It is hard to imagine a time were Hayao Miyazaki wasnt the force that he is today. I still remember watching Kikis Delivery Service on TV as a child so in a way his presence has always followed me through my experiences as an anime fan. And I know for a lot of other people the same can be said. But back in 1979 he was a director making his theatrical debut. There was no legend status attached to his name yet he was not yet an Academy Award winner he was simply a man making his first fore into the world of film. And as far as debut films go Lupin III: the Castle of Cagliostro is an incredible one to put forward. Based on the manga created by the late Money Punch it has become one of the staples of the Lupin franchise and considered by many to be the ideal way to get acquainted with the material. Fans and even non fans love it and hail it as a classic. So naturally its something I would strongly recommend to a wide variety of people too. World renowned thief Arsene Lupin III and his gun slinging partner Daisuke Jigen have just successfully pulled off a massive heist at a casino. Their celebration is cut short though upon discovering the bills are counterfeit. Due to the near flawless execution of the bills Lupins curiosity is piqued and through their efforts they track their source to the small European country of Cagliostro. Upon arriving they come across the runaway bride Clarisse attempting to flee from her forced marriage to the wicked Count. One thrilling car chase later and Lupin has set his sights on rescuing Clarisse from her unfortunate situation and stopping the Count from obtaining the royal familys secret treasure. What awaits Lupin and friends is an adventure the likes of which they have never experienced before. This was not Miyazakis only experience with the Lupin franchise. He served as director on the first Lupin III TV series and directed two episodes of the second and when he became attached to the show he decided some changes needed to be made. He felt there was an apathetic way to the material that he wanted to remove and these changes carried over into Cagliostro as well. While the original Lupin drove a fancy car smoked expensive cigarettes was scheming and lecherous what Miyazaki presents is noticeably different. His Lupin is more upbeat drives that famous Fiat 500 that he even lives out of eats cheap food and is driven to help Clarisse out of selfless reasons. Monkey Punch himself would admit that while he enjoyed the movie this is not the same Lupin he created. The changes Miyazaki made also resulted in a less cynical Jigen a Fujiko who was not defined by her sex appeal and a more lighthearted take on Goemon. Due to these changes the film was met with some resistance upon its release. Many fans felt there were too many diversions from the original material and it did not perform especially well at the box office. That said in time fans would start to appreciate it to the point where Animage readers voted it the number one anime until it was outdone by Miyazakis next project Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Its understandable why some fans feel reluctant to see an adaptation of a manga they love do something different but I feel sometimes an adaptation making changes can produce great results. And Cagliostro is a prime example of someone coming into an anime making choices doing things the source material did not do and still having it come together and be something enjoyable and even inspire others. To call Cagliostro an influential film feels almost like an understatement. Its a film that had this impact that was felt not just within its own series but in other franchises too. It has been parodied and referenced within popular anime such as Gintama FLCL and Monogatari Series: Second Season to name a few. It would also be remiss of me if I didnt mention how Clarisse is often cited as the earliest example of moe as we know it. It was a big inspiration to Pixars John Lasseter and the film inspired other Western media such as The Great Mouse Detective and even an episode of Batman: the Animated Series. Not only that but its influence over later Lupin projects is still being felt as recently as 2018s Lupin III: Part V where the number of references and homages feel endless. While we would and still are getting installments in the franchise that follow a darker and more adult orientated nature it is hard for me to imagine if certain other versions would exist if not for this very film. Cagliostro is not just valuable to the Lupin franchise it also serves as a taste of what was to come in Miyazakis career. Many of the things we associate with his films were put to use in this film. Detailed character animation a charming female lead gorgeous backgrounds he even managed to work in his interest in aviation. During his time working on TV through the first Lupin series and shows like Future Boy Conan the elements he would find himself revisiting were present but this was the first time he placed all of it on a cinematic scale. And it works just wonderfully. The big screen is truly where Miyazaki belongs. By working in film hes been able to realize his concepts to their fullest potential. If Cagliostro were something produced for TV I doubt it would have turned out the same way. And nobody else could have made a film like this. Miyazaki really is an auteur and didnt just stop himself from just directing the movie. He also cowrote the script and did designs and storyboards this level of involvement is what gave the film such a distinct style and feeling. Some of the most iconic scenes and images from the franchise are within this film and Miyazaki deserves credit for pulling all of this off in a remarkable seven month production schedule. No matter what it seems that Cagliostro is a movie that will always manage to capture peoples imagination. It is forty years old at this point and it holds up incredibly well. The action is exciting and engaging the characters are fun to watch the music provided by the legendary Yuji Ohno is as fantastic as ever the seiyuu play their roles with the same vibrancy that they did in other installments it is the type of fun adventure movie that never gets old and is every bit a classic. Even though Miyazaki took liberties with the source material this still one of the best projects the Lupin franchise has to offer and what I would most recommend as a starting point to someone interested in trying it out. All of the elements that make Lupin so enjoyable are here and they are done with the artistic hand of one of the cinematic worlds most distinct individuals. His voice would continue on into so many beloved classics but I think it is important to go back and revisit the time when he was just a man making his cinematic debut. What youll find is an artists signature style taking shape and presenting a pop culture icon in a way nobody had done before.
100 /100
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