Undead Murder Farce Review – IGN

Detective Anime Undead Murder Farce Strikes the Right Balance Between Mystery and Entertainment

Detective shows can be challenging to execute successfully. They must navigate the delicate balance of revealing clues to engage the audience while keeping the solution hidden until the end. Additionally, the big detective reveal at the conclusion of the case must strike the right length and level of detail to maintain tension and entertainment value. Fortunately, Undead Murder Farce, an anime horror-mystery series, manages to achieve this delicate equilibrium, providing a thrilling and enjoyable whodunit that allows viewers to solve the mystery alongside the main character. Even if you already know the answer, the big detective reveals are still surprising and captivating.

However, Undead Murder Farce has more to offer than just a compelling mystery. It also takes viewers on a penny-dreadful adventure with a star-studded Victorian cast that rivals The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film. Alongside this, the series features a delightfully chaotic blend of Universal Classic Monsters, complete with rich worldbuilding and distinct visual style courtesy of the talented director behind Kaguya-sama: Love is War. Plus, let’s not forget that the star detective is none other than the talking disembodied head of an immortal girl.

Undead Murder Farce is set in an alternate Victorian/Meiji era where supernatural creatures coexist with humans, resulting in high tensions between the two groups. The series follows Tsugaru Shinuchi, a half-oni (a Japanese demon), who becomes the assistant to the immortal disembodied head of Aya Rindo and her loyal servant Shizuku Hasei. For Tsugaru, this partnership is an opportunity to extend his lifespan, while Aya requires Tsugaru’s assistance in locating the rest of her body to achieve final release. As they embark on their journey to find Aya’s body, they also unravel mysteries involving supernatural beings across Europe.

Similar to the structure of the Netflix anime The Great Pretender, Undead Murder Farce consists of three separate interconnected cases. Each case delivers a satisfying conclusion within its mini-arc, introduces a compelling cast of characters, and adds an emotional layer to the mystery. And then, of course, there’s the detective herself. Aya is not your typical Sherlock Holmes figure (she even claims to be better), but a playful and eccentric detective who often jokes about her unique predicament as a disembodied head. The dynamic between Aya and Tsugaru, with the latter serving as her brawny Watson to her all-brain Sherlock, is both fun and endearing. While Tsugaru recognizes his role as the muscle, there is mutual respect between the two. Furthermore, Aya’s journey through each case often unravels the “how” of the mysteries but not always the “why,” adding a layer of tragedy to each scenario.

What sets Undead Murder Farce apart is its ability to weave together a vast web of public domain worldbuilding. In this unique universe, Sherlock Holmes can confront Frankenstein’s Monster in the home of Phileas Fogg, and the Phantom of the Opera can team up with Arsène Lupin in a quest for a precious gem leading to a village of werewolves. The series strikes a delicate balance between the individual detective cases and the overarching battle against a group of supernatural adversaries led by Professor Moriarty. Moreover, the show masterfully combines different tones, seamlessly transitioning between the tragic, macabre, comedic, and occasionally even erotic elements. The inclusion of classic characters and their tropes is cleverly twisted to serve the story and expand the worldbuilding. For instance, when the characters venture to Europe and encounter a mystery involving a vampire family, they learn that Dracula is already deceased, and efforts are underway to establish peaceful coexistence between vampires and humans.

While Undead Murder Farce features dialogue-heavy scenes, it also delivers stylized action sequences. Director Mamoru Hatakeyama elevates key episodes with visually striking fight scenes that utilize abstract imagery and allegory to compensate for any limitations in animation. The season finale stands out with a dark and intense fight sequence illuminated by quick flashing images and vibrant colors, effectively conveying the action. Additionally, the anime utilizes diopter shots during its horror-focused scenes, evoking the atmosphere of classic horror films that inspired the series and creating an eerie ambiance.