Lupin The Third: Castle Of Cagliostro Review

This is review number ninety. This movie is pretty hard to track down. I downloaded a copy with an Arabian sub and I had to convert it because the subs were out of sync. The converted movie had the Arabian subs though because they’re hard subbed in the file. I had to downloaded new subs and watch the movie with the stupid Arabian subs blocking the English subs. It was worth it, I guess. Here’s my review of Lupin the Third Castle of Cagliostro. It’s a 1979 movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Yeah, it’s a TLDR review but I assure you this is through and objective. So enjoy.

The Story

This anime is about Lupin who just pulled off a big casino heist. His celebration ended early when he discovered that the big pile of money he just walked away with is all fakes. He recognizes the bills as “Goat Bills” and he knows who produces them. It’s in small independent country now currently run by a Regent Cagliostro who lives in a huge castle. On the way to the country, he saw a girl in a wedding dress being chased a bunch of goons and he decided to help. The girl was captured though and was taken to Cagliostro’s Castle. Lupin sent the Regent his calling card claiming that he’ll steal the girl from the Regent. Cagliostro isn’t afraid though because his castle is full of booby traps, assassins, high tech gadgetry and hidden passage ways that no one ever has ever entered and escaped the castle alive. Lupin is determined though and he has sworn to make the Regent foolish. He isn’t prepared though to discover the secrets that the Castle of Cagliostro hides.

Taking the Pants Off

A lot of people tell me that Castle of Cagliostro is a masterpiece. I don’t really understand the hype and I just chuck it up to pointless nostalgia. Hey, I love Red Riding Hood Chacha and I consider it a masterpiece but I know for a fact the anime industry moves at a fast pace and this little gem’s appeal purely run on nostalgia now. I wanted to see for myself if the second Lupin the Third movie really does deserve the praise it’s getting. I’ve seen a lot of Lupin the Third movies though that deals with mature subject matter and rebrands the entire franchise. So the second ever movie should better be that god damn good. The Lupin the Third franchise is actually one of the oldest franchises in anime. It’s up there with Dragon Ball and Detective Conan that has lasted more than a decade and has lived through the transition from old school hand drawn animation to the CG animation of today. I particularly love the Lupin franchise because it evolves as time passes. From this kid friendly late 70s anime to a deep psychological 2010 anime, this franchise moves across time and becomes much grander, much better. It’s an achievement you can only find in Lupin the Third. The 70s anime was really made for kids because anime at that time really just panders to kids. Lupin is a master thief but he is also a goof. The adult themes are very subtle and the anime’s main focus is usually just the cat and mouse chase between Lupin and Detective Zenigata. The Lupin of the 2000s is edgier. It has adapted a film noir feel to it that wasn’t present in the early versions. It turned the sex and violence way up that I wouldn’t want any kid to see it. It has embraced the avant garde style of storytelling that newer anime is known for. So after watching the deep and highly thought provoking Lupin movies of 2000s, is it really worth it to watch the back to basics approach of the anime with the second movie? I wonder too.

The main buzz about this movie is that the great Hayao Miyazaki directed this movie and it automatically deserves praise and accolades. I don’t think so. Lupin is the first big break of Hayao Miyazaki. He was a nobody when he first directed this movie because before that, he was still under Toei Animation doing backgrounds and sceneries. He was a hard worker and he shot up in the ranks but his legacy as the great master director is really green at this point. This movie was pre-studio ghibli even before his first hit, Nausicaa Valley of the Wind. His great directorial touch is really just starting to form when he directed this movie. I’m not saying the movie is bad because he was still a long ways to becoming the great director he is known for. This movie just doesn’t deserve praise for being directed by the guy. No offense to Miyazaki fags. Hayao Miuazaki is known for three things. One, stunning scenery and background that completely captures the mood of the established setting. Two: a feminine hero that defies the “woman should be in the kitchen” ideal. Name me a Miyazaki movie and it’s always a girl playing the hero. Lastly, a childlike aura that wakes up the inner toddler inside viewers. The Disney-esque approach mixed with some Japanese ideology. Lupin the Third Castle of Cagliostro has captured the first and the other two was subtly incorporated. Miyazaki is never subtle and I sensed his directorial magic held back but in this case, it was just beginning to form. This was a very early movie so you can’t expect it to be up to Studio Ghibli standards. So if anybody tells me Castle of Cagliostro is great because it was directed by Miyazaki then I will shoot you and make you rewatch this movie. I’m rambling now so let’s begin the review.

There really isn’t much to say about this anime. It’s a 1979 anime so the story isn’t that complex. It’s actually pretty straight forward and the pacing is too predictable. There are also some elements the anime didn’t fully utilized which is a shame but I know the standards back in 1979 are different from today. The one thing I do admire about this anime is the animation. I love hand drawn anime because you can feel the dedication put behind it. The first thing you’ll notice about this anime is the scenery. The vast landscape with very nicely detailed shots of the mountains and the grass captivated me. The anime loved doing great scenic shots that you rarely see in anime today. I can feel Miyazaki’s presence in the sceneries because I know that he is very anal about it. The first thing that popped din my head when I saw the first twenty minutes of the anime is: My Neighbor Totoro. Most of the scenes are just beautiful picture perfect scenes with a simple animation coupled by dead silence. Totoro used this kind of technique to establish the fact that the setting is in a rural place away from the noise of a busy city. Castle of Cagliostro used the sceneries to tell the viewer’s they’re in a rural place with castles and auto gyros. I give props for Miyazaki for this one because he really did a good job establishing the setting and giving the movie a laidback feel.

The story needed a bit of work though. It’s just so simple that I spoiled myself while watching it. Lupin decides to track down the source of the counterfeit bills and he ended up saving a damsel in distress that happens to be locked in a castle owned by the shifty Regent Cagliostro who is an arrogant guy that soprts a very devilish moustache. Lupin sends his calling card telling the Regent he’ll take the girl so off he go knocking out bad guys, discovering trap doors, climbing walls and using his gadgets to get him out of sticky situations. The rest of the cast soon follows. Detective Zenigata appears after hearing of the calling card being told to buzz off by the Regent. Goemon and Jigen went on standby waiting for Lupin to raise hell in the castle and Fujiko was undercover working as a maid sneaking around the castle only to discover that Lupin is breaking in. Lupin uses his disguise to create some chaos and trouble soon ensues as he tries to get to the girl. The event that happens afterward is pretty easily to predict. Cliché might be a good way to describe the story but I understand that cliché isn’t really a problem in 70s anime.

The movie does capture the characters pretty well. The goofy personality of Lupin coupled by his ability to disguise himself along with his “cool guy” appeal was very much alive in this anime. Pointless nostalgia really is a great factor when watching this anime because I was being brought back to my childhood as I watch this anime. Detective Zenigata’s comic relief personality is something I really miss. He is often a bumbling idiot that acts before he thinks and that often gets him in trouble. Seeing Lupin outsmart Zenigata is something I absolutely admire in the anime and it was nicely presented in the movie. The rest of the cast is in this movie as well but they had very small parts. The spotlight was mostly on Lupin and Zenigata inside the castle. The story about the girl marrying the Regent was also the main plot of the anime so the rest of the cast have very little screen time compared to the main guys. I don’t mind though cause just seeing Goemon slash his sword, the enemies gets their clothes slashed to bits and hearing him say “I cut another worthless thing” is enough to justify the minor characters. Even Fujiko, in all her 70s kid friendly sexiness, has some moment of brilliance in the anime despite having such a small role. They all had a small part in the movie but it was fun while it lasted.

The movie too kid friendly that makes the newer Lupin movies much better to watch because the violence is really nonexistent in this movie. It’s another thing the original Lupin movie doesn’t really consider but it’s something that the movie really needs. It needs some blood. It needs just enough to enhance some of the shooting scenes. There was a scene in the anime where a bad guy was mushed between two moving cog wheels and the anime didn’t even show us some splatter of blood. The only time blood was present was when a good guy gets shot. The villain is also not that impressive. The Regent doesn’t really have a personality and most of the evil doing is done by his butler. The regent just usually stands in a room having a smirk on his face like he shot a dog or something. A villain should crawl under your skin and this one just kind of flops around like a freshly caught fish. It was begging to die. The predictable story, the boring villain and the lack of some good action scenes makes this anime a bit subpar. The potential is there but it was just too kid friendly which is a bad thing for a gun toting violent anime like Lupin the Third.

I do cut the anime slack because it is pretty old and time makes fools of us all. The Comedy aspects of the anime are pretty solid. I love Lupin’s act because he is so smart that viewers doesn’t realize it. He usually dances around like an idiot when being rained upon by bullets and seeing him act all helpless while the villain doesn’t realize he already stole an item is pretty fun to watch. The Action aspects of the anime are there and it does enhance the story but you’d be asking for more because there just isn’t enough of it to go around. Some of the fight scenes ends too soon because Lupin often runs away instead of facing the bad guys. Even the final moments of the anime lacks a decent action sequence and I think it is a cop out because the animation is smooth that it has room for some action.

Overall Score

7/10 “It’s a nice movie despite being a bit outdated.”

I complain about the anime being too kid friendly but it is pretty solid. The pacing was nice and the animation is outstanding worthy of being in Miyazaki’s portfolio. His directorial magic just isn’t all here though. Two out of three but I see this anime as a precursor for My Neighbor Totoro that perfects all the elements of this anime. I think Lupin’s adventure is the thing that held back the director’s greatness. Make no mistake though, this anime is pretty good. It’s not groundbreaking but it does stand the test of time. I’ve seen close to 600 anime and I can tell that this anime has all the fixings of a great movie that is worth the watch. A masterpiece? It’s not even close though. I think people that call this a masterpiece were being blinded by pointless nostalgia and I do get it. I can picture myself being eight years old at my uncle’s house watching this anime with a big grin on my face. It’s a solid movie with a nice story about the exploits of the master thief known as Lupin the Third.

These are my thoughts. Feel free to add yours.

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