on a grander scale, showcasing the anime’s excellence.
Lastly, this anime caters to a mature audience and includes elements of sensuality, particularly through Carmilla. Her appearance and sapphic tendencies are the main source of sensuality in the story. It is intriguing that she targets Shizuku, the most reserved character in the series. However, this aspect is presented in a natural manner and is not meant to be fanservice.
In regards to this aspect, the inclusion of a wide range of extreme and diverse characters in the series allowed Noriko Ito to develop a cast of individuals who are both captivating and varied. While Aya is certainly a standout due to her overall design, characters like Tsugaru and Shizuku, as well as the well-known “players,” are also beautifully illustrated and presented. However, in the final arc, the introduction of numerous new characters without distinct characteristics causes their depiction to become somewhat generic.
The Belle Epoque setting in the first episode is followed by a more intricate presentation in the subsequent episodes, with the baroque style of the sets being particularly impressive. The mansion in the first arc, the urban area in the second, and the rural setting in the third are all well-drawn and animated, with the backgrounds playing an important role in the action. Lapin Track’s animation showcases the series’ contextual elements at their peak, with absurdity being a key component. The battles are seamlessly integrated into the story, and the series also incorporates violence, humor, grotesqueness, and even eroticism in a fantastic manner.
There isn’t much else to add, but even though the quality dips a bit in the final arc, “Undead Murder Face” stands out as a truly exceptional series that skillfully blends its various elements in a clever and enjoyable manner, making it one of the top anime of the current season.