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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro is a 1979 anime in which a smart-talking master thief tries to rescue a princess from a master counterfeiter. Lupin and his sidekick Jigen almost always have a cigarette in their mouths. Infrequent mild profanity ("damn," "hell"). Cartoon violence, including car chases, and fighting involving a vast array of weaponry -- everything from machine guns and grenades to swords and maces. One of the characters gets shot and injured; some blood. Martini and beer drinking. This is the debut feature-length of legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki, and is based on a manga series.
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What's the story?
In LUPIN THE THIRD: THE CASTLE OF CAGILOSTRO, the master thief Lupin and his sidekick Jigen have just successfully robbed a casino. After making their escape, further investigation reveals that the stolen money is counterfeit. Wanting to find the source of this counterfeit currency, the two drive to the tiny European nation of Cagliostro. As they drive into the country, they see a young woman being pursued by a gang of henchmen. Lupin and Jigen rescue the young woman, who Lupin recognizes as the princess of Cagliostro, but is knocked unconscious during the rescue, and is left with only a ring left behind by the princess. The princess is being forced into an arranged marriage with the unscrupulous Count of Cagliostro, who needs the princess's ring to recover an ancient treasure. Lupin vows to rescue the princess with the help of Jigen and his samurai friend Goemon, and enlists the unknowing assistance of his rival, Inspector Zenigata. While attempting to save the princess, Lupin must also find a way to prove to the world that Cagliostro's vast wealth is entirely based on counterfeit currency.
Is it any good?
While it has its moments, this is more of a '70s cartoon than the trademark anime we've come to expect from the genre. It's the feature-length debut of Hayou Miyazaki, and for anime fans, it's interesting to watch simply to appreciate the development of his style over the years. Some of the backgrounds and characters portend greater things to come. The fantastical reality of the tiny fictional European nation of Cagliostro displays considerable animation, and goes far in going beyond its overall '70s look and feel. Indeed, most of Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostrocomes across more like 1979 Hanna Barbera rather than Studio Ghibli.
In keeping with what we've come to expect from anime, there are several side stories running through that are separate from the central story. It usually works, even if the backstory of the relationship between the princess and Lupin starts to feel creepy, until Lupin clearly puts it in the proverbial friend zone. For anime fans, it's an entertaining, seminal, and classic glimpse at Miyazaki's beginnings. For everybody else, the story, as convoluted as it can be, and as much as the bad guys sometimes look like the masked "monsters" in Scooby-Doo mysteries, is fun and accessible.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about anime. How does Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro compare to other anime you've seen? In what ways is it typical of 1970s cartoon animation, and in what ways does it have its own unique style?
Does the movie glamorize cigarette smoking, or are cigarettes used as a prop to add detail to the two lead characters?
Was the cartoon violence necessary to the story, or did it seem like it was forced in to make the story more interesting?
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