Parents' Guide to

Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Smoking, cartoon violence in classic 1970s anime.

Movie PG-13 1979 102 minutes
Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 1 parent review

age 14+

Incredible film, not quite kid-friendly.

This 1979 animated film takes place in the fictional country of Cagliostro, a small independent nation still running under the framework of monarchy. It is 1968, and two thieves, Lupin and Jigen, have successfully robbed a casino. However, after a close examination of their loot, Lupin realize the bills are counterfeit. WIth a penchant for challenge, Lupin attempts a take over of the source of the counterfeit bills, and drags his friend Jigen along with him. In the midst of this scheme, they meet a princess, who is soon to be forcefully wed to the Count of Cagliostro, the man behind the counterfeits. Lupin, a hopeless romantic, drops his original plan and attempts to try and rescue her. This film marks famed animator Hayao Miyazaki's directorial debut. The man famous for My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Ponyo, as well as other amazing films, was assigned to lead a film project based on the popular young adult manga Lupin the Third, a series about a lecherous, cigarette-loving thief, his circle of fellow criminals, and his escapades in pulling off grand heists while escaping law enforcement. At face value, this may seem like an odd choice; although Miyazaki has tackled serious themes in his work, he is generally known for his tame, lighthearted films that highlight the innocence of youth. However, it is evident that Miyazaki did his best to challenge the source material his team was tasked to adapt. Longtime fans of the series are divided on this film; some love its fresh, lighthearted approach to the series, while others resent it for abandoning the edge that makes the Lupin franchise so well known in Japan. The film is a lovely blend of medieval backdrops, and mid 20th century technologies. The former provides a soothing, breathtaking atmosphere full of color and life, while the latter provides the cast the ability to make exhilarating strides through the world at an engaging pace, as an action movie should. The musical team did a great job with the soundtrack, ranging from thought provoking to energetic. This film would keep most kid's attention throughout. There are some moments of downtime, but usually during passes over beautifully drawn backgrounds the movie artists have drawn. When it comes to the film's contents, nobody would argue that there is some questionable content. This was unavoidable, due to the source material. Lupin himself is not a good role model. Miyazaki's team definitely made some compromises, yet this film has scenes sprinkled with cigarette butts, and occasionally displays alcohol, such as wine and beer. Lupin displays a lack of understanding for boundaries with women on two occasions; albeit a rather tame display based on his previous and future appearances, and he is shown to grow out of it by the end of the movie. Violence is present, but arguably tame. While there is combat in this movie, most characters operate under cartoon logic, and survive perilous scenarios. Firearms appear in this film; Lupin's best friend Jigen carries a revolver, and first uses it early in the film. He later uses an anti-tank rifle during a castle breach, and rival thief Fujiko uses an assault rifle, as well as a couple of grenades to keep foes at bay. There are a couple of deaths in this movie, though they are few, short, and are always obscured from view. There is a glimpse of blood on one occasion, albeit brief, and the coloration and quantity is rather tame. Does this movie contain swearing? As far as I have seen, subtitles for this movie's original Japanese voiceover are clean. However, I feel subtitles would add a bit of difficulty to kids watching. Then there is the primary dub from 1991 made by Streamline. This dub is clean, and clearly made with the intent of being for young audiences. This is what you'll find on Netflix and other official releases. However, there is also the subject of the 2001 Manga dub, which is more faithful to the original script. While this dub adds profanity to the movie, with some fans of the movie rejecting it for this reason, it didn't feel egregious to me. I am not personally a fan of content that is raunchy for the sake of rustling people's feathers, and the Manga dub did not give me that vibe. Profanity is there, but it isn't excessive. There is also an official edit of the Manga dub from 2015 that removes cussing, and other than a confusing instance where one of the villains calls someone an 'Itch', it is a pretty clean edit, and a great way of watching the film, in my opinion. The good news is, the Manga dubs are a little difficult to find. Neither version is available in any official capacity via streaming services. The only legal way to watch the film with them is to buy any of the recent physical releases. So if you're planning to watch this with your kid, there is no need to worry about language. However, I feel parents who would be concerned with this film's swearing would probably be uncomfortable with other aspects of this movie. As stated earlier, this film contains cigarettes, alcohol, and guns, so even without swearing, this film still contains some questionable content. Although its undeniable that this movie was made to appeal to all ages, it has a light air of being a movie for teens or young adults, like many popular American films of the 1980s. All that said, this film is a must watch for any fan of animation, especially fans of Ghibli. Although the animation isn't as smooth as some Disney outings, the film is still a treat to watch in motion, and I'd argue is more filling, with its fleshed out characters, vibrant world, and soothing soundtrack. This was a film Miyazaki has made clear he didn't want to make, and it is fascinating seeing him work under the limitations of a raunchy franchise, and still pull off such a beautiful film. The story is not profound, but it is a masterful take on the "hero saves the princess" trope, with a sprinkling of self awareness you just don't see in classic Disney fare. If you're looking for Ghibli films to show your kids, Totoro, Kiki, and Ponyo are always safe bets. Perhaps its best to save this one for them to discover when they're older.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1 ):
Kids say (5 ):

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.

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