If you think about Hayao Miyazaki usually his films made at Studio Ghibli come to mind, almost all of them timeless masterpieces of Japanese animation. However, few are aware of the growth path, the apprenticeship so to speak, of the Tokyo director in the 70s, a period where Miyazaki distinguished himself as an animator, director and screenwriter of works of exceptional value such as Conan The Boy of the Future. His directorial debut in an animated feature film dates back to those years. In 1979 Hayao Miyazaki writes and directs Lupine III: The Castle of Cagliostro, second film focused on the adventures of the famous character born from the pen of Monkey Punch. On the occasion of the arrival of the new home video edition by Yamato Video and Anime Factory, available in 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and DVD starting June 17, 2021, here is our review of a work that, more than forty years after its release, still represents one of the best stories featuring the legendary thief gentleman. An essential masterpiece for all fans of Lupine III and Miyazaki and more, finally available for purchase again.
- Original title: Rupan Sansei – Kariosutoro no shiro
- English title: Lupine III – The Castle of Cagliostro
- Japanese release: December 15, 1979
- Italian release: June 17, 2021
- Home video version: Anime Factory, Yamato Video
- Kind: adventure, action, comedy
- Duration: 100 minutes
- Animation studio: TMS Entertainment
- Tongue: Italian, Japanese with subtitles
We reviewed Lupine III – Il Castello di Cagliostro through the home video version provided free of charge by Anime Factory.
Set in the late 1960s, this adventure begins with Lupine III who runs away with his faithful companion Jigen aboard a Fiat 500 F, after having scored yet another blow against the Monte Carlo Casino. But soon the thief realizes that all the stolen money is the work of the “Goat”, A forger of excellent skill. The two then decide to investigate him and go in the Archduchy of Cagliostro (inspired by the actually existing Italian town of San Leo), its operational base. Arrived on the spot, Lupine and Jigen witness the car chase of a young girl by a group of criminals. After rushing to her aid in a somewhat daring way, the protagonists discover that the girl is in reality Clarisse, the sweet and beautiful Duchess of Cagliostro, betrothed against his will of the fearsome and wicked Count of Cagliostro.
These are the premises of a simple and straightforward story, in full compliance with the canons of the franchise, which still represents today, despite the years on his shoulders, one of the best animated iterations of the gentleman thief, indeed, the best ever when it comes to feature films. The reasons are many, but the most important is undoubtedly its incredible staff. Lupine III – The Castle of Cagliostro in fact, it was born from the union of a real team of Japanese animation legends, gathered at the animation studio TMS Entertainment (at the time still Tokyo Movie Shinsha): in addition to the aforementioned Miyazaki as director, it is worth remembering the contribution of the animation director and character designer Yasuo Otsuka, recently passed away, and the inevitable composer Yuji Ono, author of almost all the music of the anime of Lupine III starting with the famous main theme.
The result of the union of these extraordinary artists is an immortal work, a timeless film, fresh and enjoyable even today. Lupine III, represented here as a clumsy and gallant hero unlike the more cynical and ruthless character of the manga (an aspect that attracted numerous criticisms at the time from the purists), is once again the protagonist of a fun adventure, without frills and full of action, in perfect balance between drama and comedy. In addition to the protagonist, also i secondary characters they manage to make their mark in spite of a fairly small screen presence. In addition to the other members of the gang and Inspector Zenigata, always hilarious in his interactions with Lupine, it is impossible not to mention the new entries of the film: Poor Clares, despite the inevitable adherence to the canons of the typical princess to save, has some traits that seem to anticipate those of the future Miyazakh heroines (it is inevitable then to note the extreme similarity of her features with those of Nausicaa); while the Count of Cagliostro is a villain who, despite his basic characterization, is detestable and convincing at the right point.
Turning to the technical side, The Castle of Cagliostro it is a real marvel and it could easily enter textbooks as a testimony of how an animated work is made in an exemplary way. The only one car chase sequence in the opening minutes, made by the famous animator Kazuhide Tomonaga, the vision alone is worthwhile, but in general the whole film is a continuous orgy (forgive me for the vulgar term, but I can’t help it) of visually flawless sequences made in traditional technique which, in the eyes of the modern spectator, acquire even more value. All admirable in high definition, even in 4K, and with the original colors thanks to the restored version present within the home video edition subject of this review.
Edition that you can buy in three different formats – DVD, Blu-Ray and 4K UHD – and which comes with the typical packaging of many Anime Factory publications (amaray + cardboard packaging). Inside the case we find the disc, or discs in the case of the 4K edition which also includes the standard Blu-Ray, and a postcard depicting the original Japanese poster of the film. As for the technical data, the edition includes audio in Italian and Japanese, both in the Master DTS-HD 5.1 version, and Italian subtitles by Francesco Nicodemo. The Italian dubbing present is that of 2007, made on the occasion of the first distribution of the feature film in Italian cinemas, which sees the late Roberto Del Giudice in the role of Lupine III. The extras inside the disc, finally, include the opening theme, the original trailer, a gallery of preparatory drawings and credits from the staff. In conclusion, an overall more than good edition but which could have been even better in terms of contents, especially for the 50th anniversary of the first animated series.
Looting the Monte Carlo casino or stealing the heart of a beautiful woman? There is no impossible future for Lupine III, thief, gentleman, casanova and master of disguises. This time Lupine is the faithful Jigen have tracked down the source of the counterfeit banknotes that are bringing the world economy to its knees: the small country of Cagliostro, ruled by the homonymous count. Within the stone walls of his castle, the count keeps the beautiful princess imprisoned Poor Clares, who knows the key to an unimaginable treasure. And where Lupine is with his friends, they are not far either Fujiko neither Zenigata. Lupine wants to free the girl, punish the wicked and of course take the treasure. Will all the forces of Interpol, a gang of saber-nailed ninjas and an international conspiracy be enough to stop him?
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the original Lupine III animated series, for the first time in 4K UHD format with new video masters, the film that crossed the fate of two legends: Lupine III and the future Oscar winner Hayao Miyazaki, here at his first film direction, for one of the most famous animated films of all time.
An essential masterpiece
It is difficult to say something new about a work so celebrated and fundamental for the artistic career of an absolute genius of Japanese animation, and for the medium in general. Lupine III – The Castle of Cagliostro, more than forty years after its release, today more than ever is confirmed as an authentic masterpiece, an essential vision for any enthusiast and a product in which we can find in seminal form some themes and artistic choices that will become the future trademarks of Hayao Miyazaki’s career. And it does not matter if the characterization of the protagonist is clearly detached from the original work of Monkey Punch, since this change works wonders. Now that the film is available again for the home video market, thanks to the edition of Anime Factory, perhaps a little poor in content, if you consider yourself a true animation enthusiast you no longer have any valid reason not to buy a milestone of Japanese pop culture.
Run to buy it now