Lupin The Third: Castle of Cagliostro – Miyazaki Before Studio Ghibli

My Wednesday post was in celebration of Gundam’s 40th anniversary. Something that needs to be celebrated because something continuing that long while being infront of the public eye is amazing. A fantastic achievement that only a small number of series can call claim too. This post is something different because it’s also meant to celebrate the passing of Monkey Punch or Kazuhiko Kato at the age of 81 years old. The guy who is famous for creating a little known franchise called Lupin The third. From the posts I’ve written on the series in this blog you can read here, here, and here, I think you can guess that I might be a fan of this goofy thief and his friends. I’m still not the largest fan because I haven’t watched everything, but I’ve watched enough that I have more then passing knowledge on Lupin. With this post about Lupin The Third’s most entry level piece of media in the franchise, let’s celebrate Monkey Punch and all that he achieved. If anything, it’s also a great movie stand alone film in it’s own right.

Before jumping into the movie proper, I do have to address the Miyazaki in the room. How is it possible not to do that? His directional style is all over Castle of Cagliostro. This film is proto-Ghibli after all. Before Hideko Miyazaki was….Miyazaki, he worked on a lot of series from an episode to episode basis. One of those series was called Lupin The Third. By using that franchise in his own way, Castle of Cagliostro is Miyazaki’s theatrical debut. It’s filled with things that Miyazaki will include in his later anime films. Things like his standard character models with Lupin The Third character’s usual models with sanded down edges, huge forest backgrounds, villains that want to take over the world, and solid female characters. It’s still Lupin The Third, but it’s a very different and sanded down Lupin The Third that is more family friendly. To understand this film in any context, these facts are very important.

Castle of Cagliostro starts after Jigen and Lupin complete a casino heist. After escaping the cops and driving down the highway, Lupin discovers that every single bill is a forgery connected to one certain, small European country. Cagliostro. A place that Lupin has tried and failed to steal from in his early days. So you know what that means, they go to Cagliostro. And with their first appearance into the Cagliostro proper, they instantly get caught into a conflict when they spot a young girl in a wedding dress speeding down the road. A car that is being chased by James Bond like villains in a black sedans. After one of the most infamous and amazingly animated car chase scenes in the history of anime, Lupin and his gang are thoroughly invested in the plot of the show. Not only do they go after the fake money from this country, but they have to also save a princess from the villain Count Cagliostro.

While the movie takes place in one location, the Castle in Cagliostro, it’s so full of so many traps and hidden dangers that it provides so many places where things can just go wrong. And there are also ninjas and other armored enemies all over the place to add some danger and fun into the series. Also, the fact that Lupin has lost before in the same location adds some drama and tension too. After all his heists, the fact that he failed one early in his life makes the audience naturally wonder what sorts of things could have stopped him. Such solid tension for such a simple film. Also, Zenigata also provides his own since of fun with his overenthusiasm at catching Lupin and always introducing chaos into the mix in his own way. I’m glad he’s in this film.

The story, mysteries of the castle, and the animation of Castle of Cagliostro are what really drive this movie forward in any meaningful way. Otherwise, it’s a longer Lupin The Third episode. Lupin is different because he’s not as much as a horn dog here, but he’s still after treasures and mystery. Jigen the gun hand, Zenigata the cop, Goemon the guy with the invincible sword, and Fujiko Mine the fem fatale are treated in a similar way. They are still fully realized and characterized people, but they are just going through their usual heist motions. Even the villain, Count Cagliostro was a basic villain who just wanted to continue the family business of controlling the world through his false bills. The only one that grows is the Princess Clarisse. She makes the slow change from being a damsel in distress to slowly finding her own footing in a realistic manner.

Do I need to even talk about the visuals of this film? I think saying “early Miyazaki” is enough to give you a good sense of how good the movie still looks. The amazing backgrounds that are more then life like, the fluid mechanical and running animation, and every iconic scene apart of this film. Even character designs to move around on a screen, yes that too. Miyazaki is a stickler for perfection and details. You can see that at much in this wonderful film as his other, famous works. That’s all I have to say really. And this film set up so many iconic scenes for later films. The clock tower scene in The Great Mouse Detective wouldn’t even be a thing if it wasn’t for this movie. Boom, done. Throw in some epic Lupin music on the side as a reference to all sorts of Lupin shenanigans and that is all that needs to be said.

I know that there are multiple places and genres to jump into the Lupin The Third franchise with, but this is the easiest one to recommend because it’s a film. A film by Hideo Miyazaki. It’s easily accessible, it’s a stand alone film, it has the heart of the Lupin franchise, and it’s very family friendly. That’s the way I see some people jumping into older franchises like this, not starting from the beginning of when Lupin came out and digging through the entire Lupin discography. And if nothing else, this is a nice film you can just watch and enjoy. Can also recommend this film for that. Just watch it ok? It’s really fun and addicting. Even with the English dub that takes out all subtlety and haves to point out everything to the audience. I guess that is a thing that just happens with Miyazaki dubs? Oh well. Celebrate Monkey Punch’s work by learning something about Lupin. If anything, it’s available on Netflix!

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  1. I don’t know why after hearing after lupin for a long time I wasn’t jumping at the chance to watch something from it ahaha. It’s on my list haha and reading this I think I have the push now hehe. If this will make it easy for me to jump into it then I’m all for it !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I seen this movie years ago and I really enjoyed the visuals and music. If Miyazaki was involved with this movie, I guess it’s considered a Miyazaki movie. I just placed an order for this movie today. I really want to see more Lupin movies. It has been a while, but this movie has some magic charm that makes it fun to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah Lupin is really popular in Japan. They made a lot of movies, OVA and anime parts. It’s hard to see them all, but once you get into it, it’s a fun ride.

        Liked by 1 person

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