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Lupin III is a gentleman thief,
Who’s known for his heists and his charm.
He robs a casino but gets away clean,
Even after he prompts the alarm.
But soon he realizes the bills are all fake,
And so he decides to explore
The source of these infamous “goat bills” he found,
Which he, as a thief, can’t ignore.
The tiny Grand Duchy of Cagliostro
Is where Lupin heads with a pal.
They soon see a girl being chased in a car
And follow the thug-pursued gal.
They save her from gun-toting goons and a cliff,
But still she is kidnapped away.
They go to a castle that Lupin remembers
And locate a place they can stay.
The girl was Clarisse, the small country’s princess,
Who is scheduled to marry a count.
She met and helped Lupin a few years ago,
A story he’s loath to recount.
The count needs her ring, which she gave to Lupin,
So he sends out his own ninja squad.
The duo escape and then plan their break-in
Of his castle that’s sure to hold fraud.
The brusque Zenigata, who’s with Interpol
And who’s vowed to catch Lupin one day,
Is lured by the thief to the danger-filled castle.
It’s a game Lupin knows how to play.
He uses his foe as a way to get in,
Though the agent falls through a trap door.
Then, climbing the roof, Lupin gets to the tower,
Which no one has managed before.
He woos sweet Clarisse, who is scared to escape
(With good reason); the Count soon arrives.
He drops the thief into a fathomless pit,
But the capable Lupin survives.
He meets Zenigata deep down in the crypt,
Where snoopers like them lie in piles.
Agreeing to peace till they both can get out,
They outsmart the Count and his wiles.
They find the Count’s presses for printing fake cash,
Intended for Beijing to Cairo.
With guards on their heels, they escape from their jail,
Abducting the Count’s autogyro.
Assisted by Fujiko, Lupin’s ex-lover,
They hover to rescue Clarisse.
Though Lupin is shot by the Count and his men,
The good guys get out in one piece.
Count still has Clarisse, so, as Lupin recovers,
He plans how to get her released.
His friends crash the wedding (which is televised),
While Lupin’s disguised as the priest.
In all of the chaos and strife, Zenigata
Goes in so the whole world can see.
He shows off the bills and the counterfeit presses,
Exposing the Count on TV.
But Count Cagliostro is busy with Lupin,
Who’s fleeing the scene with Clarisse.
He chases them into a giant clock tower
And bars any chance of release.
At last, with them cornered, the Count gets the ring,
As to the clock face he clings.
He causes the duo to plunge in the lake
And finds the secret of the rings.
His actions start draining the lake down below
And move the clock’s hands till he’s crushed.
An old Roman ruin is slowly revealed
As most of the water is flushed.
This treasure’s too precious (and massive) to steal,
And Lupin will need a headstart;
The thief bids the lovely Clarisse an adieu,
Stealing only the princess’s heart.

The Castle of Cagliostro has the distinction of being the first feature film directed by famed anime master Hayao Miyazaki, several years before he even founded Studio Ghibli. His talent is evident in the interesting characters, exciting action scenes, and detailed plot. The animation is solid, with some of his artistry showing in the natural scenes and the mountainous backdrops, though some scenes are inconsistent as far as quality. I mainly appreciate Miyazaki’s reimagining of these characters, who are based off a Japanese manga series which was inspired by Maurice LeBlanc’s French literary character Arsene Lupin (the French equivalent of Britain’s Sherlock Holmes). From what I’ve read, the usual depiction of Lupin III was as a less sympathetic lecher, and the other characters tended to be less likable as well. While Miyazaki’s revisionism for this film was not universally well-received, he did a good thing in my book, downplaying the negative qualities of the characters.

While common physics sometimes takes a backseat for the action, the exciting scenes are vastly entertaining, like the movie as a whole. Lupin’s injury midway through helps to ground the story in some semblance of real-world danger, even if he does recover unusually fast.

The film is also a showcase of Miyazaki’s influence on other animation. The fight amid the clock tower’s inner gears and the final showdown on its face was clearly borrowed by Disney for the end of The Great Mouse Detective a few years later, and the end scene with the draining water revealing a lost city was an admitted influence on a similar scene in Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

The most recent dub that I saw is quite good, but with one big caveat: the language. The film is almost family appropriate by itself, but whoever translated the dialogue apparently felt they had to add in profanity for some reason. This bugs me to no end, since the obscenities add nothing and could easily be removed. Language aside though, the film is a classic in the James Bond style and one of Miyazaki’s most entertaining movies.  (No best line, sorry.)

Artistry: 6
Characters/Actors: 7
Entertainment: 9
Visual Effects: 5
Originality: 7
Watchability: 6
Other (language): -9 (it’s worse because it’s almost a family film otherwise)
TOTAL: 31 out of 60

Tomorrow: #303: Stuart Little

© 2014 S. G. Liput