Today’s post in the Debuts Blogathon, hosted by myself and Three Rows Back, comes from Kim at Tranquil Dreams. Kim’s blog covers a wide variety of stuff, not just films, which makes it a really excellent, eclectic read. Here she’s tackling the legendary Hayao Miyazaki and his debut feature, Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro…
Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
Hayao Miyazaki`s debut Lupin the Third:The Castle of Cagliostro was the only movie that was not affiliated with Studio Ghibli however, it was good enough to get him involved with bigger project. The Castle of Cagliostro is about Lupin, a 3rd generation thief that encounters with his partner a pursuit of a girl that they end up saving and losing again. However, she leaves behind a ring with a goal symbol on it that Lupin recognizes associated with the Castle of Cagliostro and also the place is where it is rumored is the origin of the legendary goat bills which look as authentic (and even more) counterfeit as the real deal. They learn that the girl is actually Lady Clarisse who is to wed the evil count who wants to join the Cagliostro rings in order to reveal a secret. Lupin gathers his gang and decides to steal Clarisse from the evil count and free her.
The Castle of Caglistro is a very fun adventure movie. However, at times, it even jumps into the unrealistic territory. For an animation that really have nothing to do with magic, that becomes one that may hinder it in the beginning but as you grow used to it, the action and adventures that occur does successfully make it a purely entertaining experience.
The characters themselves with the dialogue are pretty good. Lupin is a hero, even though a thief, and also a good balance between comedic and being serious and at times, he even reminds me of the accidental stunt filled Jackie Chan style. While he has his partner that is the clueless but yet amazingly useful character and in the background we have some interesting additions to the gang as the movie progresses such as Fujiko, a female spy. She was definitely one of my favorite characters as a femme fatale role. Looking at the character of Lady Clarisse, she plays the damsel in distress that needs her hero to save her from being forced into a marriage to the very evil and selfish count. On terms of the count, he sounded a lot like a pedophile and for the most part, he had that really unappealing look that made up for his lacking evil character.
Looking at the animations that came afterwards directed by Hayao Miyazaki, there is definitely an improvement. For one, the animation itself lacked the beautiful details for Castle of Cagliostro in comparison of just his following work, Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind. In Nausicaa, we start feeling the life in the images more and as we get into My Neighbor Totoro, Miyazaki masters the art of animating nature. Once we get to his newer directing effort of Ponyo, he successfully brings the sea to life and animates the effects of a tsunami so well and so beautifully.
Second, his character design and development has also improved immensely. The characters in Castle of Caglistro were not very deep. In later works, especially coming of age stories (ex. Kiki’s Delivery Service), the characters started having more depth and developed into charming characters. Plus, he started adding in magical creatures, nature gods and goddesses, witches, wizards and evil spirits all add up to the magical feeling that each of this movies have, which also leads me to the next point.
Third, Castle of Cagliostro was possibly the only one where there was really no magic involved. As his career progressed, we see him use the unrealistic aspects in this first one but apply it to magical situations, which not only makes it believable but also turns it into a compelling experience. That contributes directly to how he changed his storytelling techniques (as he actually is the screenwriter for most of his films, if not all). If we just look at a few years later when he makes Castle in the Sky, we can see that it’s possibly one of the best stories he has done. More recently, he gives us the magical and very successful award-winning Spirited Away that pretty much made Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki known around the world. He almost always make this stories emotional, heart-wrenching, and with some message that he wants to show. That definitely is something his debut lacked.
I grew up with Hayao Miyazaki’s animation and even though I don’t own every single animation he’s done nor have I seen all of them, but spending the last few days rewatching his work (in order of release that I have) has fully convinced me that he has improved from the debut. Now he is a master at storytelling, produces some of the most beautiful animation and even uses some CGI as well to complement his work (ex. Princess Mononoke). He develops memorable characters. Every story he makes reveals a hidden message that touches the audience’s heart. As much as nostalgia plays a big part for me for his earlier works, he no doubt has really grown throughout the years as a screenwriter and a director.
As much as it sounds like I’m saying Castle of Cagliostro is lacking in comparison to his later works, it is in fact a fun and entertaining movie to watch. After all, it was good enough to get him his first movie with Studio Ghibli. That has to count for something, right?
Tomorrow you can read a piece by Alex at the excellent And So It Begins… on David Gordon Green’s George Washington. Don’t miss it!
Meanwhile, you can check out the rest of the entries in the Debuts Blogathon here.