As a very young kid, I remember going to the arcade with my brother and pumping quarters into a game called Cliff Hanger. Like the classic Dragon’s Lair, its gameplay consisted of snippets of hand-drawn animation with occasional prompts for the player to move the joystick or hit the action button. Also like Dragon’s Lair, Cliff Hanger was ridiculously difficult, and with each of our numerous deaths, we had to once again start over at the beginning of the scene.
The repetitiveness should have bored us to tears, but instead, we were captivated by the amazing artwork on display, and with good reason. The visuals for Cliff Hanger were culled from the 1979 anime film The Castle of Cagliostro, the very first movie directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki.
Really though, the proper way to experience the film isn’t on a scratched arcade monitor as you grip a set of greasy controls. This is a classic that deserves to be seen on the big screen, which is once again possible, as The Castle of Cagliostro is returning to theatres with a painstakingly remastered version.
The Castle of Cagliostro is the second theatrical outing for gentleman thief Lupin III, who was created by manga artist Monkey Punch for his phenomenally successful comic of the same name in 1967. While Miyazaki had worked as a director on episodes of the Lupin III TV series from the early 1970s, The Castle of Cagliostro was his first time sitting in the director’s chair for a feature film.
The story opens with Lupin and henchman Jigen pulling off yet another heist, which sets in motion their search for the source of some extremely high-quality counterfeit currency. While the film predates Miyazaki’s creation of his own production house, Studio Ghibli, the director’s personal style and aesthetics still shine through. While other Ghibli films have starred preexisting characters, including Miyazaki’s directorial projects Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle, The Castle of Cagliostro is a rare chance to see anime’s most celebrated director work with a character who’s arguably as famous and popular as Miyazaki himself.
The timing of the announcement is opportune, as this year sees both a lack of an entirely new Miyazaki film (as he’s now retired from directing), plus a live-action adaption of Lupin III set to premiere this summer. That’s not to say that producers decided to slap a fresh coat of paint on The Castle of Cagliostro when Miyazaki formally left the business just a year ago. The remastering process took three years, which included cleaning up both the visuals and audio, plus an upgrade to 5.1 channel surround sound.
The Castle of Cagliostro opens May 9 in theatres across Japan. Get hype!