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