"Dragons Sleep Soundly"
Synopsis: Just when he thought he was out, they pull him back in! Nix's short-lived retirement dissolves when his boss, Gibons, forces him into a mission to retrieve a disc with a list of MI6 agents stolen by a mercenary named Fox. Fox is having trouble decoding the disc, and now both Nix and Lupin are looking to steal it from him. The world's greatest thief is tired of having British intelligence on his back, and having the list would be a trump card. But MI6 is determined to either recover the disc or kill everyone reaching for it. Can Lupin beat the odds and get the list or will Fox kill him irst? Or will Nix? Or will...? When the Dragon Tail's been stepped on, it's bound to bite!
I... I love this episode so much, it's... it's a beautiful thing.
Justin Parson, formerly known as Nix, is the most compelling new character in the Lupin franchise since the original cast of characters assembled. And it's not just because of his super abilities, though it certainly helps that he cuts a great action scene. I love the idea of this incredibly driven secret agent who also is a family man who will kill the shit out of anyone who threatens his family. Not only has he proven to be both a match and a threat to the Lupin gang, but also occasionally a valuable ally in a pinch.
After finally leaving the service, he finds himself dragged back in forcefully because Gibbons thinks he may have at the very least leaked the existence of the disc to Fox, the mercenary, and is tasking him with getting it back or die trying. We see that not only can Nix be rather ruthless, but his boss even moreso. Given Nix's special abilities, it's probably not outlandish to speculate he may have been enhanced by MI6 and he's been deemed too valuable an asset to just let leave, even with the information he traded for his freedom. As usual, any threat to his family sends Nix into a frankly very scary rage. Gibbons fucked up big time here.
It was interesting to see that Nix had actually mentored at least one other agent, who now has to kill him because of his orders to destroy all evidence that the Dragon's Tail even existed (fortunately Jigen and Goemon were on hand). It shows that his roots into British Intelligence isn't just superficial, and his protege actually regrets having to carry out the order when he sees him. Nix is even ready to accept his death at the younger agent's hands before he's rescued. It shows that MI6 isn't just blanket evil, and that Nix doesn't resent all of his service. He just wants to get out of the life if he can, because Gibbons was too controlling. All of this adds a dimension to this series you usually don't get from Lupin anime and I appreciate it.
Lupin's own role in this situation is simple: he wants to steal something. But his reasons for it, as it isn't some nebulous valuable piece, like a priceless gem, a painting, or such, are a bit more complicated than usual. Since getting mixed up with MI6 at the beginning of ths series, and now basically an out-and-out target for his knowledge about the Da Vinci Clone (there's a book title for you, Dan Brown), it benefits him to stay on top of things by having the disc. If the Lupin gang has access to a list of MI6 agents, they can at least keep British Intelligence from interfering in their capers. Though I suppose the episode shows how that could backfire if they aren't careful. Ultimately Lupin sees it as a kind of "retirement fund", though I doubt Lupin would ever really want to retire from his exciting life of crime. How Lupin manages to come out on top knowing exactly what's going on shows what a clever guy he is, always thinking of different angles, even, for the moment, outwitting both MI6 and one of the greatest geniuses in history.
There's a very telling scene at the end when Da Vinci breaks off contact with Lupin where Lupin slinks down onto a chair, contemplating, and then smiles. You don't usually get nuance like this in Lupin. You can see his mind working out the next move, the next twenty, considering all that has unfolded and smirking over his success. I do enjoy that Lupin anime usually shows that even the best laid plans of professionals can go crashing at the last moment, that's always been amusing, but it's also good to see Lupin, and this series has been very even-handed with that. You win some, you lose some. But this victory is pretty sweet.
This is especially a hard won victory given how brutal things were in this episode. First a MI6 sniper shoots Nix and he has to pretend nothing happened as he sees his family off before passing out. Then he's held against his will and forced into a basically suicidal mission. Fox catches Lupin and Nix fighting it out and tortures Nix to his apparent death (he just fakes it). Then after the list is decoded MI6 decides to just blow everything up (Fox, Fox's men, Nix, Lupin, basically the whole island base) to destroy the evidence. Finally, Gibbons orders the death of Nix's family, is engaged in a battle to the death, is confronted by Da Vinci, and dies from a backfiring pistol. If it weren't for some of Lupin's comical expressions, this would be the single most dark episode of Lupin ever.
And man, that fight between Nix and Gibbons was fantastic, harkening back to Nix's fight with another agent back when he was fooled into releasing Rebecca, but longer and more brutal. The animation in that scene is some of the best stylized maneuvering I've seen in this franchise. It goes a long way to make a tension-filled scene even more exciting and put this episode over the top.
This is basically a flawless episode of anime. I would almost buy the whole series if just for this episode (though I'm going to buy it because it's a great show overall). I haven't been this impressed in a while. Everything in this episode is topnotch, including the use of Part II's music. There's even a piece that was used in Lupin's climb of the castle in Castle of Calgiostro.
Even if you don't normally like Lupin anime, you have got to see this. It's a sight to behold.
5 OUT OF MOTHERFUCKING 5, BEST EPISODE YET, FUCK YEAH!!!