In 1979, Hayao Miyazaki made his first movie, The Castle of Cagliostro. He had previously co-directed 6 episodes of the anime series based around the character Lupin III, a world renowned master thief. The Castle of Cagliostro is the most well-known Lupin III film (and there are many), but the least well-known Miyazaki film. It was probably forgotten due to Miyazaki always being associated with Studio Ghibli, and as this film was not a Ghibli picture, it most likely got lost in a sea of astounding films that Miyazaki would produce. The result of this is less astounding and more disappointing.
Lupin III and his friend Daisuke Jigen rob a big casino. After a chase, Lupin realises that the money is fake. When Jigen asks how, Lupin explains that the money they stole was in fact ˜goat’ money “ the best counterfeits in the world. Lupin recognizes them from his early days as a thief and the two decide to set off for their rumoured source, the Grand Duchy of Cagliostro. Once there, they rescue a young woman in a white dress from several armed assailants. Clueless as to what is going on, Lupin and Jigen start to investigate and discover an ancient conspiracy going back hundreds of years, and involving the evil Count Cagliostro.
One of the main things about Miyazaki’s movies that most people recognize is the fantastic animation. Films like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, or Nausicaa Valley of the Wind are known for being utterly beautiful looking films. This, however, was maybe good in 1979, but has not dated all that well. Much as the effects in the first Harry Potter film look horrendous now, they were state of the art back then. Some films like the original King Kong have effects that, while dated, are timeless. You still can enjoy them. This animation is reminiscent of the poorly-animated 60s cartoon. It feels like there is some really great looking stuff here waiting to come out, but nothing ever shines like they do in other Miyazaki movies. It doesn’t seem all that colourful or nice-looking.
While I know this isn’t the film’s fault, the actual character of Lupin III is not very likeable. He attempts to hustle women, betrays and lies to his friends, and, apart from being very smart, is not much like an actual thief. He’s actually scared of getting hurt and is kind of a wimp. He’s supposed to be likeable in his quirkiness, but he just comes of as a bit of a jerk. There are good things about the film, however. The ending is very intense and will leave you hanging on the edge of your seat. Same with a lot of the action scenes. Miyazaki isn’t normally very action-centric in his work, but the action that is in the film is very well put together and will make you grab the sofa arm pretty hard.
Overall, however, The Castle of Cagliostro is rather disappointing. I suppose it’s a case of the first often being the worst, and of the ten movies Miyazaki directed, this is undoubtedly the worst. The main character is very unlike-able, and the animation is fairly basic looking. The villain has little to no personality, and the story is only mildly interesting.