"Welcome to the Haunted Hotel"
Synopsis: Lupin is eager to get his hands on a collection of valuables at a famed haunted hotel, once the castle home of the Gautieri family. However, he's not the only one looking to purloin priceless prizes at "The Mansion of the Cursed Bride", and even if he gets past the traps and travails of the castle itself, there's his rival in crime, a mafia matriarch named Mama, for the haunting, is it just a trick played by the manager or is there a bonafide apparition within the castle walls? When Lupin is determined, the competition won't have a ghost of a chance!
Look, the world of Lupin III is loony however you slice it. Goemon alone is completely out there and unrealistic in every way (he's cut lightning bolts in half). Cars can drive one one side on a guard rail on the side of a mountain and up the side of a mountain, completely defying gravity. Some people are able to wear perfect masks that look entirely like the real faces of other people AND perfectly imitate their voices. Even in the most grounded, "realistic" episodes, TV shows, and movies, there's all kind of out there science fiction devices and comic-physics. So yeah, that there are really ghosts, or aliens, or curses, or miracles, is no surprise.
And yet, I've never been a fan of outwardly supernatural elements in Lupin features, with very few exceptions. I don't exactly know why, maybe it's because Lupin started off being more... I don't know if I'd say "gritty" necessarily (though there was plenty of grime), but the outlandish elements were usually just in the service of the occasional gag. When I see Lupin time-travelling, fighting vampires, or trying to stop cloned aliens, it takes a special kind of atmosphere and writing to make it work. I suppose it's all a matter of degree. And because this episode, while it does have a ghost, is a short trifle, I can accept it, especially when, for a "supernatural Lupin episode", it has a nice ending.
One of the interesting aspects of this episode I found was Jigen's reaction. He spends a lot of time generally bored, annoyed, freaked out, pissed off, and drunk. In other words, Jigen really hates supernatural things, too. While Lupin is doing most of the heavy lifting in the episode, Jigen is the most amusing character in this as he's completely unnerved by the situation. Lupin takes nearly everything with an open-minded casualness. I mean, he's certainly not happy about having traps sprung on him, but he doesn't lose his cool, and when he discovers the truth about Clara while in the tower. As the sun rises and Clara disappears, Lupin is satisfied just putting this matter to rest, no longer interested in the treasure (most of it seems destroyed, anyway).
There are a couple of visual cues to Castle of Calgiostro and Plot of the Fuma Clan in this episode, too, from Lupin lurking around in tight spots trying to test for traps to that bit of Lupin with Clarisse... I mean, Clara, hanging onto the chain. I could be reaching a bit, though, since traps are a common element of treasure hunting, and Lupin's often all about that. I just think that with previous nods to the movie, it's likely not to be a coincidence.
Also, I have to add that I'm really excited that Tony Oliver, Richard Epcar, and Michelle Ruff are all going to be in the English-dubbed version of this series, as confirmed by Epcar and Ruff. I could not be any more over the moon at this news, because they were so great in the roles in the Red Jacket Series (Lupin Part II). I don't know who plays Goemon (hopefully Lex Lang will reprise the role) or Zenigata (I've read that Dan Lorge is out), and I definitely know who I'd want to play some roles if they're available, but more on that another time.
3.5 out of 5