TO CATCH A THIEF
ANIME OF THE MONTH
THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO
(REG 2 DVD: ENGLISH / JAPANESE DUBBED, OPTIONAL ENGLISH SUBTITLES)
£19.99, Widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby Digital 2.0 (Manga)
One of Manga Video’s best kept secrets arrives on UK DVD. Arsene Lupin III is manga artist Monkey Punch’s descendant to Frenchman Maurice LeBlanc’s noted thief Arsene Lupin and the subject of copyright controversy in the US where the character had to be renamed Wolf or Rupan. Strong though the character may be, the factor that raises this particular film above much anime is the pedigree of writer-director Hayao Miyazaki.
A superb piece of genre film-making, Cagliostro allows Miyazaki to try out lots of ideas he’d rework later. Monkey Punch’s quasi‑European trappings, evidenced both here and in other Lupin III movies, are perfectly in tune with Miyazaki’s sensibilities. Fairytale plot elements concern a princess (a dead ringer for one of Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind’s characters) trapped in a tower by the evil Count Cagliostro and a castle with a 500-year-old secret (shades of Laputa‘s decaying castle in the sky). Then, for a film about a thief, there’s a surprising nod towards goodness, yet the film never becomes too lofty for its own good, being filled with such detours as banknote forgery, lethal security systems, unexpected trap doors and an impressive autogyro (Miyazaki has a reputation for strikingly designed aircraft and other flying objects). It also contains some of the most impressive rooftop chase sequences ever executed either in animation or, indeed, live action.
Picture transfer is occasionally a little dark on night scenes: In terms of sound quality, the English and Japanese 2.0 tracks are pretty much identical, but Manga’s voice dub pointlessly adds in swearing not found in either the original Japanese or rival US distributor Streamline Pictures dub. Beyond the essential dual language and removable English subtitles, for which we’re grateful, there are pitiful extras – a 5 picture image gallery and a clunky (Streamline Pictures) trailer that fools you into thinking you’re watching the poorest quality VHS. And to think of all the trouble Manga went to for the superior DVD of the inferior X.
The Movie *****
The Extras ***
The Japanese/Studio Ghibli DVD release of Cagliostro was both brighter and crisper and contained the Streamline Pictures dub lacking the gratuitous swearing. But Manga’s subtitles are at least translations from the Japanese rather than transcriptions for the voice dub, the so-called ‘dubtitles’ found on the Ghibli DVD. The Ghibli disc, incidentally, also features a punchier 5.1 Japanese language soundtrack – but then it has dubtitles not subtitles, so Manga’s disc remains a viable option.
Cagliostro director Miyazaki later went on to make such classics as My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke (all of which can be imported on DVD from Japan e.g. from www.cdjapan.co.jp) and recent Japanese blockbuster Spirited Away.
Trailer (GKids 2017 w subs):
Trailer (Manga Entertainment, 1995):
Review originally published in Starlog, UK edition.