Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro (1979)

Rating: B+

Dir: Hayao Miyazaki
Star (voice): Yasuo Yamada, Eiko Masuyama, Kiyoshi Kobayashi, Makio Inoue

“Breaking down an entire, huge building is a form of motivation. Such motivations is like the reaction to suppressed impulses. I don’t feel that I have to make films that are constructive, destructive films are fine by me, too, because it is natural to destroy a huge thing. But, the constraints of living in a suppressed society aside, I’m hoping to single out motivations for dreams, desires and hopes” — Hayao Miyazaki

[14/15] This film took only six months to make, from pre-production to completion. That’s fast, even by anime standards, and it’s lightning speed for Miyazaki, who habitually takes 12 to 18 months per movie. Given this, it’s remarkable that the quality of the end result is almost indistinguishable from Miyazaki’s other works.

The hero is Lupin III, a descendant of Arsene Lupin (a character created by French author Maurice Leblanc at the turn of the century). Like his ancestor, Lupin III is a gentleman thief of high intelligence, and high morals too – except with regard to other people’s valuables! He, together with sidekick Jigen, rob a casino only to discover the money is all counterfeit. They head to the principality where the forgeries are said to originate, only to find themselves rescuing a lady in a wedding dress; this soon leads them into deep mystery and high adventure.

This is a superbly entertaining piece of fluff. Comedy, as mentioned, is perhaps the area where animation can beats reality hands down, since there are no limits, and ‘Castle’ revels in the freedom. All the characters here are memorable: Fujiko, the freelancing female thief, Zenigata, the Interpol detective who’s life is dedicated to capturing Lupin but who ends up working with him, but above all, Lupin III, arguably the best male character in anime. If the maker of ‘Hudson Hawk’ had any sense, it might have ended up looking something like this.