Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 7/18/00
The Castle of
1979 (2000) - Manga
review by Brad Pilcher of
The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C+/B/C
Specs and Features
109 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided,
single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, Manga 2000 previews,
Manga video fan club info, Manga web link, DVD catalog, film-themed
menu screens, scene access (11 chapters), languages: English &
Japanese (DD 2.0), subtitles: English
"Why, it's the
way of thieves to risk their lives. If the job is finished, I'll
Fans of Hayao Miyazaki have been in something of an uproar lately,
based on rumors of the DVD release of Princess
Mononoke being released without the Japanese language
track on it (or a whole bunch of extras that are available on
laserdisc). Lost in all the hubbub are a few things. First, and as
our very own Todd Doogan has pointed out recently, it's a good thing
either way that we're getting exposed to Miyazaki's work just by
getting a DVD release. Second, Buena Vista is not the only place to
find a good Miyazaki film.
Enter The Castle of Cagliostro
on DVD. Manga is releasing this one, and you may want to take a
heads up. This film is arguably better than Mononoke,
and all of you purists can take a sigh of relief - the Japanese
language track is present here, but there is a problem I'll get to
Cagliostro follows the
exploits of Lupin III, a gentleman thief that could probably give
James Bond a run for his money. After ripping off a casino with his
partner Jigen, Lupin realizes his loot is "goat money"
(i.e. high-quality counterfeit), so it's off to the tiny country of
Cagliostro. This little principality is apparently the source of a
sort of Holy Grail of counterfeiting, and Lupin would like to get
the low-down on the operation.
When he is nearly run off the road by a passing car chase,
involving a band of thugs and a beautiful girl, Lupin can't help but
join in. Rumor has it that Spielberg called this one of the greatest
car chases of all time. I wouldn't go quite that far, but it's a
great little scene and it sets up the saga that will keep you
captivated for the well over an hour-and-a-half running time. From
daring rescues to fun action chases, a twisted but easy-to-follow
conspiracy is unveiled leading up to an exhilarating finale.
Put simply, this story is absolutely splendid. Mononoke
is an exceptional film, but I'll choose Cagliostro
over it any day. Most animated films never run this long, but you'll
have no problem keeping engrossed as the story takes its turns and
twists. The action is top-notch as our gentleman thief uses gadgets
that mix between Bond and Batman. The characters are enticing, and
Lupin may be the best executed anime character I've ever seen.
On the animation side of things, I'm equally impressed, but only
because I'm putting things in context. Mononoke
is an better-animated film, but it was also made some 18 years after
Cagliostro (which was released
in 1979). In keeping with the time, Lupin and his fellow characters
are rigid, but surprisingly fluid when compared to their late-70s
counterparts. Overall, the animation is quite good, but you must
remember how old this movie is.
On the technical side of things, less positive things can be said
about this disc. The video could have been much better, but this is
likely due to unavoidable source defects. There's a lot of grain,
and the print is downright dirty at times with discolored blotches.
The worst sin are the holes that keep popping up in the print. It
can be very distracting when sizable black circles rush onto the
screen over and over. I'm not aware of what prints do and don't
exist of this film, so I don't know if a better print could've been
obtained. That said, I'm sure this film looks better than it has in
the past. While non-anamorphic, this is digitally remastered. Source
defects aside, the print is completely watchable to the average
person. Videophiles, on the other hand, are going to be
The audio, on the other hand, is good with a decent balance of
effects and dialogue. It is by no means spatial, and pretty much
resides in the front speakers. Explosions and other effects lack
some oomph, but overall you have a good if average soundtrack.
That's the English track. The Japanese track, while present, is of
low quality. It's mono and it shows, playing off as incredibly flat.
Extras represent another black mark against this disc. Manga has
included the obligatory previews for its other titles, along with
its own DVD catalog and Manga web links, but nothing is available in
the way of extras for the actual movie. There is no trailer for
The Castle of Cagliostro.
There is nothing related to the movie, and that means that there
really aren't any extras. I'm sorry Manga, but I don't count
promotional previews as a legitimate extra (especially when it's the
Despite the lack of extras and the sub-par video, I really have to
recommend this film for purchase. Spielberg is rumored to have been
blown away by the film, and it was hailed as one of the best anime's
of all time during the early 80s. I can see why it got the accolades
it did. The plot is very intelligent and has a depth that much of
anime lacks. The characters are classic and you really get into
them, while the action is top-notch. The animation won't rival newer
creations, but it remains quite good for its time. In other words,
people who had their interest piqued in Miyazaki with
Princess Mononoke should grab
The Castle of Cagliostro ASAP.
It's easily one of his best films.