Lupin the Third: Castle of Cagliostro

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First off, let me apologize for taking so long to finally get a post up. I’ve been pretty busy the last few weeks plus I was out of the country on vacation for two weeks. Hopefully I’ll be able to start posting regularly now.

I was first introduced to Lupin the Third when it was shown on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim in 2003 when I was still in high school. I’m a bit surprised Lupin the Third is not more popular in the US but actually a major reason is that when it was being released in Japan there were still copyright issues for use of the name in Western nations. For those who do not know:

Arsène Lupin III is the grandson of the fictional gentleman thief  Arsène Lupin. Daisuke Jigen, his closest ally, is an expert marksman who can shoot a target in 0.3 seconds. The two are occasionally joined by the expert swordsman Goemon Ishikawa XIII. Sexy but deadly femme fatale Fujiko Mine sometimes works with them, but she is almost always in it for her own interests. They are pursued by Inspector Koichi Zenigata of the ICPO who has devoted his life to chasing Lupin down.

Castle of Cagliostro is the second Lupin III film and was first released in 1979. Hayao Miyazaki (yes, THE Miyazaki) co-directed a large part of the original TV series and is the director of this film. While the film was loosely based on the Maurice Leblanc novel La Comtesse de Cagliostro (The Countess of Cagliostro), it is clearly a Lupin III work.

The original character of Arsène Lupin was a contemporary of Sherlock Holmes and they even had a crossover story. Lupin III takes the original character and greatly exaggerates all his characteristics. I would best describe the character and the show by saying that it’s a combination of James Bond, Robin Hood, and Scooby-Doo all rolled into one. It contains all the action and excitement from James Bond, the gentleman thief aspect of Robin Hood, and the fun and wackiness of Scooby-Doo.

Synopsis

The film opens in typical Lupin III fashion – Lupin and Jigen have just broken into a casino in Monaco and are running straight out the front. They hop into their little car and speed off with a load of people in pursuit. Much to the chagrin of the pursuers, their cars have all been sabotaged and they are unable to even drive out of the parking area. Lupin and Jigen drive off with their car so full of money they are barely able to see the road. After a few minutes Lupin turns to Jigen and instructs him to dump all the money. Jigen is dumbfounded until Lupin explains that the money is all counterfeit, the best there is – the infamous “goat bills.”

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Only now does the opening credits finally roll and you can easily spot the marks of Miyazaki. The picturesque locations in the background along with his unique art style. It’s attention to the details like these that have cemented his place as one of the main driving forces in anime.

After Lupin and Jigen arrive in the Principality of Cagliostro they encounter a girl in a car being chased by a car full of thugs. Lupin and Jigen manage to rescue her, but Lupin gets knocked out when he falls down a cliff in the process of saving her. She is eventually captured, but not before accidentally leaving her ring with Lupin. The ring is an indication to Lupin that the identity of the girl is actually Clarisse, princess of Cagliostro. They soon find out that she is to be married to the Count of Cagliostro, who wants to use her ring to unlock a hidden treasure.

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Lupin calls upon Goemon and also tips off Zenigata. He plans to use Zenigata and the Count against each other. Using Zenigata and a dinner party as a distraction, Lupin manages to make it up to the isolated tower holding the princess and returns her ring. However, the Count soon arrives with his assassins and Lupin is dropped through a trapdoor into the deepest parts of the castle. The ring he gave to the princess was actually a fake and he taunts the Count even after getting trapped.

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There he finds Zenigata, who also fell through a trapdoor earlier. They’re surrounded by the corpses of people from many centuries, all of whom were trying to find the secret of Cagliostro. They form a temporary team to get out of the castle and manage to trick two assassins sent down to kill them. They take the assassins’ aqualungs and manage to escape from the dungeon where they end up in a room full of counterfeiting machines and bills. While Zenigata is gathering evidence Lupin sets the place on fire to cause a large distraction. Lupin and Zenigata manage to steal the autogyro (it’s like a helicopter) and fly over to rescue the princess. By this point Fujiko, who has been posing as the lady in waiting for the princess, has revealed herself as a spy to the princess and is trying to escape along with the princess. The Count fatally wounds Lupin as they escape and the princess got the real ring from Lupin to try to save his life. The Count plans to kill Lupin after he gets the ring, but Fujiko manages to save him and escape with Zenigata.

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(Even though this was from the DVD, there are still some blemishes on the animation as seen in the upper right side)

The goat bills are said to be so prolific that is has funded nations and turned the tides of war. Zenigata presents the evidence of the goat bills to Interpol but no one wants to do anything because several nations depend on it. With Lupin heavily wounded, he reveals that when he tried to discover the secret of the goat bills 10 years ago he was injured and found by Clarisse, who was still a small child. With just days before the wedding of Clarisse to the Count, Lupin has to think of a plan fast. There is a huge turnout for the wedding, including TV crews. A drugged Clarisse is led to the altar but at the last minute there is a large commotion and a ghostly-voiced Lupin carried by Goemon and Jigen appears from behind the altar. Lupin is skewered by the Count’s assassins, but it turns out that it was only a robot. The real Lupin was posing as the presiding bishop and makes off with Clarisse and both rings. While Goemon and Jigen hold off the assassins and Fujiko and Zenigata expose the truth of the counterfeit goat bills, Lupin and Clarisse are chased by the Count until they end up at the top of the clock tower. Lupin and Clarisse are knocked down from the clock tower and the Count places the two rings in the right place to unlock the treasure, but is subsequently crushed by the two clock hands.

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Lupin and Clarisse make it out alive and discover that the treasure was in fact an ancient Roman city which had been flooded to form the lake surrounding the castle. Lupin declares that the treasure is “too big for his pocket” and leaves with Goemon and Jigen. Fujiko is seen making off with the printing plates from the counterfeit printing presses and Zenigata continues to chase after Lupin and company.

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Review

Characters

This movie was one of the earlier Lupin III works so one of the major thing you will notice is that Lupin sports a green jacket instead of the red one in the second season of the anime and later works. As this is just a movie there is not that much time for complicated character development. Most people who watch the movie will at least be somewhat familiar with the main cast so Miyazaki has forgone any character introductions. Lupin III is not much of a playboy in this one which I think is a good choice because it would somewhat ruin the relationship between him and Clarisse. Jigen is the cool guy with the gun and plays to that role. He doesn’t speak that often and most of his dialogue is to progress the story rather than develop his character. Fujiko doesn’t really use Lupin in the movie as much as in the anime but she is definitely portrayed as doing things only for her own interests, especially when she ends up with the printing plates at the end. Zenigata does his job of chasing Lupin and occasionally falling into Lupin’s traps. Zenigata is one of those hard working characters that you want to sympathize with but Lupin just comes in and steals the thunder with his crazy antics and fast talking. The rest of the characters were fairly flat and underdeveloped but that’s not really the main selling point.

Art

This movie was released in 1979 so you can’t be expecting any sort of computer graphics or fancy 3D work. What it lacks in modern day technology it more than makes up for with its lush backgrounds and the flair of the action scenes. I read that the scene in The Simpsons Movie in which Bart falls down the roof was inspired by the scene in this movie where Lupin falls down the roof after his grappling rocket tumbles. I actually re-watched The Simpsons Movie to verify this claim and it’s very brief and easy to miss.

Overall

There’s not much to be said about the sound here. The opening and ending credits have beautiful melodies which I thought very fitting over some of the more upbeat and energetic music used for some of the recent shows and movies. I did enjoy some of the sound effects that they employed – it was cheesy at times but it’s to be expected of that time period. One of the main selling points of the Lupin franchise is the humor. It’s not quite slapstick comedy but it’s also not some complicated political humor. It’s the type of humor that can appeal to a wide range of audience and I find it very similar to the type of humor in Scooby-Doo, just not quite as corny.

I really enjoyed the movie but it’s not exactly something I would file away as a masterpiece. It’s definitely a thrill to watch and I would suggest watching it if you want a quick movie to watch that will have you laughing and at the edge of your seat in suspense and excitement.

[easyreview title=”Castle of Cagliostro Review” cat1title=”Story” cat1rating=”8″ cat1detail=”Good pacing” cat2title=”Art” cat2rating=”7.5″ cat2detail=”Stylish, just what to expect from Miyazaki” cat3title=”Sound” cat3rating=”6.5″ cat3detail=”Nothing too special.” cat4title=”Characters” cat4rating=”7.5″ cat4detail=”Lupin and gang do what they are known for.” cat5title=”Enjoyment” cat5rating=”8″ cat5detail=”Great fun!”]

Overall: 8/10

[Recommended]

All the images together:

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Posted on May 21, 2010, in Action, Anime, Comedy, Genre, Vintage and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Castle of Cagliostro, not a masterpiece? Surely you jest.

    Ah, just kidding. Everyone has their own opinions XD Maybe not story-wise, but for 1979 the art is breathtaking, and even now you can see how far ahead of its time the animation really was. In my opinion anyway.

    • Yes I do agree that the art is amazing which is why I gave it high marks. I have to take the date of the film into consideration so that’s why it’s not any higher. Not everyone in the current day and age will be as appreciative of the art. In 10 more years Miyazaki will probably begin to fade in popularity. I really admire that he stayed so long with traditional art techniques even with a lot of current anime heavily helped by computers and technology. Actually the scene where Lupin drops the rocket and runs down the roof is used in the Simpsons Movie. I watched through the entire movie to double check and it’s referenced albeit not directly copied.

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