Animated Movies, Reviews, Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli Countdown: ‘The Castle of Cagliostro’

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It is perhaps a surprise that we are including The Castle of Cagliostro in our Studio Ghibli Countdown because the studio had not technically been created yet, but it was Hayao Miyazaki’s first movie so we thought it would be fun to profile.

In some ways, you can tell this is Miyazaki’s first movie. It is different from the rest of his films in many ways including subject matter, characters, and animation style. These differences make it both entertaining and a bit underwhelming.

The Castle of Cagliostro is part of a series of films and television shows about a ‘master thief’ named Arsene Lupin III. Think of him as a more bumbling version of Danny Ocean in the Oceans franchise. To start out this film, Lupin and his friend, Daisuke Jigen, have robbed a casino but they figure out the bills are actually fine counterfeits.

They decide to find the counterfeiter to learn how it is done so well and, on the way, meet a woman named Clarisse who is being chased by some men and Lupin saves her. He then learns that she is going to be forced into an arranged marriage to Count Cagliostro.

In all the shenanigans we also get to meet Lupin’s tough girlfriend, Fujiko Mine, and a bumbling inspector out to catch Lupin named Koichi Zenigata.

I won’t tell you any more that happens but The Castle of Cagliostro is a classic lukewarm film for me. It’s enjoyable enough but nothing that sticks in my memory after I see it or makes much of an impression. If you like mysteries with chases, villains, and damsels in distress you will like this.

There is some fun action that you typically don’t get to see with Studio Ghibli, probably because it is part of the Lupin franchise. Characters even get shot at certain points which surprised me.

The speed of the action scenes, fluidity of the animation, and little bit of mysticism brought into the story show Miyazaki’s potential so it is interesting on that level. I also like the bittersweet ending you wouldn’t see in a Western story. In some ways, it reminds me of Atlantis: the Lost Empire, which I enjoy more than most. It also has moments that feel a little like The Adventures of Tintin. The plot in Cagliostro, however, gets kind of convoluted at times, but never in a way that stopped me from enjoying myself.

The biggest problem with the film is how unlikable Lupin and Jigen are. I get they are supposed to be thieves but they never really transition into satisfactory heroes or even anti-heroes. They are consistently rude, loud, and a little annoying throughout, which is a big problem.

That said, I think Castle of Cagliostro is still worth watching as a decent mystery adventure. It’s not going to change your life or anything, but it will give you an idea of where Miyazaki started his career and be acceptable entertainment to boot. It’s far from perfect but worth a watch.

What do you think of Miyazaki’s The Castle of Cagliostro?

Edited by; Kajsa Rain Forden

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About Rachel Wagner

Rachel has loved animation since she was a little girl singing songs from The Little Mermaid at the top of her lungs. She currently works in social media marketing and loves to blog and vlog about Disney, Pixar and all kinds of movies in her free time. Her favorite movie is Up and she considers herself quite the Cinderella aficionado seeing every version she can get her hands on. She also loves animated TV shows like Simpsons, Gravity Falls, Star Wars Rebels and more. Follow her on twitter @smilingldsgirl
  • Phoenix Wright

    Its been a little while since I’ve seen this one, but I do remember really liking it. Have you seen both of the English dubs? There is one dub from 1992 and another from 2000. There are also 2 versions of the 2000 dub, one of them being family friendly. I think the only one that I’ve seen is the family friendly dub which I really enjoyed, but I’d definitely like to here anybody’s opinions on the other ones

    • Rachel Wagner

      I didn’t know there were 2 dubs. I think I watched the non-family friendly dub like the say what the h**** and things like that. I wonder if the family friendly version helps keep Lupin a little bit more likable than the version I saw? I liked the movie fine but it didn’t blow me away. Decent watch.

      • Brooks Austin

        The big issue with this movie is Miyazaki is taking an anime that’s a seinen series (seinen is an anime genre that’s targeted at adult men) and trying to make it “Ghiblified” and more family friendly, but he ends up alienating more diehard fans of the TV series but not really appealing to more casual Ghibli fans. It feels more like a film for diehard anime fans than casual moviegoers. But I saw this movie for the first time a few years ago and I personally enjoyed it. I thought it was a fun movie with a lot of exciting action and it reminded me of like if James Bond was an anime but if Bond was a thief instead of a spy. I thought Lupin and Jigen were funny and I enjoyed seeing how Lupin would get out of the crazy situations he gets himself in, but I can see how they’re not for everybody. I thought it was also fun trying to see which characters had similar designs to characters Miyazaki would use in later movies. Like the girl Lupin is trying to save looks just like Nausicaa and the bad guy is a dead ringer for Muska in Laputa. The version you watched was most likely the Manga Entertainment dub from 2000. Manga Entertainment was always infamous with anime fandom for exaggerating swearing their dubs to make the ratings of their films higher. Thankfully the anime dubbing industry doesn’t really do that anymore but it was a weird period in anime dubbing history. The original dub from the early 90s also made weird choices like changing Lupin’s name to “The Wolf.” There were too many dubs for me to choose from and I didn’t know one was the best to watch, so I myself stuck to watching the Japanese version.

        • Rachel Wagner

          I’m glad they changed to the one dub no edits policy because that would get confusing. I can see why you enjoyed this and I did as well just not all that memorable like other Miyazaki films. The girl definitely looks like Nausicaa but I just found the guys kind of unlikable. I guess that crass type of humor isnt usually my favorite but still fun film

      • Phoenix Wright

        Yeah it probably was the family friendly version, because I don’t remember finding Lupin unlikable like you said

  • You’re right about this being different from other Miyazaki films and some of the confusion with the characters’ roles can throw you off a bit. But I definitely got that “Tintin” vibe with swashbuckling fun, car chases, gun fights, and crazy shinanigans. I hope that the Rotoscopers watch and review this film on an upcoming podcast because it’s worth discussing!

    • Rachel Wagner

      I would love to hear them talk about this film on the podcast!

  • Robotech_Master

    You might want to check out the fan commentary track I just finished revising. I guarantee you will learn a few things about this movie that you never one before.