Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro Review
Lupin III (originally created by 'Monkeypunch') is a very popular manga/anime series, which has stemmed several television series and movies. Hayao Miyazaki and his partner Isao Takahata had already co-directed several episodes of the television series when Miyazaki was asked to co-write, storyboard and direct the next Lupin III movie - Castle of Cagliostro. The result was Miyazaki's first feature length theatrical release on December 15th 1979, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Even though Miyazaki had to work within the confines of a pre-defined set of characters and relationships, he still managed to make this movie his own. Lupin, the charismatic master thief and his sidekick Jigen (who cares for his hat in much the same way Indiana Jones does!) go in pursuit of a master counterfeit operation (after stealing hordes of the counterfeited money by mistake) only to end up saving the girl, being chased by long term nemesis Inspector Zenigata and of course discovering a lost treasure! Without even seeing the original television series the history and style of the series and the past relationships between the characters is obvious thanks to what can only be put down to masterful storytelling. There is also a tremendous sense of humour throughout the film that only adds to the already well-paced story and superbly realised (and fun) action sequences.
I have only seen one other Lupin III feature (The Secret of Mamo) and can safely say that Cagliostro is overall a far better film. Whilst it is not quite as funny as Mamo, Miyazaki has crafted a far better film which retains its appeal after repeated viewings due to the superb characterisation of the main characters (Lupin, Jigen and Clarisse) rather than attempting to give the entire Lupin cast equal screen time (and thus reducing their overall development throughout the movie). That is not to say that anyone is missing, you could not have a Lupin movie without the mysterious Goemon or the overzealous Inspector Zenigata!
The information and ratings on this page all relate to the R2 release but I have also looked at the R1 release from Manga Entertainment and have made comparisons between the two.
R2 - The image present on this DVD is nothing short of exceptional. In fact, the only way you could tell this film was not made within the last 5 years is the animation style. For a film made in 1979 the print is remarkably clean, there is the occasional white speckle here and there but otherwise it is simply perfect. Colours are bold and look superb; blacks are just that - black! and the detail present really highlights some of the gorgeous background artwork. Topping this all off with anamorphic enhancement (which helps the picture quality no end) means this is the best Cagliostro has ever looked.
R1 - Whilst the picture found on the R1 (which is Non-Anamorphic NTSC) really does not compare to the R2, that does not mean it is a bad picture (far from it actually). It is however far softer in appearance with muted colours, the print is not quite as clean and the lack of anamorphic enhancement does not help any of these issues.
R2 - There are two versions of the original Japanese Language track present on this disc. The first is the original mono soundtrack, which is very clear and well presented. The second version is a slightly remixed Japanese soundtrack that is presented in Stereo. The only real benefit to this is that the music was better projected than on the mono track, otherwise I couldn't really detect a great deal of difference between the two.
The third language track present is the original English dub that was created by Streamline studios and is presented just as well as the two Japanese language tracks. It is worth noting that this is a different English dub (both in translation and voice cast) to the one present on the R1 Manga disc.
As ever, I prefer the Japanese track as it has the obvious edge of a better voice cast who understand the material far better than the western voice actors do. What I must point out though is that the English voice cast is actually very well chosen and the characterisation is surprisingly good - unfortunately the translation is not! Well, actually for most of the film it is not 'that' bad, but, and its a big but, there is an inane amount of extra dialogue added which not only gives away several plot points before their time but also ruins the understanding that the characters (especially Lupin and Jigen) have during the frequent silent pauses. This is a real shame, as the English voice actors really seem to understand their characters (for a change) and if it wasn't for this extra dialogue (and the poor translation in parts) this could have been a standout English dub.
R1 - Available on this disc is both a DD2.0 version of the Japanese Language track (which is not quite as clear as the one found on the R2 release) and a newly recorded English Dub that is also presented in DD2.0. Unfortunately I was never able to listen to this dub as I was so used to the original English dub (that is how I first saw this movie many years ago) that I found it too strange! What I can tell you is that this dub is well known to contain a far better translation that does not have the added dialogue present in the English dub found on the R2 release. This English dub is generally considered to be well cast and generally better than the original English dub (as found on the R2).
R2 - With the option between Japanese and English subtitle tracks the obvious choice would be the English track, or would it? Well, yes it would, but unfortunately we are presented with a pure 'dubtitle' - meaning the subtitles seen here are the same as the English dub script (read the sound section to see why this is bad) rather than a literal translation. Watching the film in its original Japanese Language with English subtitles is probably worse than watching the English dub, as the extra dialogue is even more obvious and irritating (as there are subtitles but no voices!).
R1 - This is the one area where the R1 disc beats the R2 hands down. The English Subtitle track here is superb. It is a correct literal translation of the Japanese Language, and therefore maintains the subtleties found in the original script and never adds to it. The only real disappointment is that if you choose to zoom the image on a widescreen TV (due to lack of anamorphic enhancement) you'll lose some of the subs!
R2 - A 2nd disc contains all of the extra features - the biggest of these is a multi-angle presentation of the film (Japanese Audio only with no subtitle tracks), Angle 1 contains the film whilst Angle 2 contains the complete storyboards! This really is an excellent feature that is superbly presented and will no doubt satisfy fans, but is also a must for budding artists/animators as you get to see how one of the masters of Japanese animation creates his films. The other extras are all trailers, first up are the original trailers for Castle of Cagliostro that are worth viewing to see just how good a job has been done on the DVDs picture and sound. Secondly we get the trailer for what now looks like Miyazaki's final feature length film, Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakuhsi). Finally there is a Studio Ghibli DVD Collection trailer, which showcases Kiki's Delivery Service and Sherlock Hound.
This 2 disc set is presented in a white slimline double armaray case. The artwork on both the sleeve and discs also deserves a nod, as it is really very striking and far better than the dire artwork that Manga chose for the R1. As you would expect all text on both the case and the insert is Japanese.
R1 - Nada, nothing, zip. Well, actually there are some trailers for other Manga features, but to not even contain the original theatrical trailer for Cagliostro is quite poor. Also the cover artwork is awful.
The film is a triumph, Miyazaki's first, whilst not his best, is still a must have for any anime fan. Unfortunately the R2 DVD cannot receive the same recommendation as whilst the picture and sound are exemplary the English Dub/Subtitle situation creates a problem. For the average collector and first time viewer I would point you towards the reasonable R1 release from Manga which makes up for its picture and extras shortcomings by presenting the films dialogue correctly. But for the serious collector I believe the R2 wins out due to the superior picture, sound and extras. After all, you could always learn Japanese!