The Castle of Cagliostro

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

1979's The Castle of Cagliostro -- the first full-length feature film directed and largely written by Hayao Miyazaki (pre-Ghibli) -- is a stand-alone entry (and something of an Oddball in the Series) in the long-running anime franchise Lupin III. Tropes and characters not specific to this film are listed on the series page.

Lupin and Jigen pull off a successful casino heist and flee in their car, up to their necks in cash -- until Lupin realizes every bit of the cash is all counterfeit. The legendary "Goat Bills" -- counterfeit bills which could easily pass for real to all but the most trained eye -- inspire the duo to pay a visit to the tiny European nation of Cagliostro, long rumored to be the bills' source, for their next heist.

Once Lupin and Jigen cross the border, they find themselves trying to rescue a girl in a wedding dress from a groupd of armed mooks trying to capture her. The girl is Clarisse, daughter of Cagliostro's late ruling Grand Duke, and she is betrothed to the regent and Count of Cagliostro, whose side of the Cagliostro family line oversees and perpetuates the nation's dirty business. When the two families are reunited, a legend says they will unlock the secret of Cagliostro's lost treasure, which the Count desperately wants. Jigen figures something else is up when he notices Lupin's familiarity with Cagliostro's landmarks, Clarisse, and her mysterious ring…

Certain things are, of course, inevitable: Lupin tries to steal the girl, the treasure, the source of the Goat Bills, and whatever else he thinks he can get away with; Fujiko is in the castle trying to steal one or more of Lupin's targets as well; the Count is a formidable villain; and Inspector Zenigata is still trying to hunt Lupin down (though he gets more than he bargained for).

The Castle of Cagliostro is famous for being Miyazaki's first film, but a couple of its scenes achieved their own fame. The car chase at the beginning of the film was allegedly praised by Steven Spielberg as one of the greatest car chases ever set to film, and he's alleged to have called Cagliostro one of the greatest adventure movies of all time. The other famous scene is the climactic battle-and-chase in Cagliostro's clock tower, a scene at least two groups of American animators have paid direct Homage to.

Footage from this film (as well as The The Mystery of Mamo) was used in the laser disc arcade game Cliff Hanger.

Tropes used in The Castle of Cagliostro include:
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Lupin wandering around the burnt out castle in a contemplative mood with Jigen wondering what is preoccupying him and getting an explanation.
  • Actor Allusion: In the Manga Entertainment dub, David Hayter voices Lupin, who carefully sneaks into the enemy's base to rescue a hostage at one point in the film.
  • All That Glitters: Cagliostro's lost treasure is a partial example. The Roman ruins' enormous value is purely cultural, but the international attention they'll receive from academics and tourists will be useful for Clarisse and her country's economy.
  • Always Save the Girl: This is lampshaded in the car chase.

Jigen: Which one are we helping?
Lupin: The girl.
Jigen: Typical.

  • And the Adventure Continues...: Zenigata and his men are hot on Lupin's heels as everyone leaves the country of Cagliostro, and Fujiko escapes with the Goat Bills' master plates. "The End", but life goes on.
  • Anti-Hero: While Lupin's place on the sliding scale is hard to pin down on the best of days, in Cagliostro, he falls firmly into Type II. While he's as gleefully enthusiastic about the caper as usual, he shows more interest in protecting Clarice (choosing to save her even before he recognises her) and even lets the girl go for her own good.
  • Arranged Marriage
  • Asleep for Days: Lupin sleeps for three days after being severely wounded in a fight with the Big Bad. He's distressed to discover how long his nap has been -- since it means he might be too late to save the day -- and demands large amounts of food in order to recover his strength.
  • Author Appeal: Obscure aircraft, precipitous heights.
  • Bad Bad Acting: Zenigata's "we went in for Lupin and look what we found!" on-camera act falls under this.
  • Badass Damsel: Clarisse escaped from a mansion surrounded by lasers, participated in a car chase, saved Lupin's life several times (by way of shoving him out of the way of gunfire and throwing her body on a gun and knocking it aside), said she was "not really" afraid when they were being peppered with gunfire, and shoved the Count off the clocktower when she saw her chance -- and she was willing to become a thief to boot. A lone woman facing down a Nebulous Evil Organisation run by a Manipulative Bastard with an army of Elite Mooks (which took Lupin's team and an entire army of Interpol agents to bring down)? As Lupin said, she was a brave girl.
  • Battle Butler: Jodo, who controls the Count's Elite Mooks.
  • Big Fancy Castle
  • BFG: Jigen's massive anti-tank rifle.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Well, Chekhov's Autogyro.
  • Chekhov's Skill: A fairly subtle one: Lupin's long-jumping skills from the very beginning of the film.
  • Chiaroscuro
  • Clock Tower
  • Counterfeit Cash: The Goat Bills are counterfeit bills which can fool all but the most trained eyes.
  • Damsel in Distress: Clarisse
  • Death Trap: The Count is a big, big fan. His security fetish is one of the first things which alerts Zenigata to the fishy goings-on in the castle.
  • Dirty Old Man: Lupin accuses Count Cagliostro of being one, though it's questionable if he had any feelings for Clarisse at all.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After the Count is killed by clock hands, Jodo humbly asks Goemon to do him in. Goemon refuses.

Jodo: This is the end of Cagliostro. [bows head in shame, awaiting Goemon's death blow] It's over.
[Goemon sheathes his Zantetsuken]
Goemon: Evil destroys itself.

  • Don't Look Down:
    • This is inverted at one point; Lupin tells Clarisse to look down so she'll realize screaming and flailing at the strange man while they're hanging several feet in the air by a thin wire is a pretty bad idea.
    • This is played straight during the clock tower chase when one of Cagliostro's henchmen is crushed between two giant gears.
  • The Dragon: Jodo.
  • The Dulcinea Effect
  • Early-Bird Cameo: As Lupin and Jigen drive away from the Casino with their loot, sharp-eyed viewers can spot the top of Goemon's head and the end of his sword in the back seat of the car amidst the cash. Do all those cars suddenly falling to bits earlier make sense now?
  • Elite Mooks: The Count employs assassins with masks, metal claw gauntlets, and armor Jigen can't shoot through without an anti-tank gun.
  • Enemy Mine: Lupin and Zenigata call a truce so they can both get out of the castle dungeon alive and Zenigata can go after the Count for the making the Goat Bills. Given how often they work together in other Lupin titles, though, their teamwork here isn't quite as strange as the trope name implies.
  • Fairytale Wedding Dress
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: The Count
  • Fan Nickname: Fans sometimes call the Big Bad Count Draco due to being named so in the Cliff Hanger game.
  • Gentleman Thief: This is played straight with Lupin, which may come across as strange because he's…well, Lupin. He's acting this way because he's still grateful to Clarisse for saving his life many years ago. Jigen calls Lupin out on his atypical behavior fairly early in the film.
  • Girl in the Tower
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Two deaths via clock--one of the Count's Mooks and the Count himself--are signified only by sound.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Count is crushed by giant clock hands when retrieving the "treasure" of Cagliostro.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: Lupin is severely wounded, but recovers after gorging himself to the point of being sick and then sleeping.
  • Implausible Fencing Powers: Goemon falls under this trope largely because Katanas Are Just Better ("this is no ordinary sword", he says). When a wounded Lupin falls into the car from the autogyro, Goemon's sword swipe gets Lupin neatly out of his burning clothes without further scratching Lupin. (Other examples are on the page for the Trope.)
  • Improvised Weapon: Lupin uses several of these, but the most notable is the long-handled spanner he duels the Count with.
  • Interesting Situation Duel: The fight amongst the clock-tower's gears is one of the most iconic in cinematic history.
  • In Harm's Way: The discovery of the Goat Bills brings Lupin and Jigen to Cagliostro.
  • Instant Dogend: Jigen's smokes (but not Lupin's) fall under this.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Jigen's bullets bounce off the Elite Mooks -- but Goemon's sword doesn't. Fans of the series know Goemon's sword is a one-of-a-kind katana possessing a super-sharp edge.
  • The Kingdom: The Dukes were the official rulers and kept up a good front, but the Count's family line was responsible for carrying out the Dirty Business.
  • Lost Wedding Ring: It's a Plot Coupon and Lupin holds it.
  • Malevolent Architecture: The titular Castle is full of booby traps (and a basement of skeletons to show for it).
  • Money to Throw Away/Money to Burn: The Goat Bills get both treatments. The former happens with the stolen Goat Bills at the beginning of the film, and the latter happens as part of a particular plot point close to the end of the film.
  • Mook Lieutenant: Gustav for the royal guard and Jodo for the elite mooks.
  • Mooks: The normal Cagliostro castle guard and the Interpol troopers fall under this.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: Lupin's quest for the Goat Bills is his.
  • Mythology Gag: See the Trope page for examples.
  • No OSHA Compliance: All those giant exposed gears in the clock tower can't be safety standards compliant.
  • Obviously Evil: Jodo does not look like a good guy.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: Fujiko does this during an escape. Her other hand is busy wielding an automatic pistol.
  • The Prophecy: The words inscribed on Clarisse's ring by her ancestor, Gotoh, is a key part of the plot: "Light will rejoin shadow and live again."
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The Count manages to unlock the treasure, but by doing so, the clock tower automatically moves to noon and the clock's hands crush the Count.
  • Regent for Life: The Count wants to become this by marrying Clarisse.
  • Rescue Romance: This trope is subverted. Clarisse falls in love with Lupin after the first time he saves her, but even by the end of the movie, he can't be tied down and leaves.
  • Rock-Paper-Scissors: Lupin and Jigen throw down over who has to change the flat tire on their car. (Jigen's version of "scissors" involves using his thumb and forefinger, like he's miming a pistol.)
  • Roof Hopping
  • Runaway Bride: See the Damsel in Distress entry above.
  • Ruritania: The Duchy of Cagliostro has a population of 3,500 and is the smallest independent member nation of the United Nations.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections: The Count has numerous connections with Interpol and several governments.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Zenigata works with Lupin to escape their mutual deathtrap and ignores a direct order to drop the Goat Bills case.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Lupin is normally planted pretty firmly on the cynical side, but Miyazaki slid him back to the side of idealism. This can be jarring to viewers who are introduced to Lupin here, then watch his usual Jerkass antics in any of his other movies or series -- even though the film goes out of its way to show Lupin has a reason for being better behaved than usual.
  • Smug Snake: Count Cagliostro is one of the most perfect examples of the trope in all of fiction.
  • Soft Water: The castle is built in the middle of a lake, with lots of high towers; there's no bonus points for guessing what happens later in the film.
  • The Stoic: Goemon as usual. In one scene Jigen huddles under a blanket, complaining about the cold. Goemon just stands there, completely unbothered.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Inspector Zenigata is in fine form here, and he's heavy on the "sympathetic" this time.
  • Took a Level In Kindness: This movie has Lupin and Fujiko behave in their most kindness.
  • Toon Physics:
    • Lupin and Jigen's car drives sideways up a vertical cliff during the car chase, both characters can jump as if they're using Wire Fu, Lupin tries to swim upstream in a waterfall and downward in mid-air (after he ran straight down a tower wall!)…
    • Lupin shows off unthinkable long-jump skills on the roofs of the castle. Sure, he had a lot of momentum going, but it's still silly.
  • Trap Door: More than one of these lies within the titular castle. They all dump their victims into the same vast cistern -- and after several centuries of use, it's not a fun place to be.
  • Universal Driver's License: Lupin has one of these while Zenigata doesn't. (Lupin's is obviously forged.)
  • What a Piece of Junk!: Lupin's Fiat 500, especially after it somehow survives having a grenade explode right on top of it. Judging from the lever Lupin pulls before the first chase sequence, it's very heavily modified.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The real Archbishop is never mentioned again after the groundskeeper offers to show him an alternate route to the castle. One can only assume Lupin knocked the poor fellow unconscious and left him either locked or tied up somewhere in nothing but his underclothes, instructing the groundskeeper to let him go after everything was taken care of.
  • Woman in White: Clarisse
  • The X of Y