|'there is plenty of Miyazaki-ness on show for fans of his more established offerings to observe. The shuffling monkey-like, finger-bladed assassins are pure Miyazaki, and offer up the film's most effective villainy.'|
The beginning of Hayao Miyazaki's feature directing career could appear an odd inclusion in The Hayao Miyazaki Collection in many ways. This collection, which marks the first time the director's films have been presented together in this way, is resplendent with very interesting films, considering topics as heady as ecological disaster and the re-appropriation of innocent resource for warmongering. Lupin III: The Castle Of Cagliostro, by contrast, is a fairly simple caper. If it does have deeper meaning (and you've got to look very hard for it if so) you could almost argue that it is a defence of established currency markets in the face of a sometime successful usurper. A forward thinking look to the impact of the Euro?! You rather suspect not.
What becomes clear through this collection as a whole though, and arguably never more so than in The Castle Of Cagliostro, is that even when we are not witnessing vintage Miyazaki, we are invited to witness something fun, progressive and occasionally beautiful. Cagliostro may not have the plotting and invention of Spirited Away, nor the looks of The Wind Rises, but it is a joyful diversion; one-hundred minutes of Friday night/Saturday morning entertainment.
The slightly confusing title (Lupin III is the character's name, not an indication that this is the third film in a series but in fact the first feature, based on a TV series) refers to a dashing thief, Lupin, who winds up facing off against Count Cagliostro, a nefarious villain harming Lupin's thievery by flooding the markets with fake bills of various denominations. Once in Cagliostro's faux-European nation state of the same name, Lupin and accomplice Jigen find themselves swept up in Cagliostro's plot to force a marriage with Clarisse and unlock a valuable secret.
Despite this being early days in the animator's fledging directorial career, there is plenty of Miyazaki-ness on show for fans of his more established offerings to observe. The shuffling monkey-like, finger-bladed assassins are pure Miyazaki, and offer up the film's most effective villainy. The Comedy eating scene after Lupin has been injured feels misjudged, but provides the levity so often present when serious things are happening in the director's later works. The treatment of the plot as a whole - if you can ignore the car that drives sideways up a mountain and a handful of other animated liberties - is also pure Miyazaki. There's no hint here that this is 'just' a kids film. It gets the same reverence and devotion to character and establishing a believable fantasy world as any live action film.
With that in mind, there are very few animated films that you can imagine might work in a live action setting. Not only can your readily imagine that here, but it is actually already happening. The Japanese production of Lupin III is due at some point in 2015. This isn't Miyazaki's finest, not by a long way, but the fact that it presents a world believable enough to base a live action narrative around is some sort of endorsement of its quality. Too light, yes, especially for this director's standards, but still a film worth investigating.
The Hayao Miyazaki Collection brings together all 11 of the director's feature films, from The Castle of Cagliostro to The Wind Rises, on Blu-ray for the first time. It is released in the UK on Monday 8th December 2014.