The Castle of Cagliostro


Okay so I’ve figured it out. Hayao Miyazaki is a Dairy Cup filmmaker. Let me explain.

For many, many years now I have frequented a certain fast food establishment that focuses on chicken (I shall not mention their name for fear of poultry-themed legal reprisals). Since a young age I have happily, nay exuberantly attended this family restaurant for the soul purpose of killing my insides slowly – why else would we eat fast food? In the fridge in the aforementioned eatery is a phenomenon that used to be known as the ‘Dairy Cup’. (I feel I can use the actual name of the product as they changed it some years ago, though if the inventor of the Dairy Cup should have any complaints, he/she is welcome to contact Hoopla.) The Dairy Cup is a dessert-like substance that comes in a variety of types from lemon cheesecake to chocolate mousse, and all come in a little plastic yoghurt-like cup WITH ITS OWN SPOON. (It should be noted that I get excited at the idea of complementary cutlery.) Whenever I was at the restaurant I would beg my parents again and again to let me have a Dairy Cup, and when was I finally allowed this Holy Grail of desserts I found to my disappointment that it tasted horrible. (At which point the old, old man with the grey beard said ‘He chose poorly’.) I was devastated.

The Castle of Cagliostro (Rupan sansei: Kariosutoro no shiro)Some years later I was in the same shop and spied the Dairy Cup sitting in the fridge, looking all sexy and creamy, with its free spoon, and – put it down to memory loss or wishful thinking – I bought one again. I threw it out after two spoonfuls.

More years down the track and this reasonably intelligent young adult saw yet again the Dairy Cup in the fridge, beckoning. I bought one. The first bite was delicious. And then the horrid aftertaste hit and I turfed the thing again without finishing.

This cycle repeats every few years. After a certain amount of time has passed, I somehow forget my harrowing Dairy Cup experiences and lash out and buy another one.

The same goes for Hayao Miyazaki’s films (and here comes the connection). After hearing rave reviews for each of his films, I get excited and make it my mission to see one. Each time I’m disappointed.

The worst thing is that these films hold for me what is known as a ‘slow burn disappointment’. That is, they start out wondrously, featuring stunningly realised fantastical worlds and characters, then they slowly become laborious and boring. With The Castle of Cagliostro, one of Miyazaki’s earliest and best known endeavours, I was initially thrilled at the wacky antics of master thief Lupin III – the vertiginous ascent of the castle roofs was alone worth the price of hiring the DVD. But the last half hour, much like Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi) and Howl’s Moving Castle (Hauro no ugoku shiro), was boring, tacky and mind numbing in the extreme.

The Castle of Cagliostro (Rupan sansei: Kariosutoro no shiro)Why does this keep happening? Why can’t Miyazaki manage to make a great ending? I simply don’t understand it. This guy has almost as bad a track record with climaxes as Stephen King – does anyone remember the giant space turtle in ‘It’? AND I FALL FOR IT EVERY TIME! Every single time I see one of his animations, early on I think ‘this is great, sooo much better than his other ones… I think I’ll buy it’, which soon turns into ‘gee, this is long for an animation’, and then into ‘golly, this ending really sucks’ and ‘bloody hell I didn’t even get a spoon’!

That being said, I probably did enjoy this Miyazaki feature the most out of the three I’ve seen. It’s an interesting tale of a Europe through Japan’s eyes, and I’m sure there’s a political subtext somewhere, though I wasn’t well-read enough to spot it. This is in fact the second in the Lupin III manga-inspired movies, although apparently his character is a lot less altruistic in the first, Lupin III: The Mystery of Mamo (Rupan sansei: Mamo karano chousen).

The soundtrack is awesome, with a cheesy 70s sound. I was slightly conflicted when choosing the language options – the original Japanese sounds like a deadened video audiotrack, whereas the English dub is nice and crisp. But purists will be pleased to know that I stuck to the Japanese with English subtitles.

I seriously think Miyazaki’s work should only be viewed up to the three quarter mark, and then we should change over to some film we know has a great ending. Imagine finding out that Lupin III was actually dead all this time, or that the bad guy is actually a sled!

I watched the trailer for Princess Mononoke on the DVD, and darn if it didn’t look fantastic. Damn Dairy Cups…

Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 3rd December 2005
Hoopla Factor: 2.5 stars

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Domino