Saturday, February 8, 2014

FROM THE ASHES: Segment # 3

Before Austin, There Was Lupin

   This week and every third week will be Miyazaki week! Wha-cha! The brilliant combination of slick, silly, and sexy super spies and thieves might not be all together unique; but anyone who has watched Lupin III would tell you, Lupin is far from ordinary. The saga of Lupin the 3rd began with the manga's run in Weekly Manga Action in 1967. The series ran for 2 years and eventually became serialized in 14 volumes. A couple anime series later, the long list of feature films began. The second of these films is The Castle Of Cagliostro. This film (released in 1979), was the directorial debut of now renowned director Hayao Miyazaki, known for his many beloved films such as: Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, and Princess Mononoke. The 1991 theatrical release finally brought Miyazaki to American viewers. 

   Crafting together a roster full of colorful characters this franchise has it all: the silent and strong swordsman, the chain smoking gun slinger, the slick as she goes super spy, and the happy-go-lucky master thief. While the anime series played up each of the characters archtypes, Miyazaki's adaptations of each one was more subtle and mature in his film. This shift in tone was criticized by some elitists, but praised by other fans. Personally, I enjoyed a darker shade to this motley crew; for I often recall being perplexed at how the anime made everything seem so bombastic it was often difficult to take seriously at all. Mind you, the film still has some clunky animation and oh boy is the English dub a bit awkward at times, but overall it is still a well-put-together piece for both Japanese and English. I prefer the Japanese cast because I feel it closer ties the voice actors to their roles, but the English cast is great for a laugh at any 3 a.m. viewing. The spoiler free zone remains as I traverse through my review. This film is a lot of fun. Seriously. First you think Lupin is just a giggling thief looking for his next big score, but then he throws a curveball at you by being clever, honest, and brave. That goes for the plot of the film as well. At the beginning, it looks as if you can expect a thrill ride made up of a few chase scenes with some big payoff at the end where our protagonist gets the girl and the treasure, but you'd be surprised. With a very Bond-esqe villain to boot, the story has some nice twists and turns as well as familiar spy-movie tropes tossed in as well. I know, the vagabond with a heart of gold isn't out of the box per se, but the way it's told here is quality. And that's something I see reflected in all of Miyazaki's work: heart, beauty, depth, spirit, and quality fair and square. Just like in all his other films, one can't help but feel warm and fuzzy inside by the time the credits begin to roll. Mind you, there's definitely a bit of dark tossed in for good measure: a bit of language over here, some vile act of villany over there, and some untimely (pun intended) demise over there. Definitely a great start to a prosperous career, Miyazaki's The Castle Of Cagliostro is a thrill wrapped in a chase with a few surprises tossed in, but mostly just a lot of good old fashion fun.

From The Ashes, V.~

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