Undead Murder Farce Episode 1 and 2 Review

A series you can sink your teeth into, even if it takes time to get going.

by J.R. Waugh
Undead Murder Farce Episode 1 Review Head
Image: ©Yugo Aosaki,Kodansha/THE CAGE USERS

Imagine a story that blends Victorian English and Meiji Japanese aesthetics. Not convinced? How about adding their respective folklore surrounding monsters, and peppering on some modern and classic spins on the murder mystery? Still not convinced? Then perhaps the case of a murder, where the only living proof is the severed head, that of an immortal named Aya Rindo, who must track down her body with the help of a half-oni. I was sold at the first sentence, especially when this was all mixed as an anime formula. I was delighted to watch Episode 1 and 2 of Undead Murder Farce, a stylish spin on this blend of concepts, and was excited by the opportunity to give my review. Read on for my thoughts below.

Talking Head Interview (Episode 1 and 2 Spoilers Throughout)

Image: ©Yugo Aosaki,Kodansha/THE CAGE USERS

Imagine a murder most foul being committed, and the outside world were to believe you were dead, but instead, you’re a severed, immortal head forced to be carried around in a birdcage. This is the case of Aya Rindo, carried by her faithful servant, Shizuku. In the first episode, as well as the second, we are treated to her introduction, but not before meeting her half-oni ally, the sideshow act known as Tsugaru Shinuchi.

Tsugaru meets Aya after being confronted and tested in combat. She carefully deduces, upon observation, that despite him seemingly not caring for his life, he certainly did not want to die. This was evident in how he fought for his life, and it’s not exactly new territory (Guts, Gabimaru, etc. for modern and classic examples in anime) but it makes him formidable enough to take on the case at hand: tracking down her body and killer.

Half-Oni, Vampires, and More Creatures Mingle in a Monster Cultural Cocktail

Image: ©Yugo Aosaki,Kodansha/THE CAGE USERS

The Victorian period was a fantastic era for those who enjoy classic monster fiction. Frankenstein, Dracula, along with more grounded fiction like Phantom of the Opera, Sherlock Holmes, and Arsène Lupin all hail from this era. What’s even more enticing is they exist in this universe. While the first episode focuses on the Japanese side of things, when Tsugaru agrees to go with Aya to Europe to retrieve her body, you quickly see interactions in Episode 2 with vampires.

There’s an interesting cultural perspective to the storytelling here. It’s advertised as an alternate take on these real historical periods, with monsters being a clear and present entity in society, but it shifts perspectives, analyzing how they fit into society. The “Westernization” in Japan was Japan’s historical avenue to becoming a modern imperial presence, but Undead Murder Farce also discusses the elimination of “otherness” with the analogue in this sense being Japanese monsters.

Meanwhile, as you’ll see in Episode 2, vampires are a known element of society in Europe, with their rights as individuals even being publicly discussed and debated. There’s a racial and class element to their existence, instead of them being seen as abominations. This alone is enough of a meaty topic for analysis before getting into the characters themselves.

A Cast of Charming Curiosities

Image: ©Yugo Aosaki,Kodansha/THE CAGE USERS

My favorite part of Undead Murder Farce in my review of Episode 1 and 2, aside from the setting, is the cast of characters. One of them clearly hails from a sideshow, but each of them could have wound up there under different circumstances, and instead, we see them given agency and status in this story.

Tsugaru doesn’t necessarily have the highest social graces, but is along for the ride, enticed by an extended lifespan sustained by Aya. Aya, on the other hand, is a brilliant detective in her own right and acts as a ghoulish, gender-bent Japanese take on Sherlock Holmes. Shizuku Hasei, Aya’s maid, is a skilled combatant and her steadfast servant, who at first is taciturn but makes up for it with exciting combat.

There is fun banter between Tsugaru and Aya, creating an interesting chemistry between them. A lot of it boils down to jokes about Aya being a talking severed head, sure, but it’s amusing to watch. It can get a bit played out pretty quickly, seeing how she pulls a similar act when meeting new individuals, speaking as if Shizuku speaks for her without her mouth moving, but to be fair, when a severed head can talk, there’s no easy way to break this to newcomers, be they, humans or vampires.

Finally, in Episode 2 we meet a vampire family, and their integration into society is fascinating. They resent the stigma surrounding their existence, even doing their best to blend in (including attending evening church services, not in the daytime because of…vampires.) It’s aware and plays around with the established cultural rules surrounding their abilities and weaknesses, but humanizes them in an entertaining, compelling fashion.

The Issues

Image: ©Yugo Aosaki,Kodansha/THE CAGE USERS

While the series ostensibly doesn’t have much wrong with it, it’s also not innovative in the animation department. Everything is competent, and there are really interesting moments such as in Episode 2 seeing the vampire blood boiling on the unattended silver stake, but the animation department lacks a certain ‘wow’ factor.

That being said, everything else is fascinating for the series. The concept, the setting, and the characters along with the promise of awesome spins on existing classics are enticing. The art style is fun and the backdrops are solid as well, and it makes for a fun spin on genre fiction in anime form, a supernatural murder (?) mystery at times comparable to Knives Out.

The Verdict

Image: ©Yugo Aosaki,Kodansha/THE CAGE USERS

In my review of Undead Murder Farce Episode 1 and 2, I knew something lovely would be cooking. It’s a Kodansha property, which has produced many modern hits for anime viewers like Vinland Saga or Attack on Titan, and blending oni with Western monsters including vampires is a slam dunk conceptually, at least for me. Even side characters are compelling to watch, as they exist in this bizarre twist on Meiji Japan and Victorian England. While it’s fairly surface-level, the OP and ending themes are catchy, as a bonus.

While it’s not special in the animation department, it’s remarkably well-designed, with memorable characters and real, entertaining dialog that’s well worth the price of admission. The idea of a severed head deducing the clues to track down her own body is interesting, and I’ll certainly tune in for future installments.

This review of Undead Murder Farce Episode 1 and 2 was made using a screener provided by Crunchyroll and Sony Pictures. Undead Murder Farce Episode 1 premiered on Wednesday, July 5, 2023, at 10:25 AM PT, and is available to stream weekly on Crunchyroll.

- This article was updated on September 7th, 2023

About The Author

J.R. is a content creator with AOTF and has been covering gaming and entertainment in the industry since 2022. Along with a B.A. in History from the University of Cincinnati, he has studied at the University of Birmingham, UK, and part of his M.A. at the University of Waterloo. You'll find J.R. particularly at home writing about the hottest manga and anime. He is highly passionate about horror, strategy, and RPGs, and anything about Star Trek or LOTR. When not ranting about fan theories or writing guides, J.R. also manages his local movie theater.


Undead Murder Farce (Episode 1 and 2)

  • Score: 4 / 5
  • Available On: Crunchyroll
  • Published By: Kodansha
  • Developed By: Lapin Track
  • Genre: Supernatural, Mystery, Historical
  • US Release Date: July 5 / July 12, 2023
  • Reviewed On: Screener provided by Crunchyroll and Sony Pictures
  • Quote: "While it's not terribly special in the animation department, it's remarkably well-designed, with memorable characters and real, entertaining dialog that's well worth the price of admission."
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