Anime Film Review: The Castle of Cagliostro

The Castle of Cagliostro is the second animated film for the Lupin III franchise, and is also the first feature film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The film was released to Japanese theaters in 1979, and it was originally dubbed and released in the United States in 1991 by Streamline Pictures. Manga Entertainment, who now holds the U.S. distribution rights to The Castle of Cagliostro, recorded a new dub and released the film in 2000.

The Castle of Cagliostro
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki and Haruya Yamazaki
Starring: Yasuo Yamada, Eiko Masuyama, Kiyoshi Kobayashi, Makio Inoue, Goro Naya, Sumi Shimamoto, and Tarō Ishida
Run Time: 100 minutes

The film opens with Lupin and his sidekick, Jigan, leading the authorities on a car chase after stealing a lot of money from a casino in Monaco. However, as they’re driving down the road, Lupin realizes all the money they’ve stolen is counterfeit; in fact, Lupin says they’re “goat bills,” which are perfect counterfeits. Lupin tells Jigan to open the doors and release all of it. Lupin admits that when he was younger, he tried to search for the source of the goat bills, but failed. He decides it’s time to try again, and so he and Jigan head to the Principality of Cagliostro, which is assumed to be the source of the goat bills.

Shortly after arriving in Cagliostro, Lupin and Jigan’s car gets a flat tire. As Jigan fixes the flat, a girl in a wedding dress drives by, with a group of men in another car in hot pursuit. Lupin and Jigan join in the chase, and end up saving the girl, who ends up being Clarisse, the princess of Cagliostro. Her parents were killed in a fire, and she had been living in a convent. Clarisse recently returned home, and is now engaged to the Count, who has been serving as the Regent for the country. The Count only wants to marry Clarisse to recover the ancient treasure of the Cagliostro family, and it involves rings that each of them possess. Clarisse ends up slipping Lupin her ring without him knowing right at first.

After Lupin and Jigan are attacked by the count’s elite assassins, Lupin enlists his other partner, Goemon, to help infiltrate the castle to return the ring to Clarisse and to save her from the Count. Lupin’s arch rival, Inspector Zenigata, as well as Lupin’s love interest, Fujiko Mine, also get involved in the action. Can Lupin save Clarisse and discover the truth about the goat bills?

When watching this film, you can see that it has Miyazaki’s touch to it, especially when it comes to the animation; however, there is a difference in the tone between The Castle of Cagliostro and Miyazaki’s later films. This film does have a bit more humor than most of Miyazaki’s other films; however, there is also a little bit of blood shown and there are piles of skeletons depicted in one section of the film. Overall, it’s a decent story, and a viewer doesn’t really need to have had any real exposure to the Lupin III franchise before watching it.

I will have to admit that The Castle of Cagliostro is my first real exposure to the Lupin III anime franchise. From what I’ve heard, this particular film has a very different feel compared to other entries in the Lupin III franchise. If that’s true, then this may not be the best way to be introduced to the franchise. However, for fans of Miyazaki and his work, The Castle of Cagliostro is an important film to see in order to get a feel for the body of work he has directed during his career.

When it comes to the DVD release, there aren’t a whole lot of special features to speak of. The “Manga 2000 Fanclub Trailer” runs for four minutes, and it’s a slideshow of the products Manga Entertainment had available at the time this DVD was released. The “Manga 2000 Trailer” runs for four minutes, and it’s made up of video clips of some of the properties available, which is set to music by the band KMFDM. The “DVD Catalog” is a menu where the viewer can choose what they want to look at; the links take the viewer to single page entries for the titles (in addition to anime, this menu includes some live action properties and properties that are not Japanese in origin). The final feature is “Weblinks,” which is a page that provides web addresses for Manga Entertainment and Sputnik 7.

After watching this film I would recommend this DVD of The Castle of Caglisotro to anyone who is a fan of either the Lupin III franchise or of Hayao Miyazaki.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of The Castle of Cagliostro that my husband and I purchased.

Additional reviews of films directed by Hayao Miyazaki:

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