Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro

An excellent film debut for one of Japan's most acclaimed animators

TITLE ルパン三世 カリオストロの城
DIRECTOR  Hayao Miyazaki
COMPANY  TMS Entertainment
YEAR 1979

REVIEW by Natalie Belton
RATING ★★★★ ½

Lupin the Third is one of Japan's most recognizable anime characters, but perhaps none of his outings is as acclaimed as The Castle of Cagliostro. Lupin, a gentleman thief, and his friend, Daisuke Jigen, rob a casino only to discover the money they have is counterfeit. It turns out the fake cash are 'goat bills' which hail from the tiny European country of Cagliostro. Soon after they arrive, they rescue a young girl being pursued by a gang of thugs, commencing an exhilarating car chase (reputably hailed by Steven Speilberg as the greatest chase scene in any film ever.) Although the girl is captured, she leaves Lupin her ring. It is later discovered the she is actually Lady Clarisse, the princess of Cagliostro who is being forcibly married to the power hungry Count of Cagliostro. Lupin becomes determined to save her. Along the way Lupin reunites with his old teammates Goeman, a swordsman, and Fujiko Mime, Lupin's on-and-off lover. The INTERPOL and Tokyo police officer, Koichi Zenigata, also become involved as Lupin tries to uncover the dark secret that is hidden in the castle of Cagliostro.

Although the plot may seem simple, it has many layers to it. Hayo Miyazaki and Isao Takahada both directed several of the episodes of the original Lupin the Third series from 1971. In the series, Lupin is far more immature and more of a playboy than he is in the movie. The Lupin in Cagliostro is more world weary and there are several slow moments in the film were he quietly contemplates over things. Clarisse offers him a chance to escape from his fast paced and dangerous lifestyle. But Lupin declines to go with her because thievery is the only lifestyle he knows. Aside from this serious note, however, Cagliostro is very much a Lupin the Third movie. It is very goofy and slapstick at times. There are many great sight gags and many fun scenes. It is easy to see why Steven Spielberg is a fan of this movie, at times it resembles Indian Jones crossed with James Bond.

Moments of quiet reflection...
....contrasted with daredevil defying stunts.

It is also interesting to compare Clarisse to Fujiko. Clarisse is very demure and polite. She is very kind and seemingly innocent about many things in the world. She is not as independent as Fujiko, but copes the best she can in her situation. Fujiko is the opposite of Clarisse. She is very assertive and loud spoken. She can be selfish. She often has Lupin wrapped around her little finger (although she does care for him). But like Lupin, Fujiko is portrayed differently here than she is in the series. She is still somewhat of a femme fatale, however she is more mature and even kind at times. (Fujiko also is portrayed with blonde hair here for some reason, and is far less voluptuous than she normally appears.)

Clarisse gently tending Lupin's wounds.
Fujiko about to break out of Clarisse's room.

The Castle of Cagliostro is a very entertaining film and quite possibly one of the best adventure films out there, animated or otherwise. There are many iconic scenes from this film (such as the clock tower fight which was referenced in Disney's The Great Mouse Detective and Batman: The Animated Series) and the film is not afraid to cover denser subjects as well (like Zenigata facing political repercussions when trying to let out the truth). The animation may be a bit dated in places and the soundtrack is distinctively '70s, but don't let that prevent you from seeing this funny and smart film.

 *About the English Dub: Currently, the only dub available right now is by Manga Entertainment. It is pretty loyal to the original Japanese script, although it is a little heavy on the cussing (but not too bad, PG - PG-13 level). The voice acting itself is also fairly good, particularly David Hayter who portrays Lupin. Zenigata's voice actor is a bit weaker, but still manages to be amusing. Unfortunately, Clarisse got the short end of the stick. She isn't terrible, but sometimes comes off as very weak and whiny. This is very obvious when you compare her English voice actor, Bridget Hoffman, to her original one, Sumi Shimamto.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR   Natalie Belton is currently a college student majoring in Anthropology and Geography with a passionate interest in culture, film, and art. Outside of writing for CDR, she also maintain her own animation and movie blog, The Animatorium.  For any questions, Natalie may be reached at