This Week in Anime
The Castle of Ghibliostro

by Michelle Liu & Steve Jones,

In the lull of summer season premieres, Micchy and Steve look back on Hayao Miyazaki's feature film debut Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. The classic 70s film features a different Lupin and an interesting connection to Disney's The Great Mouse Detective. How did the Ghibli master interpret Monkey Punch's famous thief?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet

Micchy, it's been great working with you and talking about a lot of utterly trash anime, but this will be my final TWIA column. I've finally learned how to make the real money, and all I've gotta do is become a cartoon thief.
Counterfeit bills aside, Lupin definitely has the right idea!
Breaking the law is clearly where it's at, but lemme hit you with a truly unforgivable crime: it took me 30+ years of existence on this planet to sit down and watch Castle of Cagliostro.
Now you may be wondering, why are we at This Week in Anime covering a 40-year-old Lupin III film that's nowhere near new to any streaming services in the west? Well I'm sure Lupin's kind of almost relevant again, but mostly it's because I somehow hadn't seen it either despite its reputation as the Miyazaki one.
Also our editor is extremely tired
Yeah we figured this would be as good a time as any to go back to the elder Miyazaki's roots. Ghibli's in the news again with their new CG film coming up, and while he seems to utilize every opportunity he can to dunk on his adult son, Papa Hayao can sure direct a movie! And gotta say, his debut film does not disappoint. It's actually interesting to watch both on its own merits and as an early glimpse into its director's style. For instance, I found it amusing that, after a fairly Lupin-esque caper for an intro, we almost instantly switch over to Miyazaki Pastoral Mode.

You can tell it's a Hayao Miyazaki film by the amount of time the flying contraptions get. I'm pretty sure the plane gets as much screen time in the movie as Goemon, if not more.
The man has his fixations, and they've apparently been there forever.
Castle of Cagliostro is really more a Miyazaki film than a Lupin film, which makes it both the best and worst Lupin to introduce to someone to the franchise. It's a wild romp from beginning to end, but it's also unlike pretty much every other Lupin thing to date. For one thing, Fujiko's barely in it.
Now THAT'S a crime, but thankfully she makes up for her quantity of screentime with its quality. And by that I'm specifically referring to the quality of this camo ensemble.

But yeah, even as someone who's only watched a handful of Lupin entries, I definitely found it weird how...nice?...Lupin is in this one. Like sure, he's the hero of the franchise, but he's also usually a sleazebag. A sleazebag you love, of course, but a sleazebag nonetheless.
For a skirt-chaser as notorious as this one, it's remarkable how little of it he does in this movie! I usually expect him to hit on the damsel in distress as he swoops in to save her (and maybe sneak a few valuables off her person), but the closest he does to that here is admit his reputation to a completely unrelated character.

Who is this man and what has he done with Lupin??
On the other hand, I can appreciate a longstanding franchise that's gone through a lot of different creative voices who have each put their own spin on the characters and premise. The first full Lupin thing I watched as The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, and that's about as deliberately unlike Cagliostro as you can get lol.
True! There's always room for different Lupin interpretations. Hell, Antonio Banderas Jigen wouldn't exist if the franchise didn't play so loose in its adaptations.
Plus, it's not like Cagliostro Lupin doesn't still love waltzing into blatant danger with the smugness of that knife cat meme.

These are the same image, to me.
Well sure, anyone would be smug if their most substantial threat were Zenigata.

Zenigata gets clowned on SO OFTEN in this movie, it might as well be the Zenigata and Lupin show all over again.
It's what he lives for. And similarly, what I live for are side stories where sworn nemeses agree to work together to take down a greater evil.

All the better when that greater evil is a Wife Guy.

Although I suppose the Count is more of an aspirational Wife Guy, which is probably even worse.
A wife guy who doesn't know not to dress like a supervillain to his own wedding, at that. Menacing black capes are for the bride, you fool!
So many secondhand douche chills over the extravagance of this insufferable theme wedding. Miyazaki sure does make it look cool tho!
Yeah, gotta say, the corpses in the basement are kind of a mood killer.
Not if you're Lupin!
Still doesn't make for great wedding decor tho!
To be fair, drugging your fiancée on the day of the ceremony doesn't exactly scream "happy nuptials" either. From the outside tho? Now that's a castle with cobblestones I wanna see up close and personal.
Generally speaking, the backgrounds throughout the film are ridiculously gorgeous. Not at all the vibes I was expecting from a Lupin film, but they work.

It's definitely more than you'd get out of a TV series, for sure. Another sign you're watching a Miyazaki film, I guess!
Yeah, the denouement with the submerged city actually took my breath away. What a powerful aesthetic note to end on. Miyazaki was flexing all the way back in '79.
What a melancholic thing to end the movie on - all this struggle and bloodshed for a fabled treasure, but in the end the only thing uncovered is the ruins of the past. It's valuable to no one but the people who left it, who died long ago. Meanwhile Mr. Wannabe Supervillain just gets crushed by a giant clock.
Okay I actually thought I was losing my mind during the clock scene, because I while knew I hadn't seen this film before, I knew I'd seen that fight on the clock gears somewhere. And in fact it turns out the climax of the Disney classic (in my memory anyway) The Great Mouse Detective was done as an extremely deliberate homage to Castle of Cagliostro.

So it's cool to now realize that one of the cartoon scenes burned into my head as a child was in fact the result of anime. Anime has been my constant companion. There was never any hope for me.
Okay, next you're going to tell me My Little Pony is also anime (by Toei!). We were on this train to hell before we ever knew it.
I honestly think I would've loved this film if I'd caught it when I was a kid. On the most surface level it's just a solid, fun action romp with a lot of cool and occasionally creepy setpieces. That's a recipe for tiny Steve success right there! Watching it as an adult, however, I get even more out of it now that I can also appreciate the craftsmanship. Like, the personality infused into Lupin's movements on the castle rooftops is so delightful to watch.

That personality - even if it isn't the usual Lupin - is the heart of the movie. His energy carries so much of it that even if the rest of the movie were lacking - which it isn't - it'd still be a pretty fun time.

God bless this dude's casual dismantling of an international counterfeiting scheme.
Hey, don't forget to credit Zenigata's amazing thespian proficiency.
Zenigata is a VERY convincing actor, yes he is.
Whether it's acting on TV or catching Lupin, Zenigata tries his hardest at everything, even if he sucks at it, and that's why we love him. And even though most of these characters have their edges softened for the movie, they're still themselves. For instance, I really like that Fujiko's consistent immediate instinct is to get as far away from Lupin as possible.
Goemon gets to do a little slicing too!
And Jigen loves his guns.

And his giant plate of spaghetti.

That one might be unique to Cagliostro, actually, I'm not sure.
However different the Lupin cast may be from their usual selves, some things will always stay the same. Lupin does some crimes, Zenigata fails to catch him, all is right with the world.
If I had to lob my main critique at the film, though, it would be that it goes a little too far molding Lupin into a more traditional hero, and, outside of an admittedly excellent introductory car chase, Clarisse doesn't get to do much of anything.
She might look like a classic Miyazaki heroine, but sadly she's not the main character of this movie and thus doesn't get to do the cool stuff.
She's pretty much just there to be rescued by Lupin, and so Zenigata at the end can recite a line of dialogue so corny that he's forced to immediately leave the film in shame.
In true Zenigata fashion, he can't even close off the film without being extremely lame. Bless his heart though, he's trying. Poor dude is just too straightlaced to not get muddled up in international crimes.

Truly moe by way of helplessness. All in all, I'm really glad I finally set aside time to watch this, and it certainly earns its place in the canon of animated films. I don't know about you, but I had a big dumb Lupin-esque grin on my face for most of it.
It's a fun time for sure! Its reputation as one of the must-watch Lupin franchise entries is well-deserved, even putting aside the Miyazaki association.
Miyazaki may consistently prove himself to be the most unchill grump in the universe, but he sure knows how to make a comfy film.

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