Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro
An interesting and well respected movie. It's got lots of interesting elements, being perhaps the best Lupin film and marking the maturation of Hayao Miyazaki. But, most importantly, it's a lot of fun.
But first some general information for those unfamiliar with Lupin. This series actually derives from some french novels (and an animation) about a devious gentleman thief. This idea was `borrowed' for anime, albeit not with complete copyright approval, leading to some variation in western titles. Although the anime version is actually the descendant of the original Lupin and is a bit more wild, and physical in his manner. Yet he still has a good heart, and ends up helping people more often than not. Along with his trusted (cough) companions he travels the globe searching for legendary treasures to `borrow'.
The gang are good fun in their own right. There's the suit wearing, laid back Jigen who's a master with every firearm. He seems to be with Lupin as much for the excitement as the financials, and is probably the most loyal (and balanced) companion. Especially when you consider that Goemon, the neo-samurai master swordsman has promised to kill Lupin one day. While the femme-fatale, but also a talented thief in her own right, Fujiko often has strange idea's about the distribution of the spoils. Mind you, Lupins most faithful companion is probably inspector Zenigata of Interpol (or other police organization) who has devoted his life and talents to catching Lupin. Which Lupin seems to regard as an entertaining and friendly rivalry. This could be because Zenigata has a strong sense of justice, and can often be convinced to look aside when Lupin is obviously working for what is `right'.
Be warned though, Lupin material, while having the same source, has been produced by many hands and in many formats. As a result they're highly variable in style and quality.
In this movie we get to join Lupin as he pulls off another daring caper, stealing (literally) a car full of money. Most people would be disappointed when the money turns out to be worthless counterfeit. But, to lupin, that just sounds like a challenge. In time the quest leads them to the source, the tiny (but politically independant) kingdom of Cagliostro. A kingdom firmly under control of the rather evil Count of Cagliostro. Well, almostly firmly, it seems the princess of the previous ruling family (who all died rather tragically) is being bothersome about her upcoming marriage to the count. While her attempt to escape is unsuccessful she certainly attracts Lupin's attention. While he likes money the chance the get involved in such a classic story is simply too much for his cavalier nature to resist. Mind you, it seems Lupin has deeper reasons for becoming involved. Likewise the Count seems to have a hidden desire himself, and given the nature of the man it's unlikely to involve a long and happy marriage to the young princess.
In other words the dial is firmly set on the `adventure' and action end of the dial. While Lupin might be up against the considerable might of the Count and his powerful forces he's got the moves, the gadgets and the allies to put up a sizable opposition to the count's dastardly plans. Although it could be said that the action is more `daredevil' and heroic level, which somewhat detracts from the pure believability. There's some very lucky co-incidences and superhuman moves, generally handled with good humor, required to keep Lupin alive. Mind you, once you adjust to this flavor of Lupin it all flows quite smoothly.
This is not the end of it however. The reason this movie is so good is because of the masterful pacing of the story and the rich sense of character. The story twists and turns delightfully, giving us new insights into the plans of the count, and the basis for Lupins interest, as well as the plight of the princess. There is time for Lupin to try various plans, to win some, to lose some, and to eventually reach a satisfying conclusion. This gives a rich complexity to the experience. And through this are the wonderful characters. All of the characters, although especially Lupin, have a strong sense of individuality and some wonderful lines and interactions. Even for characters who get a low number of lines, such as Fujiko and Goemon, there is a feeling of great complexity. And then there's all sorts of nice hints and nuances, Lupin's `romantic' side, Zenigata's honorable side and the impressive strength of the young princess...all are brought out with an incredibly deft touch. This is a movie you can watch time and time again for the sheer elegance and complexity of character, story and event wonderfully intertwined into a satisfying whole.
Such a strong film can surpass average animation quality...not that it needs too. While actually quite an old film this was clearly done on a cinematic budget by people who paid as much attention to the quality of the animation as they did to the story. The backgrounds and environment are wonderful, richly inventive and lushly detailed. The sense of strong design, the feel of `place' and the introduction of elements before they become important all give clear indication of a carefully crafted movie. The characters, while perhaps a bit stylised, look good and move well, through complex and inventive action sequences that cannot help but entertain. It's cool, it's competent, and it's a lot of fun to watch. I saw the dub, which was actually quite acceptable. The production is by the much derided Carl Macek though, so translation accuracy cannot be assumed. Likewise the music, while energetic and quite enjoyable, may not have been the original.
I've only found one review for this title, but since it's from THEM it is certainly sufficient. Suprise, they loved it. There's now a second review from the Anime Review which recommends it, especially in the new DVD release, as a required element of every collectors library.