Episode 03, ".02 Chance of Survival"
Synopsis: Lupin III is in the cross hairs of MI6! The famous thief has set his eyes on the fragment of a diamond necklace made for Marie Antoinette that was hidden in the San Leo prison by Alessandra Cagliostro. But during the visit of a royal visit from the Prince of England to view the treasure, the British Secret Service is eager to remove Lupin from the equation, by any means necessary. So Nix, a determined agent with a license to kill, captures Jigen to lure Lupin. Can our felonious friend Lupin outsmart and outmaneuver an ace on Her Majesty's Secret Service? Lupin prefers his heists shaken, not stirred!
I've always said that Lupin III, the character, is part James Bond and part Bugs Bunny. Well, he basically finds himself facing the former in battle here, because Nix is like a slender Daniel Craig-played Bond at his coldest, with a bit of Daredevil thrown in (second review in a row I reference Daredevil!). His specialty is sort of an echo-location ability, and it doesn't seem Lupin has any way of escaping him.
But first, a history lesson.
Self-style magician and alchemist Giuseppe Balsamo, also known as Alessandro, Count di Cagliostro, was born in Italy, but found himself traveling the world, and eventually involved in the court of Marie Antoinette in France. A jewelry firm had made an expensive diamond necklace for the Queen (though it was originally for the King's mistress), but were unsuccessful in selling it to her, as France was having financial problems, and even the infamously extravagant Antoinette turned it down. Con artist lady thief Jeanne de Valois-Sant-Remy, known as "Comtesse de la Motte" conspired with the Archbishop of France to defraud the jewelers by claiming to be the Queen looking to finally accept the purchase, and paint Marie-Antoinette in a bad light. Cagliostro, who'd been part of her plan, was imprisoned at the Bastille. He eventually ended up in Rome, but the Pope had him imprisoned for heresy, and he died in prison. There have been legends that he somehow escaped from imprisonment, however.
The necklace had been disassembled and sold off by Jeanne's husband, a gigolo, before the whole affair came to light, and the episode posits that Cagliostro had a piece of it squirreled away with him in prison, and it had been recently discovered. Which, while interesting a thought, does raise the question of why it's the British who are taking such an interest in this, instead of, you know, the French. I mean, the episode doesn't say that the Prince of England has any claim on it or anything, but why is it so important to protect the object for his sake? It seems like they hint at the end of the episode that Nix's mission is a tad more complicated.
After all, Nix has been in both of the previous episodes, though I never mentioned them in my reviews, since they were such minor roles. We only see him walk around at the end of the first episode, but in the second, he was hanging around with crime boss Mondini, and it was MI6 information Lupin used to gain insight into Mondini's interest in Brazzi. At the end of the episode there are hints to some new mission Nix is on called "Italian Dream" that his superior wants to keep secret from Lupin. So maybe protecting the necklace fragment was just a front.
Oh, and for your information, yes, the real man named Cagliostro served as the inspiration for both Maurice Le Blanc's own Countess Cagliostro tale and Hayao Miyazaki's Lupin III film Castle of Cagliostro (buy the new Blu-Ray out from Discotek, by the way). But when Fujiko brings up "Cagliostro", she's not talking about the fictional nation in CoC, but the real life historical figure. Though, of course, the inclusion of that reference is obviously a nod at the Miyazaki film (how could it not?) in the long run.
Let's get to the nitty-gritty here, why I love this episode so much. Aside from the fascinating real life and historical legend tie-in, which I like in Lupin features, and the usual fantastic production values, it's great to see Lupin take on a truly deadly threat from a clever, skilled, and determined opponent. That shot of Nix leaping to shoot Lupin as he hides is the best in the episode. Lupin might be a little over his head at times here, and he only squeaks by because he had the forethought to fake an attack on the Prince (with the help of Rebecca). I like to see Lupin in these situations, where his skills and resources still only barely wins out against a worthy adversary. I think Nix is an even more welcomed new character to me than Rebecca, and I look forward to any reappearances.
Definitely the strongest episode so far, and honestly a lot better than most Lupin anime in recent years, with the exception of some episodes of The Woman Called Fujiko Mine and, of course, Daisuke Jigen's Gravestone.
4.5 out of 5