Netflixing: Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro

in movies •  last year 

One of the hardest things to pull off, in any medium, is to tell a story with genuine heart.

It's so rare, in fact, that if you can do it, it's usually enough. People will overlook everything else if you cause them to sincerely feel something.

But it's also so rare, in fact, that most attempts to accomplish it fail in horrific/hilarious ways.

"Give me an Oscar plea...ea...ea...eaaaaase!"

And these backfires never fail to humiliate the poor fools who made the attempt. So, as a way of side-stepping the issue, a lot of writers, filmmakers, showrunners, and other creatives will simply drop the ball. A lot of characters end up being joyless portrayals, devoid of expression. Others will deflect emotion by being incredibly sarcastic and disingenuous.

A lot of directors have lived out their entire careers this way, giving their audiences nary a feeling at all.

And then you have someone like Hayao Miyazaki.

Where Artsy Meets Fartsy

Miyazaki is so adept at creating genuine emotion that people are quick to pronounce him a genius, while overlooking his many flaws, including:

  • His films often lack a central conflict or cohesive plot.
  • His characters are often unsympathetic, bratty children or amoral and uncharitable adults.
  • Any conflicts that do arise are usually remedied through last minute Deus ex Machina.
  • Lingering questions---large questions about the nature of the world portrayed or the ultimate fates of certain characters---are often left unaddressed.
  • Many of his "villains" are prone to inexplicable, last-minute changes of heart (once again brought about through Deus ex Machina). These turn-on-a-dime character changes go unaddressed even by the other characters.
  • The protagonists are often passive characters who do little to influence the direction of the story.
  • His films have an arthouse sensibility that moves them away from being stories and closer to being just a series of images.
And these issues have become more pronounced with each successive film. It is a sad pattern, if we follow it forward in time.

But what is to stop us from going the opposite direction? If we instead begin at the present and work our way backward, we find that Miyazaki's films retain the same level of heart, yet lose the many accumulated flaws. So then, what if we go all the way back to the beginning?

Just what was Hayao Miyazaki's first motion picture, again?

The Legend of Lupin the 3rd

Once upon a time in the early 1900s, mystery novels began to become popular. And while the English-speaking world had its Sherlock Holmes, a more anti-heroic protagonist was making his debut in French.

Arsene Lupin was a criminal garbed in the uniform of high society. He became the archetype of the gentleman thief which would be reused and reappropriated in crime and spy literature down to the present day. And while he was largely forgotten in some territories, he remained somewhat popular in Japan. Enough so that in the 1960s, a manga was published detailing the adventures of a supposed grandson of Arsene Lupin.

Thus Lupin III was born. And he was adapted into a number of other media, including both live action and animated cinema. There are a number of Lupin movies that you could compare. But why bother? Because The Castle of Cagliostro is undeniably the best.

A Warning about Translations

I should let you know, up front, that I was familiar with this movie long before it came to Netflix, or, indeed, before Netflix existed.

The version I am most familiar with is the DVD put out by Anchor Bay and Manga Video, which is notable for having a cover quote from Steven Spielberg calling it "...One of the Greatest Adventure Movies of All Time"

Which is an accurate assessment. But it's obvious that this is not the version that is available on Netflix. I believe that Netflix may have its hands on an older version, and I find its translation to be the less sterling of the two.

However, the Netflix version is superior in one way: it has the unaltered opening sequence, with full animation. My DVD freezes the animated scenes in the opening sequence, changing them into a series of still shots (this is done so that the opening credits can be fully translated into English). It's an unnecessary change that robs the movie of a few minutes of gorgeous animation.

I should also warn you that I have only watched the Netflix version with subtitles, and cannot vouch for the English dub.

With that out of the way, let's dive into the movie itself.

Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro

What is Hayao Miyazaki like when he brings his heartstring plucking skills out of the arthouse realm and solidly into an action movie?

Pretty freakin' explosive.

After a stunt-filled opening sequence where Lupin and his sidekick/marksman/mechanic Jigen rob the casino royale in Monaco, the pair decide to cast away their entire haul when they discover the money is counterfeit.

Why throw away money if it's convincing enough to even fool a major casino, you may ask? Because Lupin is now more interested in robbing the people who created the counterfeit bills in the first place, as they are by far the bigger target.

But he may have bitten off more than he can chew, because these counterfeits are the legendary Goat Bills ("Gothic Bills" in the Netflix translation), manufactured in the secretive European country of Cagliostro. Once ruled by a noble Duke, his mysterious passing has left control of the country in the hands of his cousin, the imperious Count of Cagliostro.

Who keeps his money-printing operation safely ensconced in the middle of an enormous castle equipped with security measures both ancient and modern. With a dungeon. And trapdoors. And turret guns. And ninjas. And lasers.

But having the ability to print literally infinite money is not enough for this mad count. Because there is an ancient legend of a treasure hidden somewhere within the borders of Cagliostro---a treasure that will only be revealed when the two ruling houses of the land are united. To this end, the count seeks to wed the daughter of his late cousin, the young and beautiful duchess Clarisse.

In an unusual move for the master thief, Lupin decides to rescue Clarisse, though his motivations are mysterious. It's true that he has a hard time letting down a pretty face, but even Jigen can tell that there is something different at play here.

Lupin publicly lets the count know that he plans to steal Clarisse, which prompts Interpol agent (and longtime Lupin nemesis) Inspector Zenigata to arrive in Cagliostro.

Now having to hide his counterfeiting operation from both Lupin and Interpol, the count may be ready to try something truly desperate.

The Action

I'll say it again: the action is explosive:

This is a story of a master thief sneaking into a booby-trapped super-castle. And whenever there isn't an absolutely insane car chase going on, there's usually an insane "sneaking around" scene going on.

They work in just enough slow moments to keep the movie balanced, and there are, thankfully, a few places where the audience can catch its breath.

And then another huge and impossibly choreographed fight scene happens.

The tight structure of this movie ensures that there is never a dull moment, and the way it ratchets up the tension is delicious to take in. Every escape is always by the skin of the characters' teeth and every fight is always in the middle of some elaborate death trap.

That it manages to be so over-the-top without coming completely apart would be miraculous on its own. But, as with all of Miyazaki's films, it blossoms with so much genuine emotion that it keeps you invested in the action. No matter how elaborate the action gets, it never becomes completely ridiculous because, when it comes down to it, you actually care about whether the characters make it out of the current fight. When they are in danger, you feel it, and that is what allows the story to go to such extremes with its action without becoming boring.

The resulting ride is one where you feel all the ups and downs, and it is fantastic.

My Judgment

There are a few movies that I have, at one time or another, called my absolute favorite. The Lego Movie is one of them. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is another. But the first one to ever hold that honor, and perhaps the last one as well, is The Castle of Cagliostro.

If nothing else, it is the best action movie ever made. Period.

It is also one of the best animated movies ever made. And certainly one of Hayao Miyazaki's finest. That so few people outside of Japan are familiar with it is nothing short of a collective sin borne by humanity.

You will likely not find a better movie on Netflix, though you should search high and low from here to the end of your days. I cannot praise it enough. And you can say nothing to convince me otherwise.

Add it to your queue and watch it at the earliest possible opportunity. Do not indulge in any other Netflix offerings until you know what this film is. Once you do, you will understand why.

Previous entries in the Netflixing series:

Past Years

TV Shows

  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 5
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
  • The Joel McHale Show, with Joel McHale
  • John Mulaney: The Comeback Kid
  • The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Season 4
  • Trollhunters, Season 3
  • Aggretsuko
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 4
  • Trollhunters
  • Round Planet
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 3
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events, Season 2
  • Kakegurui
  • Planet Earth II
  • Fullmetal Alchemist
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 2
  • Revolting Rhymes
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 1
  • The Polka King
  • Little Witch Academia
  • Movies

  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • Mary and the Witch's Flower
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
  • Coco
  • The Iron Giant
  • Jaws
  • Phantom Boy
  • The Boss Baby
  • Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
  • Strictly Ballroom
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    Just after reading the judgement you provided, yeah I will definitely watch this movie! Great review and thank you very much for sharing!


    This is honestly one of my favourite movies I've ever watched, it just gives me this warm fuzzy feeling of ADVENTURE and ACTION and FUN, I wish there were more of this adventure movies with a lot of heart and passion put into them.

    While I disagree with the level that you scrutinize the story (Lupin is most definitely not the series to take overly seriously or practically on the narrative front), and I think that you (like many others) over-exaggerate the differences in the characters in Miyazaki's interpretation of Lupin (and since you say you haven't seen the original series, I'm guessing you just lifted a lot of these observations from other hardcore fans of the series who feel the same way), it's still a solid review of the film, and I HAVE been waiting for some bigger anime youtubers to finally talk about this wonderful series

    I'm not an anime youtuber. And this comment was obviously lifted from a youtube comments section.

    This is a really cool movie. I actually have a kinda neat personal anecdote about it, too. My stepmom is Italian, from Sicily, and while many do not know this, anime has been popular there as children's TV programming since the late '70s, long before it got huge in the States. As a result, she quite likes Miyazaki and has seen several old-ish anime, like the Rose of Versailles, Mazinger, and... Lupin III. I, being a massive weeb, was watching this movie on my phone one evening. I walked downstairs to get a snack, and ran into my stepmom, who asked me what I was doing. I said that I was watching some old, less popular Miyazaki film. When she inquired what it was about. I explained the plot so far to her, mentioning that it was part of Lupin III. She was pretty excited, and talked about how it was one of her favorite shows when she was a kid. She said that her strongest memory, though, was a very special, long episode that involved a lake draining to reveal beautiful ruins hidden underneath.

    It's a fantastic scene.

    As someone who has seen a TON of the Lupin franchise and started with this film, pretty much all of Lupin stands on it's own start from any of the movies or TV series at ep1 and it's pretty much self contained and a great time.

      ·  last year (edited)

    Its so funny because shounen often has these elements and no one tries to justify them. They become the butt of anime jokes, yet tie Hayao Miyazaki's name to a movie that does this stuff, the people eat it up like dogs.

    This reviews kinda confusing as you say your not familiar with Lupins manga & anime, yet you question the characters of Lupin: such as Fujiko being able to infiltrate Cagliostros estate Shes, a spy. A legendary theif who goes undercover all the time.Or the music, which was provided by the Lupin composer himself, not a Ghibli composer. But these are minor nit picks. Love the review

    I mentioned neither Fujiko nor the music.

    Great review as always

    @talanhorne - Sir I didn't know about this cartoon movie until I read this article... Sir you said, it's worthy to watch it... I'll do... Nice you decided to share your experience Sir... God bless you...


    @talanhorne, Excellent review of The Castle of Cagliostro under named Netflix series. This would be a perfect anime movie to me. There are so many attractive characters. Great selection this time.

    lol you pounded viciously Mr. Hayao Miyazaki for his flaws. Maybe if he didn’t have his flaws, the Castle of Cagliostro wouldn’t come out as one of your favorite movies and his finest. Great review and I’m really glad you have a positive review after few not so much in your recent past.

    No matter how elaborate the action gets, it never becomes completely ridiculous...

    I know you well enough to know that this is one of your most important things you are looking for in a good movie, series or films.
    Well done @talanhorne!

    A wonderful film @talanhorne and it's definitely worth a look to everyone, since the The Castle of Cagliostro is one of the best animated films!

    It is also one of the best animated movies ever made.

    Yeah Agree with you after read your whole description. I don't know how you describe nicely there. So I have happened to watch this one.

    One of the hardest things to pull off, in any medium, is to tell a story with genuine heart.

    Nicely written and I agree! Of course its alway great to have an honest critics as you are and perhaps Hayao Miyazaki may read your post one day and take it to his heart. At the end Hayao Miyazaki at his best didn’t disappoint you and could get even better. I’m glad The Castle of Cagliostro is one of your best action animated Netflix films.

    Great experience for the animation lovers. Techniques probably old. Probably latest. Better explain @talanhorne.

    impressive movie review & nice post @talanhorne

    reteemed & upvoted

    Excellent movie review & based on your judegement, it's good to watch this anime film. Thank you for the effort of writing.

    Everything indeed awesome animation movie review. I like completely whole movie. Most of story tales included here. I love it.

    Congratulations @talanhorne
    Now you are in the MinnowsPower Loyalty Member List...!!!

    Exceptional movie review & excellent writing...!!!

    100% Upvoted by @MinnowsPower

    Hello @talanhorne,

    Extraordinary good Netflixing movie review & incredible writing. Professional judgment provided at the end of the article.


    Looks like a pretty decent movie but the animation looks kinda old.

    Don't be fooled by the grainy colors. This is some of the best animation you will ever see.

    Cool movie.
    I love anime

    Well this might turn out to be my new favourite just got the perfect way to spend my weekend :D

    This is great article. very interesting Netflixing movie and really good think.
    have a nice day

    That is professional article & . so great excellent writing experience.
    Thanks @talanhorne
    100% like and resteem

    Excellent review, my friend and The Castle of Cagliostro is a very interesting film that is worth watching with pleasure and the animation in it is excellent! Thank you @talanhorne

    sir wonderful writing .your good ideas and writing have been fulfilled.
    This is great post and good advice.

    Great review& moveies .. good Luke
    Thanks for this awesome details

    Really sir your writing is very good and i love your writing very mush. Wonderful review of The Castle of Cagliostro under named Netflix series. Thank you very much for sharing with us

    I was so far with movies for a long years.But I love some movie like PK .

    I wanna translate some of these movies because of your review.

    Hello sir your are a great writer that why I love your blogs...
    Keep it up....

    One of the best movie. Your teviews are excelent about The Castle of Cagliostro. This caper film possesses Miyazaki's usual good-hearted charm, but he injects a manically energetic humor that his more sedate children's films never quite achieve. Wolf is a clever thief with a knack for getting into trouble

    Wow nice movies and great post.thanks for sharing
    Thank you @talanhorne
    Upvote Resteem

    Great and amazing Netflix movie review. When master thief Lupin III (Yasuo Yamada) discovers that the money he robbed from a casino is counterfeit, he goes to Cagliostro, rumored to be the source of the forgery. There he discovers a beautiful princess, Clarisse (Sumi Shimamoto), who is being forced to marry the count. I really loved this movie @talanhorne sir.

    Thanks for sharing this post. 🤗💚💙

    A brilliant review & excellent description added to the review the film. Well written & outstanding. Thank you.

    But the first one to ever hold that honor, and perhaps the last one as well, is The Castle of Cagliostro.

    A positive feed back & a good information to all animation movie lovers.

    Wao such a wonderful movie...i will watch Amazing funny....very great article...really good thing...thanks for sharing....dear...i like it very much...

    A wonderful review and completely agree with you, my friend, that the Moonrise Kingdom deserves our attention and a very good film to watch! Thank you @talanhorne

    Wow nice movies and great post.thanks for sharing
    Thank you @talanhorne
    Upvote Resteem

    That is professional & Excellent writing . so great experience.
    100% like and resteem

    This is amazing series sir,your netflix stories are always amazing i will surely watch it,thanks for sharing @talanhorne.

    awesome movie

    I Always love these cartoons from you,Thank you @talanhorne.

    Amazing post &Excellent writing. @talanhorne thank you.
    For your post propagation.

    Awesome work from you sir i am a great fan of yours.

    Lupin Looks like amazing series sir,thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I'm gonna watch it i liked your review so i want to try it :). Regards

    This is great post. very interesting Netflixing movie and really good think.
    have a great day

    I love passion added with adventure and this particular selection by you is the best one i think and loved it.