Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro

Premiering in 1979, Hayao Miyazaki's directorial debut is part of a long-running Japanese series known as Lupin III. Lupin began in 1967 as the classic manga by Monkey Punch. The series is based off of the Maurice Leblanc novel series about Arsène Lupin, of which Lupin III's title character is supposed to be the original's grandson. Keeping with it, the movie seems to have been loosely based off of Leblanc's La Comtesse de Cagliostro.

Always the Charmer~

Like his grandfather before him, Lupin is a master thief, and The Castle of Cagliostro is no exception. Whereas we may not be so keen on the idea of a thief being marketed at kids and adults alike, Lupin acts as a Robin Hood of sorts, always ending up the hero--even if he's not on the right side of the law. Despite Miyazaki's tweaking of the characters' personalities a bit, it works perfectly.

At the very least, this part of Lupin's personality didn't change.

Cagliostro is a tiny little country of just 3,500, settled into a nondescript location in Europe. Lupin, having stolen a large amount of counterfeit bills from a casino, decides to track down the bills' origin, finding the root in the tiny populace. In the midst of it all, he goes on an adventure to save a princess and reunite a nation.


Despite its age, Cagliostro survives as a classic not just because of plot, series, or content, but because of Miyazaki. His world-renowned attention to detail is ever-present in this movie, from the tiniest background flower to the leaps, bounds, and flourishes of action the characters engage in. Early earmarks of his art style (the ovaly round, doll-like eyes and semi-realistic noses) tie this into Ghibli like a big brother figure.

Miyazaki Sr. NEVER disappoints.

Never one to disappoint, the music and dialogue of the movie was classic Lupin. Jokes flew, laughs were had, and surprises were sprung. One of the lasting appeals of Lupin is that it never takes itself too seriously, and it holds true here as well (I cracked up at the rooftop grappling hook scene). I watched the dub, which was, honestly, a touch awkward given that i was used to the dub released on Adult Swim (Geneon, mid 00's), while this one used different actors (Streamline Pictures, 1993). Further removing me from the action was the name choice; due to legal disputes with Leblanc's estate, Lupin is referred to as "The Wolf" throughout the whole film. Combine these two with some poor dubbing towards the end, and it made for a slightly laughable experience. (According to Wikipedia, however, the Streamline dub made efforts to match up to the mouth movements, so perhaps they just did a really crap job of it.)

Adding insult to injury, had I decided to go with the Japanese audio, the subtitles were patchy at best, meaning understanding the dialogue would have been nigh impossible.

I had been meaning to watch Cagliostro for a very long time now, and though i had a chance once before, i'm glad i took the time on my own to sit and watch through. It melted by with the laughs and the action. Given that Lupin was never one to put emphasis on fancy electronic gadgets anyway, it remains timeless.

Lupin has always put more emphasis on the action than what's CAUSING the action.

I would recommend this to anyone! There's no swearing, no nudity, and not really even that much bloodshed. There's a super-skeevy uncle, but then, that's something a lot of people have in real life, too. The action and the comedy make it an ideal family film you could show to quite any age group, and there aren't even that many subtle references (so, if you show this to a kid, they wouldn't miss things they would if you had shown them a more adult-leaning series).

This is probably the worst of what happens, and any kid above 6 oughta be able to stand this.

The Castle of Cagliostro is available from Optimum Releasing/Studio Canal in the UK, and Discotek Media in the US announced in early 14' that they had picked up the rights (as they were previously held by Manga Entertainment, who had lost them) and were planning to release both DVDs and Blu-Rays in 2014, with both dubs (Streamline's from 1993, and Manga's from 2000). Whether or not these have hit shelves, i don't know. However, picking up torrents is quite easy, as well (a simple google search should do it).



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