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Review: Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro

Lady friendly and jazzy!

Lupin III

Hot off the beat of a particularly successful casino stick-up, Lupin and aide de camp in thievery Daisuke Jigen are riding on the high of a job well done and are just about ready to bounce along into the sunset, yellow Fiat 500 in tow. That is, of course, until Lupin identifies their earnings as high quality counterfeit gothic bills, the source of which is the Grand Duchy of Cagliostro. Taking it upon himself to investigate, Lupin sneaks in to Cagliostro only to be greated by a car chase between a woman in a wedding dress and some strange folks with an affinity for Tommy guns.

Lupin soon gets incapacitated in his attempt to save our now-captured lady in white, but it’s too late to turn back now, as our clean-shaven thief, armed with a parting gift of a white glove and a special silver ring embossed with a mysterious Capricorn symbol, takes a detour deep into the heart of the mysteries, scandal, and riches that surround Cagliostro.

Aesthetically, the film is engrossing in the integration of gorgeous hand-painted backgrounds and set pieces that pop off the screen whenever possible. The action scenes themselves are engaging, taking place in challenging and fun settings from physics-defying car chases that manage to set the tone of the entire film to claustrophobic gears inside clock towers, with the beats of action always clipping along at a good pace and keeping the character animation distinct and fluid the entire time. The animation does a bang-up job of maintaining the energetic and light tone while (when appropriate) still maintaining a mood of mystery and adventure that marches succinctly and fluidly on throughout the entire film.

This is especially well illustrated in long, vivid shots of environment and set that signify just one of many notable stripes of Miyazaki flavor we see here. From spacy shots of howling winds and purple skies against gothic castles (and that’s just the Blu-ray menu!) to vivid gardens, the film manages to have you gawk at the pretty paintings as much as the swashbuckling action, and it’s all accompanied by bouncy, jazzy tunes that help to keep the ball rolling smoothly. The characters themselves pop from page in distinct kinesthetic action and personality that are expressed well from a Lupin who’s significantly nicer than his preceding incarnations to a female lead who serves as an unfortunately lone, but distinctive feminine voice for the movie.

Oh yeah, speaking of flavor stripes, we got here a Miyazaki movie, so beyond the jaunty cantor of fun and adventure, it’s going to have those lady-friendly vibes that we love to eat up. The film, in a refreshing departure from most high flying, action-hero centric adventure movies treats its lady lead as an entity onto her own. Lady Clarisse manages to be rightfully vulnerable and human without being a damsel who essentially needs Lupins permission to escape from her captors, who, in themselves, hold some pretty though ties to break.

Her own desires of independence are functionally separate from Lupin, and she’s by no means a device to help the guy move his new wacky adventure along. It could be argued, however, that within the context of the narrative, she could never join Lupin in his slight-of-hand lifestyle, so the decision at the end is lessened thematically, but it’s also important to note that … well … the dude’s nice to her. He doesn’t treat her like some prize for succeeding in adventure at the end or try seducing her for his own sexual conquest, and he lets, nay forces, her to take advantage of her own eventual freedom. That goes a long way for the ladies swooning at home.

The work itself makes an unavoidable place in the shelf of any Miyazaki fan, having an interesting place in his filmography as being his first ever directorial and writing project, and now’s the time to get it with a special high definition re-release in January 2015 that includes a remastering by Discotek Media. It’s a beautiful, well thought-out special edition that includes both the 2000 and 1992 dub release (the later with names changed due to copyright concerns in addition to some script flubs) as well as several commentary tracks and film introduction, extra animation cells, and gorgeous cover art that makes you proud to have shilled out a bit extra to keep this baby on your shelf.

A colorful and notable family friendly incarnation of Lupin that’ll get your lady-friends and Miya-fanai (whichever comes first. The two are not mutually exclusive AT ALL) hounding around the couch for the directors distinct, energetic vision that holds very well today in a lovely, tight, remastered vison for all to enjoy.

Rachael’s a student at a Florida university that frolics regularly in Disney parks and has an entirely too extensive collection of stuffed animals. If you wanna follow her other random musings on cartoons (or just stop by to say hi) there’s her blog,

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