Rupan sansei: Kariosutoro no shiro [1979]

Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro) achieved his first international hit with this delightful 1979 adventure yarn. Quick-paced, high-spirited, and loaded with wit, Cagliostro is a dandy throwback to the caper pictures of the '60s. International man of mystery Lupin III stumbles back into the picturesque European duchy of Cagliostro with his faithful and gruff sidekick, Jigen. They will encounter, in no particular order, a runaway bride, a magical ring, an evil count with a dastardly plan, an inspector bent on catching Lupin, perilous rooftop chases, hooded guards with superhuman powers, a well-used dungeon, a counterfeiting scheme, and an ancient mystery promising grand treasure. Lupin deploys an array of Bond-type gadgets, razor-sharp wit, and a surprise up both his sleeves. Despite the hail of bullets, this caper is great fun, never taking itself seriously. Miyazaki's career illustrates how limiting the term anime can be for these films; there are hardly more than 10 live-action films of this genre as entertaining. Far less mean than Hollywood fare, it nevertheless is for ages 9 and up with language and gunplay. The Lupin character has been featured in other anime films, but never as successfully or with as much fun as in Miyazaki's film. The new English-language dubbing is excellent to boot. --Doug Thomas

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