International thief Lupin III comes to the small independant European country of Cagliostro. He has come in search of the source of near-perfect counterfeit money and uncovers conspiracy much larger than he suspected. Lupin and his friends, Jingen and Ishikawa, and his sometimes lover, enemy and friend Fujiko Mine must rescue the beautiful Clarisse, the late grand duke's daughter, from the clutches of the evil Count Cagliostro, before they are to be wed, and solve the mystery of a hidden family treasure. With the police officer Zenigata hot on his heels can Lupin uncover the secret of the 'goat bills' and rescue the maiden in time?
Before Studio Ghibli, Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki directed, wrote and designed the characters for a simply fantastic adventure film titled Rupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. Part of the Lupin III universe, The Castle of Cagliostro is a delight to watch. It is funny, entertaining and full of adventure.
The Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki was the director, writer and character designer for Rupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. It was his first theatrical directorial effort and his fingerprints are all over it from signature look of his characters to even swarming masses of police and henchmen fighting atop a castle [I’ve always felt that no one could create a fighting swarm quite like Miyazaki]. Rupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro [Rupan sansei: Kariosutoro no shiro] came before his Studio Ghibli films; 5 years before ‘Kaze no tani no Nausicaa’. But Miyazaki had already cut his teeth on the Lupin III world when he directed some of the TV episodes early in the 70s. Lupin III was of course the unofficial offshoot of the French novels by author Maurice Leblanc. They were more of a parody of those novels by manga artist Kazuhiko Katō (加藤一彦) who sued the pen name Monkey Punch (モンキーパンチ). Lupin III began in 1967 as a part of Weekly Manga Action and has since spawned in to three TV series; also many movies and specials.
Rupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro is simply one of the most entertaining animated movies I have ever seen. There are chase scenes, gun battles, daring escapes, evil villains, a beautiful princess held captive and hidden treasure. What’s not to like? I was deliriously happy with the whole film and will watch it again and again. While I had inklings as to how large the Lupin III universe was I never knew how big it was until I went researching for this review. Holy crap. If the rest of the material holds up as well as this movie did then I have a lot of work and catching up to do. Rupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro is worthy of your time and attention.
The copy of the film is in excellent condition after being digitally remastered. The well known choppy style of Japanese animation make irk some and serve as a distraction for viewers [Japanese studios filmed animation at 12 frames per second compared to studios like Disney who shot at 24 frames per second creating more fluid animation] but the quality of the story and humor along with the frequency of action sequences still keeps you glued to the screen. Any questions about cropping and re-editing scenes to remove any Japanese reference should be taken up with someone more attuned with the Lupin III universe than I, though it is understood that this indeed did happen to this cut of the film as well- particularly with the openings credits, resorting to still frame shots instead of the animated sequence which included Japanese text. As well, it is also understood by my research that this is only an adaptation of the Lupin III universe characters and itself, not entirely faithful to the original manga by Monkey Punch, though he did like Miyazaki's interpretation.
Testifying to the world appeal of the characters and stories of the Lupin universe there are four language tracks in English, Japanese, Spanish and French. The context is virtually the same in the English dub though some liberties are taken to fill in ‘dead air time’ with nonsense. But thankfully, for the purists there are comprehensible subtitles. The feature is presented in Widescreen format helping aid the scope and grandeur of Miyazaki’s vision for the film. Side 2 of the disc features the complete movie in storyboard format, illustrated by Miyazaki [Japanese audio with English subtitles], an original Japanese trailer; a sketch and still gallery; and a 26-minute interview with animation director Yasuo Ōtsuka. There is also an compliment of release trailers.
Rupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro should stand the test of time as one of the great adventure animated movies and should be a template for anyone looking for the winning formula to what makes a great action film. Highly recommended.
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