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Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

13 min read

Castle of Cagliostro blu-rayBELIEVE IN THE THIEF

What They Say:
In their latest big haul, master cat burglar Lupin The Third and his partner-in-crime Jigen discover the wads of cash they swiped are all counterfeit. To find the source of the bills, the duo journey to the remote European nation of Cagliostro. There, they encounter Clarise, a royal damsel in distress arranged to marry the sinister Count Caglisotro against her will. With femme fatale Fujiko and the master swordsman Goemon joining the ride, can the humble thief rescue the girl, evade the cuffs of his nemesis Inspector Zeningata, and uncover the secret treasures of The Castle of Cagliostro?

The Review:
Audio:
There are six audio tracks present here including the original Japanese track in mono, as well as in 5.1 surround sound. We also get the 1992 English audio track produced by Streamline Pictures in mono, the 2000 English dub done by Manga Entertainment in stereo, a family friendly version of the Manga dub, and finally a commentary track hosted by Reed Nelson of lupinthethird.com, who’s pretty darned competent doling out info.

It’s interesting to hear how these tracks vary a bit. Both the English dubs are decently acted. The Streamline Pictures dub directed by the late Carl Macek had the usual actors you would hear in their Akira and Robotech dubs, anchored with some perfectly goofy voicework from Bob Bergen as Lupin himself. A couple things are a bit off though in that Lupin himself is referred to as The Wolf because there was a legal with the estate of Maurice Leblanc, creator of the original Arsene Lupin character Lupin III is derived from (see below for more). This is understandable, given the issue. However, the script is written so that his partner Jigen refers to Lupin as his “Boss” which, never quite rings true given their association, as they’ve always acted more like partners than employer / subordinate. Also, the mixing is a bit different from the others in that dialogue and music tend to be higher than foley like gunshots at times.

The Manga Entertainment dub directed by the late Kevin Seymour (for which he himself portrayed Inspector Kenji Zeningata) punches up the foley effects a bit while mixing really good performances by David Hayter as Lupin and Ivan Buckley as Jigen among others. Of course, there’s no replacing Yasuo Yamada’s zaniness with certified cool as the original Lupin, but the American casts do acquit themselves well. Meanwhile the score by Yuji Ohno is an excellent mix of 70s style French Connection action, whimsical stylistic jazz and simple harp & piano combos that that you through many moods of excitements, drama and sorrow the screenplay possesses.

Video:
The video is in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen and fits perfectly onto the TV. The general colors are brighter with the blues and greens benefiting the most from this treatment. There are song subtitles in blue and white for a couple vocal pieces on here. Also, though, in addition to the regular subtitles in yellow, you have the option of using closed captioned subtitles in yellow (which take the regular subtitles and add sound effects in the key moments for hearing impaired). Also present are the subtitles from the 1980 international releases so you can see big white blocky text in times new roman font, same translation and all. So you can see Inspector Zeningata referred to as Ed Cott if you want, just like the original trailer for Mystery of Mamo.

Packaging:
The front of the outer slipbox depicts the entire cast running from the castle as it explodes with the title masthead in a black box across the middle dividing the picture in half. The rear has small screenshots lined up horizontally with the “what they say” description helping to take up the upper third of the picture. The middle shows Lupin looking at the Castle as though he’s sizing up his next caper. Full product description takes up the lowest quarter. When we get to the blu ray case itself, the front of the cover insert is the Japanese theatrical poster with English text designed to emulate the original poster in a very nice manner. The back of this insert is similar to the rear of the slip box. On the reverse side of this insert though is another poster image that takes up the full length of the insert, presenting an alternative scene of Lupin rescuing the bride princess in front of the menacing Count with the masthead taking up much of the picture and the remaining cast in smaller spots. It’s a rather nice sight to see through the plastic blu ray case. The disc itself has the symbols of the blue Cagliostro ring, as opposed to the imprint of the red ring on the DVD version.

Menu:
Simple screen gif of Lupin looking at the Castle, with a small set of menus in the lower left corner simulating a small piece of paper with Lupins trademark symbol on it. Each link leads to a st of options listed vertically with white text over a black surface and a small bullet acting as the highlighter.

Extras:
When I perused the extensive extras on here, I was a little bummed not to see the 80s laserdisc game Cliff Hanger, which used footage from Castle of Cagliostro and Mystery of Mamo. I was also a little bummed not to get Mike Toole doing voiceover since I’d gotten so used to him on Discotek’s previous Lupin releases (though he does get credited on here for some behind-the-scenes contributions). However, I was very impressed with what I did get.

Menu openings: Before I start I really have to pay special nod to the openings and closing of the extras segments for which this team made special animate texts and screens, sometimes incorporating music and/or footage from the movie. On previous releases, you’d hit a button and just go straight to the material at hand. This actually made for a nicer presentation of the overall product.

Storyboard option: As I’d seen the movie several times prior, I started with this in the extras menu, which has the storyboards playing out on 60% of the screen in the upper left and the lower right has the full animated movie taking up 30% roughly. There’s a black section in the lower left where the subtitles are played. I started looking at the storyboards and the next thing I knew, I’d watched the whole movie this way. As I understand it, this I similar to Disney’s second screen app… without needing an app to perform this.

Interview with David Hayter: This is a video interview he gave about portraying Lupin in Manga Entertainment’s English dub from 2000. It’s the most extensive of the segments on here. We get to hear about his work for the late Kevin Seymour and how much he learned from it, as well as his time voicing Snake in the Metal Gear Solid games, and his take on how the two roles helped his career and shaped his on movies in general. There’s some pretty good stuff here. Hayter also has a separate introduction option for his rendition of the movie.

Interview with Bob Bergen: Via audio with footage over it, the lead actor for Streamline Pictures 1992 release gives his take on what it was like to perform as Lupin The Third for the late Carl Macek. Apparently it was a lengthy process and Macek was rather patient with him. Bergen also talks about how he got interested in voicework while watching his eventual tutor, Mel “Bugs Bunny” Blanc.

Interviews with Yasuo Ohtsuka (animation director), Kazuhide Tomonaga (key animator), and story / character creator Monkey Punch: We get insights from the Japanese production staff on what it was like to work on this movie and what it’s like to work with Hayao Miyazaki. The only unfortunate aspect is that Monkey Punch’s segment is shortest and it’d have been nice to hear more from Lupin’s creator. The one thing that’s interesting is that all three of these were taken apparently fomr a French release of the movie as none of the aspect ratios here are changed for the 16:9 HD format. Their original presentations are retained here with white French subtitles at the bottom. Yellow English subtitles are super-imposed over them.

Promotional Art, Model Sheets, Imageboards, Translation Notes, A History of the Film: Each of these are separate buttons to which play out as scans of various pictures, text and other memorabilia with background music from the movie playing through outs, as opposed to static pages in previous releases. Like the menu intros, it’s a nice upgrade.

Closing credits: The original Japanese film gives out credits in the opening sequence and ends with a simple “Fin” symbol. This crew put together a very elaborate set of ending credits presenting folks who worked behind the scenes for all 4 releases here as well as special acknowledgements to Jerry Beck and Carl G. Horn among others. You can watch this as a stand alone as it’s nicely put together using film footage, and yellow & white texts.

U.S. openings and closings, International opening, Creditless opening: These options are fun to compare and contrast, as all the different companies who’ve handled this film have done the opening sequences differently, sometimes with text over still pics, others with no text or others still with super-imposed English credits.

Japanese trailers: Self-explanatory, though you can watch them with either the aforementioned 1980s subtitles or the 2014 modern subs.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When cinema lovers talk about the great American movies that helped shaped the medium, they often invoke Cassablanca, Lawrence of Arabia, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and various others. In the anime community few works attain that status such as Akira, Princess Mononoke, Ghost In The Shell, Wings of Honnneamise and various series which may or may not crossover into mainstream appeal at times with their ability to change how we might look at the animation medium, due to timing of release or the challenging material presented. One such movie did this on the convention scene and art house cinemas and retained its notoriety due to director Hayao Miyazaki’s masterful animation techniques while creating a whimsical yet dangerous world that the title character Lupin III could make his way through.

To people approaching this character / franchise for the first time, Lupin III is a thief, descended from the French stories of Arsene Lupin, written by Maurice LeBlanc in the early 1900s. Manga creator Monkey Punch created this current character who steals women’s hearts some times but invariably pursues the biggest treasures with his compatriots Daisuke Jigen (a former mob gunman with great weapon skills) and Goemon, (an ever traveling samurai with a very tough sword.) Often, Lupin will get involved with a coy beauty named Fujiko Mine (whose name refers to ‘mountain peaks’. Infer from this what you will.) who likes to distract Lupin while getting hew own treasures. The group is forever chased by Inspector Zeningata, an Interpol detective dedicated to capturing Lupin III. Think of the Wille E. Coyote / Road Runner dynamic (or maybe Smokey and The Bandit perhaps) you’ll get an idea of the forces at work here.

In the mid-70s, there was a TV show which started adapting Lupin’s adventures in animation. He was crass and a bit of a perv and the exploits were a bit adult in nature. This style even made it into the first Lupin movie, The Mystery of Mamo. (If any of you have seen the more recent series The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, it is at times a callback to that era of Lupin.) Eventually though, Tokyo Movie Shinsha brought in Hayao Miyazaki to make the TV series more family friendly and had him direct his first ever movie, The Castle of Cagliostro.

This movie starts up with Lupin and Jigen robbing a casino of its cash. They make their getaway for a while until Lupin pulls over because the cash is all counterfeit. They realize since this is a high profile casino with incredibly well-forged funds, the money could only come from the nation of Cagliostro, which holds secrets Lupin has tried to penetrate before with terrible results. So the pair head there and come across a young woman in a wedding dress being chased by a car-load of thugs. After a bit of craziness, Lupin is able to rescue the woman from danger, only to lose her to more thugs. Strangely though, she leaves behind a weird ring. Lupin and Jigen head into a nearby town and inquire more about the ring’s symbol… which earns them a visit from some deadly assassins. The game has just become very interesting.

Meanwhile, the woman named Clarise is really a princess who is being kept in the castle by the evil Count Cagliostro who has his own plans for the world at large and needs to marry Clarise to complete them, as well as a certain ring which has just turned up missing. A young servant girl lurks in the background and hears these plans…. while trying to find the secrets of the castle’s treasures on her own, until she hears the Count mention that Lupin has returned, intent on stealing Clarise away, and so the disguised Fujiko contemplates abandoning her plans. The Count is unconcerned about Lupin’s arrival though, and plans to eliminate him for good this time. He does get annoyed though when Inspector Zeningata shows up with Interpol troops to pursue Lupin…

For his revision of Lupin, director /screenwriter Miyazaki and fellow screenwriter Haruya Yamazaki toned down Lupin to make him more of a classy criminal in the style of Cary Grant in “Once A Thief”, (or for more contemporary audiences, George Clooney in “Ocean’s Eleven” or perhaps Pierce Brosnan in “The Thomas Crown Affair.”) mixed with the zaniness of Mark Hamill’s “Trickster” character in The Flash. In fact… come to think it, I remember a friend noting that in the Batman/Superman animated movie “World’s Finest”, that the Joker seemed to move and act like Lupin III at times and this was brought up during one of interviews in the extras section, so yes, it could be said Lupin III is a heroic semblance of The Joker at times, with a few James Bond style gadgets at the ready. He never seems to be at a loss for answers to impossible situations but at times is shown to be very vulnerable in this movie.

The Castle of Cagliostro is a microcosm of his world, which has led to over 2 decades of annual movies and TV specials in which we normally get Jigen and Goemon helping Lupin pull off some caper with Fujiko mixing things up and Zeningata pursuing (unless of course, the movie in question focuses on one of the others in the Lupin gang.) Much of those dynamics can be traced to this movie. The addition of Clarise though is welcome since she demonstrates more fortitude than she initially lets on against the ruthless Count.

There are many elements which make this one a standard bearer in animation. The movements of the backgrounds and key animation of the characters are astounding for their time here. The initial rescue of Clarise has Lupin and Jigen in their physics-defying car chase that remains as entertaining over time as any in The Blues Brothers. Seeing their Fiat move through the detailed green grass, multi-layered forest and seemingly fast moving roads at high speeds is a thing of beauty. The backdrops of the castle and surrounding areas look lively as humanly possible if you allow for the techniques of this ear to take you in as much as a Disney movie might. In particular, there’s a climactic battle in the castle’s clocktower where gears upon gears move fluidly while everyone has to fight each other through them. This scene was emulated in the American animated movie The Great Mouse Detective because of how intricate every drawing came together.

I remember seeing this movie during the early 90s at Georgia State’s Cinefest, with the big 80s subtitles, and most recently, previewing Discotek Media’s version at Anime Weekend Atlanta last year. At these and other times, I came to see something in Miyazaki’s techniques I hadn’t seen before; some small detail being moved in the background I’d totally missed. It always astounds me how much time and energy animators put in to make an artificial world viable, as this crew put in immense amount of paint and ink to make us believe the buildings and animals we’re seeing are real, and this is years before Miyazaki got with his former director friend Isao Takahata to form Studio Ghibli. You can see him establish his style of cartoony curved faces and immersive scenery for future films here.

In Summary:
When movie collectors talk about The Criterion Collections of movies with awe and respect, it’s because they know the people behind those releases put a lot of time and energy into putting out a good product to not only entertain but educate the person spending money on the DVDs at hand, as well as tapes and laserdiscs in years gone by. If there’s an equivalent to Criterions for American anime releases, it would be Lupin III: Castle Cagliostro – Collectors Edition. Discotek Media, Reed Nelson, Brady Hartel, Justin Sevakis, Twisty Gadget and everyone else involved deserve serious kudos for this release. As I type this, the MSRP is about $30 but Amazon is having a sale for half off. For $15, you’re getting a hell of a lot of entertainment and history on a single disc (especially compared to what you might have to pay if this were a disc released in Japan). Discotek has released other titles with educational value like Mystery of Mamo and Horus The Sun Prince, but the overall presentation here takes things to a new level. As you might imagine, this blu ray gets my highest fu(BLEEP)ing recommendation as possibly the best release of classic anime in 2015.

Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A+
Menu Grade: A-
Extras Grade: A++

Released By: Discotek Media
Release Date: June 23, 2015
MSRP: $29.99
Running Time: 100 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment: Samsung 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3

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