Welcome, Slashdot readers! The section on copyright is toward the end of this post; I also expanded it into a separate article on TeleRead.

Thirteen years ago (was it really that long?) I was struck by a brilliant new idea from the late Roger Ebert. Ebert realized that auteurs weren’t the only ones who had things to say about movies, and suggested that experts in other fields or even just fans of the movies could create MP3 commentary tracks to discuss their favorite films, which could then be downloaded and played alongside them.

For a couple of years, there was quite a fad for downloadable commentary tracks. There was even a player, Sharecrow, for automatically syncing them to a movie you played on your computer. By and large the fad seems to have fizzled. Most of the sites that existed to catalog audio commentaries have gone by the wayside, though there’s still at least one around—Zarban’s House of Commentaries. Hopefully it stays in operation for a while.

And during that time, I produced my own audio commentary for Hayao Miyazaki’s theatrical debut, Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro. It seemed to me that there were a distinct lack of audio commentaries for Lupin- or Miyazaki-related stuff. Since Cagliostro was one of my all-time favorite films and the first true anime I ever saw, there wasn’t any better place to start. This lack has subsequently been remedied, with the excellent “official” commentaries Reed Nelson has supplied for Discotek releases of The Fuma Conspiracy and Castle of Cagliostro, but I’m still proud of being there first.

But in retrospect, there are a number of things I could have done better in my first version. For one thing, I didn’t have any way of telling how much spoken text would sync to the movie, so I just spoke extemporaneously from a stack of notecards as the film rolled. (Among other things, this led to me discussing the video game Cliff Hanger without ever once mentioning its actual name!) There was also the way I learned of a number of mistakes a couple of years later, and rerecorded bits of the commentary—with a different microphone that had different audio qualities. And I have since learned of a number of other errors and assumptions I’d made that were still, regrettably, incorrect.

A couple of years ago, I learned that Discotek was coming out with a new 35th-anniversary edition DVD and Blu-ray of Castle of Cagliostro, including a commentary track by fellow Lupin fan Reed Nelson. This energized me to see about transcribing my commentary so that I might edit and rerecord it from scratch, with better audio quality and better facts. My will kind of petered out about halfway through the transcription, and it languished, until a friend sent me the new Cagliostro Blu-ray for Christmas a few months ago and I was re-energized. So I wrapped up the transcription and I’ve since been busy researching, revising, and, finally, rerecording. I am delighted to present to you my brand new Cagliostro commentary track.

I suppose there’s one benefit to waiting this long—I was able to notice the mention of “Cagliostro” in Marvel’s recent Doctor Strange movie, and explain how it relates to Lupin III. Discotek’s release was a little too early for that. (So, how does it relate? Listen to the commentary!)

I haven’t yet listened to Reed Nelson’s commentary track, as I wanted to finish my own track without being affected by the knowledge of exactly what he said in his. I am sure there is some overlap (especially as I did have some advice from Reed and viewed the Blu-ray extras he helped put together), but I also expect there are also a number of areas where we both have unique things to say about the movie.

[Update: Having finally had the chance to listen to Reed’s commentary, I’m happy to report that there isn’t even as much overlap as I’d feared. We do still cover a few of the same topics, but the majority of our commentaries are completely different from each other. And even when we do cover the same things, Reed has different things to say about them.]

So listen to them both, if you can. I know I’m really looking forward to hearing his; it’s one of the things that drove me to hurry up and get my own project finished once I got my hands on the new disc. (For some value of “hurry up,” anyway…)

The audio quality is much better in this version. For one thing, I recorded it all in the same place on the same equipment. There are a couple places where it’s obvious I patched over a mistake after the fact, and there’s a little background ambience and some chair spring squeaks from time to time, but I did the best I could in a non-professional setting. I hope it’s not too distracting.

You should be able to watch this with whatever NTSC version of the DVD, Blu-ray, or streamed digital movie you have—either Manga DVD, the Discotek DVD or Blu-ray, even a Japanese import disc. The movie’s shown up on Hulu or Netflix from time to time, too, and that should work just as well if it should appear there again. Please do use a non-pirated source if you at all can. I personally recommend the Discotek version with the modern subtitle track on (or both that and the theatrical subtitle track if you have a player like PowerDVD that can show them both at once), or failing that any other subtitled version—but you could watch it with one of the English dubs, too.

Because of frame rate differences, shows rendered in PAL (the standard video format in England and some parts of Europe) sometimes run slightly faster than NTSC. If you’re watching it from a PAL source, check to see whether Cagliostro‘s total running time is a bit over 99 minutes, or if it’s a few minutes less. If it’s less, you’ll need to use an audio editor like Audacity to speed this track up by 4% to match.

Sadly, Sharecrow has long since gone by the wayside. With the passing of the fad, no one seems interested in creating a similar application as a replacement. (Though if you know about one that I don’t, please tell me!) Still, it’s not hard to sync the track with the movie manually. When you play this track, start it on the black screen with titles immediately preceding Lupin and Jigen descending on the rope with the bundles of cash. If you’re watching from the Discotek Blu-ray, that’s right after you hit “play” from the menu. If you’re watching one of the earlier US discs, you might have to sit through a good number of studio and distributor introductory screens before you get there.

If you should be able to rip the Blu-ray or DVD, you can use Windows Movie Maker or a similar video editor to create a version with the commentary track pre-synced, to make it easier to pause while watching. Just import the commentary as “music,” and adjust the relative volumes so you can hear me over the movie, then export it using recommended settings. (Be sure to extract the commentary track to a WAV file before you import it into WMM as “music”; the compression of the MP3 format plays hell with proper time sync. Also, you’ll need to add about four minutes of black screen or imported pictures at the end, because my commentary goes on for a bit after the movie ends.)

If you do this, though, please do it for your own personal use only. I don’t want to see versions of Cagliostro shared on peer-to-peer with my commentary track attached. Discotek and Reed Nelson did one of the best jobs I’ve ever seen on any anime on their release of it, and they fully deserve to sell more copies of that disc. (Plus, if you buy it via the link below, I’ll get a little Amazon affiliate reward out of it, too.)

Following the links section below, I’ve included a section of material from my draft script that I couldn’t quite fit into the final commentary, but was too interesting to discard—as well as a few new essays I wrote afterward. (You may recognize some of these as quotes from the first version of the commentary track that I didn’t find compelling enough to keep in this second edition because I was busy talking about something else at the time.) Between this, my commentary track, and Reed’s commentary track, you should end up knowing more than you could ever have imagined wanting to know about Castle of Cagliostro.

If you came across somewhere you think I still didn’t get something right, don’t be shy—let me know. If the error is egregious enough, I’m not above patching over it and re-uploading the track. If I do that, I’ll update this post with the date of the latest version and what’s changed. Also, please tell me if I made any goofs in the links, essays, etc., or if you’ve noticed any of said links no longer work.

It’s also likely I will subsequently remember some interesting point I forgot to write about in the essays below and update this page accordingly. (I don’t think I’ll ever be finished talking about Cagliostro.) You might want to use a web page change tracker to let you know when anything changes. Incidentally, you can share this page via the shortcut http://tiny.cc/cagli .


Dedication

I dedicate this commentary track to the memories of…

  • Yasuo Yamada, Goro Naya, Taro Ishida, Ichiro Nagai, and everyone else who helped to make Cagliostro and has since passed on.
  • Carl Macek, Kevin Seymour, and everyone else involved with bringing it to English speakers who has also passed on.
  • Maurice Leblanc, who could have had no possible idea what his works would inspire a few decades down the road.
  • and last but not least, Roger Ebert, whose offhand idea launched thousands of fan audio commentary tracks—including this one.

The Commentary

You can download the commentary track itself from these places, as a 72 MB mp3 file. The latest version of this commentary track thus far is v2.01 (6/16/2017); see change log at end of post.

If these links stop working, please let me know. I’d be fine with letting others mirror it, but they’d have to be willing to update their mirror if I should update the commentary track itself to make further refinements. Drop me a line and let me know.

I prefer that people not upload this to peer-to-peer yet. Not because I’m morally opposed to it—indeed, when I’m ready, I’ll happily seed it (that is, just the MP3, without the video file that’s someone else’s property attached) myself, and link to the .torrent file on this page. But I suspect I may still have a bit of polishing to do, and possibly correcting any other errors if someone should call them to my attention, and I want to try to avoid having dueling versions floating around as much as possible. So I’m thinking of waiting until version 2.05 or 2.10 or so before I torrent it.


Links

The links in the sections that follow are things I mention within the commentary track at one point or another, or else used in researching and writing it. I realize I may have gone a little overboard with these, but this is a very wide-ranging commentary covering a lot of territory.


Movies & TV – Lupin III

  • Discotek’s Castle of Cagliostro Blu-ray or DVD – This is the best American presentation of Castle of Cagliostro I’ve ever seen, bar none. It includes both Macek’s and Animaze’s dubs, plus a family-friendly modification of the Animaze dub, plus an amazing number of extras including a clean version of the opening animation and another commentary by Lupin and Miyazaki expert Reed Nelson. And Cagliostro has never before been seen in such a high-resolution version on American shores. While you can screen my commentary with any uncut version of Cagliostro, the Discotek disc is the one I recommend. At the time I’m writing this, it’s less than $18 in Blu-ray on Amazon—a steal worthy of Lupin III himself!
  • Lupin III first series DVD set – The 23-episode “Green Jacket” Lupin III, partly helmed by Miyazaki and Takahata, and source of a number of references in Cagliostro. The Miyazaki/Takahata episodes are considered by some fans to be among the best Lupin III stories ever told. (You can also watch them for free, with commercials, on Crunchyroll.)
  • The Miyazaki Lupin III Part 2 episodes – Via CrunchyRoll, so while there might be ads, this is a legit source.
    • #145: “Albatross: Wings of Death” – A Dornier Do-X flying boat! Briefcase nukes! Nearly-nude Fujiko! Even more of Lupin’s boxer shorts!
    • #155: “Aloha, Lupin” (here presented under Miyazaki’s preferred title “Thieves Love the Peace”) – Sumi Shimamoto’s other Lupin III role, and flying robots that owe more than a little to a Fleischer Superman short (and would show up again, in slightly different form, in Miyazaki’s Laputa: Castle in the Sky).
  • Lupin III vs. Detective Conan – A pair of animated crossovers between the two series I mentioned in the commentary, and in the essay section below. Watch the Lupin III vs. Detective Conan TV special first.
  • Lupin III: The Mystery of Mamo – The very first animated Lupin III cinematic movie, that preceded Castle of Cagliostro but otherwise bears very little similarity to it. After watching this, you’ll probably understand why the Lupin III fandom of the day was so nonplussed with Cagliostro.
  • Other Lupin III works on DVD – Be warned: if your only exposure to Lupin III is via the works of Miyazaki, you may not enjoy some of the other Lupin stuff as much. It’s a bit uneven in terms of quality. The Fuma Conspiracy is pretty decent (and features another great commentary by Reed Nelson) but is out of print so will probably cost a fortune.

Movies & TV – Other


Books

  • Arsène Lupin vs. Countess Cagliostro – A new translation of the two Cagliostro-related Arsène Lupin novels by Black Coat Press, plus a prequel short story. Black Coat has put out modern translations of a number of other Lupin novels as well.
  • Other Maurice Leblanc titles on Amazon – There are over 300 of them, even limiting the search to titles in English. But check the description carefully before you buy. Many of them are repackagings of early public domain translations, which can be found for free in…
  • Project Gutenberg’s Maurice Leblanc archives – I contributed two of these books (Arsène Lupin and The Hollow Needle) myself. As noted in the commentary, the translations aren’t necessarily the best, and are often bowdlerized in the name of early-20th-century American sensibilities. But at least they’re free!
    • I contributed those books via Greg Weeks, who scanned them and sent them back to me, and also hosts them on his site’s books page. If you have any public-domain books that you don’t see on Gutenberg yet, drop him a line and he’ll be happy to help you set them free!
  • Google Books’s Maurice Leblanc listings – Google Books has a number of scans of public-domain Leblanc titles as well. Same translation quality disclaimer applies.
  • Case Closed manga – Gosho Aoyama’s Detective Conan series based on the works of Conan Doyle, Edogawa Ranpo, and Maurice Leblanc.

Resources and Footnotes

Here are some of the sources I used while compiling this commentary.


The Guns

And the Internet Movie Firearms Database obsessively identifies even more guns in the movie, including a number of the rusted and broken ones lying around in the dungeon.


The Vehicles


Tip Jar

This commentary track is provided free to all, with no obligations. All I ask is that you enjoy it, and perhaps let me know what you think. That being said, if you would like to leave a tip in appreciation of the time and effort I put into making it, I do have a PayPal tip jar where you could send it.

You could also bookmark one of these affiliate links to Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.it, Amazon.com.au, Amazon.co.jp, Amazon.in, Amazon.fr, Amazon.de, Amazon.nl, Amazon.es, Amazon.com.mx, or Amazon.com.br—whichever one is local to where you live—and use it for your shopping there. That will get me a small percentage of the amount you spend at Amazon, without adding any extra cost to you. The links to Amazon products above also have my affiliate code built in, so please buy them through this post if you can.

Finally, if you like my writing style and think you might come to Indianapolis someday, such as for Gen Con, you might want to check out the self-published guidebook I have available at Amazon, The Geek’s Guide to Indianapolis.

In any event, thanks for downloading my commentary track. I hope you enjoy it.


Essays and Deleted Content

Fansubs and the ’90s

I first came to anime fandom in the 1990s. I had originally been captivated by the TV series Robotech, when it aired on syndicated TV in the mid-1980s. A few years later, I’d obtained the Robotech art books, which included articles that told me that Robotech was an adaptation of Japanese anime. So, by the time I got to college in 1991 and found the Internet, I was primed to seek out more of the stuff. And so I did, and Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro was one of the first true anime titles I ever saw. (I obtained the fansub in one of my first tape shipments from my Robotech fan-mecha collaborator Dave Deitrich. It had the Dirty Pair “Girls with Guns” video tacked on at the end.) And yes, it did knock my socks off.

The ‘90s really were an interesting time for anime fans. If you weren’t alive in those days, you can’t imagine what it was like. The idea of transmitting video over the Internet was an unimagined pipe dream. In those days, fans used genlock software to superimpose subtitles over VHS video and mailed ridiculously bulky videotapes back and forth at great expense. Vicious flamewars raged over whether fansub distributors should charge only the price of blank tapes and postage, or whether they could tack a little extra on to cover the costs of wear and tear on their tape decks. People discussed how many “generations” from source their fansubs were, and having something only one or two generations away from laserdisc was a point of pride.

Since fansubs back then were usually translated by amateurs who spoke Japanese as a second language (with the help of many dictionaries), and had almost no understanding of the Japanese culture by which to put things into context, we wound up with a lot of fansubs that were just barely good enough to tell us what was going on. There wasn’t a lot of nuance in them.

And often enough, the early professional subs weren’t much better, because not many companies had built up the expertise in translating Japanese film prior to the ’90s. If you have the 35th-anniversary Discotek Blu-ray of Cagliostro, the original theatrical subs they lovingly reconstructed for that are of the same general quality, and should give you some idea of what I mean.

We ‘90s fans generally knew we weren’t getting the best translations, but we didn’t complain—because anime fandom of the ‘80s had largely relied on having people who’d watched a given show enough to kind of know what was going on explaining it all to other people in the room while they all watched it in raw Japanese. So at least we were better off than that.

Castle of Cagliostro epitomizes the ‘90s fansub. Because it had been released dubbed by Carl Macek’s company, Streamline, who categorically refused to release subtitled versions of their titles, the fansubbers’ moral code held that it was fair game for continued fansub distribution—and anime fans were only too happy to oblige. It was 2000 before the movie finally received its first commercially-subtitled home video release courtesy of Manga Video.

The problem with the fansub approach was that many titles were translated by college students who lacked the cultural understanding necessary to give them a full context. So a lot of errors and misunderstandings crept in, and some of them even made it all the way into the Manga Video translations before being corrected in the Discotek edition.


The Gamer’s Guide and Guesswork

Speaking of fansub errors and misunderstandings, I have on my desk right now a copy of the a “Gamer’s Guide to Anime,” a booklet offering generic role-playing game stats for characters from a number of anime, including Lupin III. It was put together in 1993 by an anonymous college anime fan—and it’s the source of a number of the more egregious errors I made in earlier versions of this commentary track.

(Through the most unlikely of coincidences, I later learned the identity of said anime fan, who also drew the illustrations for the guide. As it turns out, he went on to make a name for himself in independent comics. His name probably wouldn’t ring a bell, but you’ve likely heard of the comic book he’s most famous for.)

One thing mentioned in there is that Jigen uses the brim of his hat to help him line up shots, and without it he can’t hit the broad side of a barn. Hence, he’s never without his hat—even when he’s sneaking through the old aqueduct with scuba gear later on.

That’s all very well and good, but I’ve since learned it was a mistake brought on by the relatively loose continuity of prior Lupin manga and anime. The way it went was that, for one particular episode or manga issue, the writers needed a way to neutralize Jigen’s marksmanship in the name of giving the character an extra dramatic challenge. So they decided to have his talent for marksmanship actually depend on his hat, and have someone deprive him of it—by burning all his hats. (Subsequent Lupin works have done the same thing a little more believably by giving him a toothache instead.)

In the traditional episodic cartoon reset-button effect, the very idea of Jigen’s marksmanship depending on his hat was completely forgotten after that story was over. Jigen has been seen to make shots while not wearing the hat, and the hat certainly wouldn’t help him shoot through a sniper scope. But people used to stricter continuity who happened to have seen that story took it as gospel truth for the character.

The most egregious of the errors I took from that “Gamer’s Guide to Anime” book has to do with composer Yuji Ohno. That guide says that Yuji Ohno is the sister of John Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono—but if you look up any YouTube video of Yuji Ohno and his jazz ensemble (such as the ones linked above), you’ll immediately notice that he is, in fact, a man. When I learned that, I did a rather hasty edit to the first commentary to change “sister” to “brother” where I mentioned him.

But the thing is, I haven’t been able to find any evidence anywhere that Yuji Ohno actually is related to Yoko Ono at all. And as famous as Yoko Ono is and as popular as the Lupin franchise is, you’d think that if such evidence existed, it should be pretty easy to find. So, just chalk that up to another case of 1990s anime fandom getting it wrong, I guess. (Though if anyone should know of such evidence, I’d be interested to hear about it. There’s not much written about Ohno in English and I don’t read Japanese, so I suppose it could still be out there.)


Cannes? Canned.

Mark Twain once said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” Case in point: until just a couple of days ago, I was positive that I’d heard somewhere that Castle of Cagliostro had definitely been screened at Cannes in 1980. I even put that in an early draft of this track. But Reed Nelson noted that he’s never actually been able to find any proof of that. The problem is that only movies that won at Cannes were carefully recorded, but they weren’t so good at keeping track of non-competing movies that were also shown. Mystery of Mamo and Cagliostro were rumored to have been shown, and they very well could have been shown, but whether they actually were isn’t clear, and may never be.

What is factual, according to what Nelson heard from anime authority Fred Patten, is that Cagliostro was shown officially at Worldcon 38 in Boston, MA at the end of August, 1980, and at Dr. Donald Reed’s Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films around 1980 to 1982. It was also screened for Disney animators during that time (hence the homage in The Great Mouse Detective), and John Lasseter got it shown at the Filmex film festival in LA sometime before Filmex’s last event in 1983. These screenings would have featured the theatrical subtitles that Discotek lovingly recreated, errors and all, for its new Cagliostro release. So the movie was being seen by industry folks in the know, which is how it managed to be so influential over the years. It’s just that where and when it was seen is, in some cases, a little blurry.


More Jigen Facts

It’s funny, Jigen goes around with a dog-eared cigarette butt in his mouth all the time, but he never actually seems to have it lit.

Look closely at Jigen’s posture as the train rolls by in the opening titles. What does it look like he’s doing?

Not much is known about Jigen’s background. Fan sites in the ‘90s had it that he was in the American Mafia but changed his name and moved to Japan for some reason to avoid them, but it’s not clear where they got that idea. He was shown to have been in the mafia in later Lupin movies, such as Voyage to Danger or First Contact, and I gather a more recent movie called Jigen’s Gravestone may go into more detail, but that hadn’t ever been made explicit at the time of Cagliostro.

As I note in the commentary, “Jigen” is a Japanese word that means “dimension.” Jigen-ryu is a famous school of Japanese swordsmanship, whose name means “revealed reality.” Is it just a name that sounds cool, or does it have any deeper meaning? It’s interesting to speculate.

One other thing is, it’s a bit unclear just which .357 Magnum Jigen is using in this movie. The official Cagliostro art book and program booklet/pamphlet calls it a Smith & Wesson Model 27, but Jigen’s usual standard gun, which he carried in the first TV series, is the smaller Model 19. The Internet Movie Firearms Database listing calls it a Model 19 as well. I’m not a huge expert on guns, and the two models look pretty similar to me. I’m checking with some people who know more than I do, and may update either this blog entry, the commentary track (where I call it a 27), or both.

The armor-piercing bullet Jigen slides in is significantly bigger than even a .357 round should be. (The gun expert I showed a screen capture compared it to a .300 Winchester Short Magnum rifle round.) It’s probably drawn at an exaggerated size in order to telegraph that the bullet is super-powerful, just as the stick grenades in Cagliostro and “Albatross” are drawn with larger-than-actual heads.


Why does Lupin go after the counterfeiting operation when he didn’t want the carload of counterfeit money he ripped off? My own opinion is that Lupin isn’t really in it for the money anymore—if he cared about that sort of thing, he wouldn’t be driving a Fiat and using cheap disposable lighters. He’s in it for adventure, and taking down a ring of master counterfeiters sounds like a good one.

But I also think there’s a parallel to the way he only remembered Clarisse upon seeing her ring. After the failure of ten years before, he had tried to put it out of his mind and get on with his life. He succeeded so well that he completely forgot about it until seeing those specific counterfeits reminded him. That’s why he waited so long to try again. But once he remembered, he couldn’t let it rest.

(But even then, he still didn’t remember how he escaped until he found the ring. Apparently Lupin is really good at forgetting things.)


One of the liberties taken by Macek in his dub was gratuitous insertion of excess dialogue. The newer dub by Manga Video and Animaze is significantly better about that, but there are still a few places where it can’t resist poking in a few extra words. One of these is when Lupin and Jigen cross the border into Cagliostro, and Lupin claims Jigen is his dad. Oddly enough, Macek left this bit alone. Miyazaki had the entrance to Cagliostro play out in silence punctuated by the polite tip of a hat.


Cliff (Hanger)’s Notes

The arcade game Cliff Hanger has an interesting history. It came about because Don Bluth’s Dragon’s Lair laserdisc game using animated footage was such a big hit that competing studios were casting about for some way they could compete in the realm of quarter-eating. I don’t know how it came about that someone had the idea to license Castle of Cagliostro (and a scene from Mystery of Mamo) to turn them into such a game, but it was an inspired choice. Cagliostro has lots of action scenes—enough that condensing them down to a roughly-fifteen-minute “show” of the same length as the all-action Dragon’s Lair would have been pretty simple.

The gameplay involved pressing “action” buttons at the right time to sync up with events on the screen. Hit the buttons at the right times and you got to see more story. Miss a move and you were treated to a scene of a hanged Lupin (from Mystery of Mamo). The dub was fairly primitive, and largely consisted of people yelling really loud in English over the original Japanese audio, which you could still make out in the background. But even through all that, the exciting nature of Miyazaki’s animation still shone through. (And, unlike Dragon’s Lair, it didn’t have to resort to flipped and repeated footage, which made up something like half of Dragon’s Lair‘s 12-minute run time.) Comments on the YouTube video I link above are full of nostalgia from gamers who remember those days. Perhaps that familiarity was partly responsible for Cagliostro‘s popularity over here later. In any case, TMS didn’t let the Cliff Hanger craze pass it by; Reed tells me that the Cliff Hanger title was used for the Lupin III series when it was shown abroad in certain markets.

Being based on a laserdisc player, Cliff Hanger was prone to mechanical failures, and I would be very surprised if there were many functional cabinets still around. But the failures also meant that there were plenty of discs left homeless, and they became prized collectibles. Incidentally, you can download a MAME emulator set for the old Cliff Hanger game, laserdisc footage and all, if you have 14 gigabytes of space to spare. I have no idea how easy it is to make work, though.

Given that Cagliostro is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I go by the Internet handle “Robotech_Master,” I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I never even noticed the cameo appearance of a scene from Cagliostro in Macross/Robotech until I happened to be showing the series to a younger friend who’d never seen it and he burst out, “Hey, that’s Cliff Hanger!” Of course, I knew what Cliff Hanger was, even by then, and when I took a closer look, by golly he was right. Starting at 13:15 into the remastered “Protoculture Collection” edition of episode 24, this five-second clip is unmistakable.

The interesting thing about this scene, though, is that it shows the Fiat 500 from the rear whereas it was only seen from the front in that sequence in Cagliostro, and the jacket-and-sideburn-wearing guy is playing it with a steering wheel like a driving game while Cliff Hanger used action buttons. Was this an homage to the idea of adapting Cagliostro into a video game, as Stern Electronics had done the year before Macross was released? Or just a coincidence?

Of course, one thing that’s definitely coincidence is that Carl Macek, who put together Robotech out of Macross and two other shows, would later oversee a dub of Cagliostro himself. But it’s an amusing coincidence to consider.

Noticing this Easter Egg got me a mention by name in the liner notes for AnimEigo’s Macross set, by the way. (In another coincidence, AnimEigo had also released a number of Lupin (or “Rupan”) III titles, including The Fuma Conspiracy.) Not a bad accomplishment for the “Robotech_Master.”


Cliff (Chase)’s Notes

The version of the Lupin III theme used during the chase is known as “Lupin ‘80,” though you don’t actually get to hear all of it as it’s interrupted in the middle. (Versions of the Lupin III theme used in other series and movies are similarly titled by the year they came out.) It’s not in its completed form on the Castle of Cagliostro sound file album I was able to find, either. Which is a pity, as it’s my all-time favorite version of the Lupin theme. I just love those vibraphones. You generally have to go find a Lupin III themes compilation to hear the whole thing, or see the live performances on YouTube I linked above.

Speaking of Fiat 500s and heist movies, when the original The Italian Job was filming in Italy in the 1960s, Fiat offered the filmmakers the use of 500s for its movie cars. However, it was thematically important to the movie that the protagonists drive British-made autos, so they had to turn them down in favor of the now-iconic Mini Coopers. But a truckload of Fiat 500s does still appear in the movie. Also, the character Luigi from Pixar’s Cars is a yellow Fiat 500, in a direct homage to Lupin III. Pixar chief John Lasseter is a major Miyazaki fan, as well as a real-life friend.

Cagliostro isn’t the only movie around this time to feature a chase sequence involving a Citroen 2CV. A couple of years later, the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only had a chase scene set piece in which Roger Moore and Carole Bouquet had to flee from a couple of cars full of thugs in a Citroen 2CV after Bond’s Lotus Esprit Turbo sports car got blown up. The James Bond chase had a remarkable number of similar elements to the Cagliostro sequence—both involved small cars pitted against larger cars full of thugs on mountainous terrain, the smaller car taking a shortcut involving traversing steep hillsides, and, of course, the Citroen 2CV itself. Citroen later marketed a limited edition “2CV 007” complete with fake bullet holes.

Cagliostro came out in December, 1979, might have showed at Cannes in May, 1980, and did show in Worldcon at the end of August. For Your Eyes Only began filming in September, 1980 for a release in June, 1981. It’s possible, though not probable, that director John Glen or other staff associated with the Bond movie could have seen the film somewhere and been inspired by that sequence. On the other hand, neither Reed Nelson nor I have ever been able to find any official sources saying that actually did happen—and surely if it had, someone would have said so on the commentary track or in the documentary material, or in an interview somewhere else by now. So it’s most likely completely coincidental.

It is interesting, though, that sticking Bond with a Citroen 2CV happened for a similar reason—per the 1981 interview linked above—to Miyazaki and Ohtsuka giving Lupin a Fiat 500: the need to bring the character “back to basics” after previous, more flamboyant adventures. (In Bond’s case, sending him into outer space in Moonraker—a Bond film Miyazaki specifically derided for its absurdity.)


You Only Bond Twice

Speaking of James Bond and vehicles from Cagliostro, here’s another interesting coincidence. An autogyro also features in a Bond movie, You Only Live Twice. Originally intended to be Connery’s last Bond, it was made in 1967—just a year before Cagliostro‘s 1968 setting—and set in Japan.

The Bond producers were always on the lookout for unusual real-world vehicles to throw into their Bond movies, such as the rocket belt used in Thunderball. Bond’s autogyro, “Little Nellie,” was invented by ex-RAF Wing Commander Ken Wallis, who also flew it for the aerial dogfight stunt sequences in the Bond movie.

Is there a direct connection to Cagliostro? Probably not. The vehicle designs aren’t similar at all. In the 1981 interview linked above, Miyazaki says he based it on a pre-World War II French autogyro design used for postal delivery service, but with some modifications from his imagination such as a ramjet engine to run the rotor.

Nonetheless, we do know Miyazaki had watched at least some Bond movies, given his disdain for Moonraker—so it’s always possible it might have been in the back of his mind. Miyazaki says in the interview that he had originally intended for Cagliostro‘s autogyro to be involved in an aerial dogfight. Like the one “Little Nellie” had, perhaps?


Besides Jodot, another name whose spelling has changed over time is Clarisse’s. Fansub translations have rendered it as “Clarice”, but the Manga’s subs and the new Discotek subs spell it “Clarisse,” the same as a character from that Leblanc novel featuring Countess Cagliostro that I mentioned. Given the other details Miyazaki took from old Arsène Lupin stories, that’s probably what he originally intended anyway.


Kirk Thornton is one of two actors to have done voices for both Streamline and Manga. According to the Internet Movie Database credits list, Thornton played Gustav and the Archbishop in the Streamline dub, but Count Cagliostro in the Manga Animaze dub. The other two-time actor is Tom Wyner, who played a number of minor characters including counterfeiters and councilmen in the Streamline dub, and one of the same councilmen in the Animaze dub.


Spaghetti is a very sloppy food. There’s a skit in the Japanese movie Tampopo that deals with the messiness of eating it—and how perplexing it is to Japanese students of etiquette. But looking at it another way, an awful lot of Miyazaki’s work deals with food in some way. You could also compare Lupin and Jigen’s squabble over the spaghetti and meatballs to the time they feuded over the sukiyaki in “Albatross”—though in that, it’s Goemon who comes in and snags the lion’s share of it out from under them.


One of the MST-style jokes I most regret losing in my new commentary track comes when Gustav lights Zenigata’s cigarette from the laser gun, after the dinner meeting with Count Cagliostro. In my original commentary, I said, “No, no, I meant a Bud Lite!” there, in reference to an old series of commercials, but in this one I was too busy discussing other things at the time. Oh well.


Something that I always find particularly interesting about the aqueduct sequence is the way it doesn’t have any background music whatsoever. Until Jigen gets shot at by the laser guns a minute or so into it, all that you hear are the sounds of the water and the water-driven mechanisms. This stands in sharp contrast to what most Western directors would have done with this sequence—try to add humorous or dramatic music to try to “punch it up,” the way Disney did with its dub of the Miyazaki movie Castle in the Sky. Miyazaki, on the other hand, is content to let the action speak for itself.


It’s interesting to compare Lupin’s feast after getting shot with other scenes of characters pigging out in Miyazaki movies. For example, the air pirates from Castle in the Sky, or Chihiro’s parents from Spirited Away (for the literal pigging out). Miyazaki seems to use eating with uncouth gusto as a metaphor for characters living their lives with that same degree of gusto—be it rightly or wrongly. But I suppose you could write whole books about the various depictions of food and eating in Miyazaki movies.


One interesting note is that in the flashback to the first time Lupin visited Cagliostro, he is acting all wild and crazy the way he did in the first Lupin III TV series. Rent the DVDs or watch the Cartoon Network show to see what I mean. But by and large he doesn’t act that way in Cagliostro.


In the audience at the wedding you can see people wearing outfits of all different nationalities, such as that guy with the turban next to the Indian woman with the marriage spot on her forehead. Considering the rarified circles in which Cagliostro must move, these surely have to be diplomats and important dignitaries—and after all the publicity, every one of them has to know about Lupin’s threats against the count. You know they’re just waiting for something exciting to happen. Looks like Lupin is going to oblige them!


Did you know that the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon’s April O’Neill, in her yellow jumpsuit, was modeled after TV reporter Fujiko? She wore a pink jumpsuit here, but a yellow one in the “Aloha Lupin” TV episode, which is what led to April’s jumpsuit’s color scheme. Reed Nelson heard it from TMNT cartoon adapter and frequent scriptwriter David Wise.

Wise was also the scriptwriter behind the Batman: The Animated Series episode “The Clock King” that I mention in the commentary track, and he has said that remembering Cagliostro‘s clock tower fight helped him fill in an area of the script where he had been suffering from writer’s block.


In Macek’s dub, Clarisse didn’t go to a convent; she went to college, which kind of undercuts her lack of worldliness. In any event, being away at a convent explains why Cagliostro never tried to do anything about the rings before now—with her gone, he couldn’t get his hands on it. Apparently that time in her bedroom was his first chance to see her since she’d gotten back—and by then, she’d already lost the ring.


Cagliostro is responsible for one “first” that Miyazaki would probably just as soon forget: Clarisse is considered by some to be “ground zero” for the “moe” phenomenon, in which manga and anime girls are overly-cute, child-like, and often helpless. Miyazaki has not had kind words for the moe trend in anime, and considering Clarisse in that way is probably the ultimate example of what TVTropes would call “misaimed fandom”—given that we first meet Clarisse after she has gotten away from the castle and gone on the run all by herself, and later on she risks her life twice to save Lupin, she’s anything but helpless.


Scenes from the Pre-Infiltration Noodle Dinner

Here’s another one of those interesting bits of translation localization between different versions. The Manga video subtitles describe Zenigata as an “archetypical” Japanese worker. But “archetypical” is a less correct usage that has found its way into dictionaries simply from being used so often. The Manga dub uses the more accepted form, “archetypal.” You’d tend to expect a subtitled version to have more accurate grammar than a dub, but perhaps it just came down to the number of lip flaps.

The new translation for the Discotek disk avoids the issue altogether by using a more literal translation, calling Zenigata “a child of the early Showa era.” The Showa era was the rule of Emperor Hirohito, from the end of 1926 through the beginning of 1989. People born around the early part of that era have a reputation of being dedicated workers—and also, it means Zenigata’s probably at least in his 50s as of this movie’s chronology, making him a bit older than Lupin. (Hence Lupin calling him “tottsan,” which could be roughly translated as “Pops”—originally an ad-lib by Lupin voice actor Yasuo Yamada in the first series.) The translation notes on the Discotek disc have more detail.

Something I got from Reed’s commentary when I listened to it (after finalizing mine) was that the variety of udon Lupin and Jigen are eating is also called “kitsune udon”. I do wish I’d known about that in time to put it in my commentary. Apart from the udon/Goemon(-buro) connection I go into, it seems rather apt that they’re eating a variety of udon named for kitsune—mischievous trickster fox spirit servants of the harvest god Inari. After all, what could be more appropriate for a thief?

Jigen is trying to reassure Goemon, “It’s not what you think,” because he knows Goemon has trouble around women. I had heard back in the day that Goemon was supposed to avoid women because of his training, but I think that’s probably another fan misunderstanding. There are plenty of Lupin specials and movies where he didn’t make any particular effort to avoid women—Bye Bye Lady Liberty, for example—and he was actually engaged to be married in The Fuma Conspiracy. So, I think it’s more likely that it’s just that the isolation of his mostly-solitary samurai training meant he largely had avoided women so far, which left him largely unprepared to deal with them in a social context.

The Manga sub has Goemon say “Poison for poison,” while the Discotek sub says “Fight fire with fire.” The newer translation has a more familiar idiom to western audiences. However, it’s interesting to note that using poison to fight the effects of another poison is a long-held principle of Chinese medicine. It was used as a plot point in the Jet Li movie Once Upon a Time in China.


The Green Jacket Series

So, how did Lupin III get from zany manga to an animated production? Like this.

In the late 1960s Tokyo Movie Shinsha decided to make the Lupin III manga into a feature film. They made a short pilot film but it never saw the interior of a theater. Instead TMS decided to turn Lupin III into a TV series, which lasted 23 episodes. (One of them incorporated the pilot film, because waste not want not.) Fans often refer to it as “the green jacket series” because Lupin wore a green jacket, rather than the red or pink ones he wore in later series. It’s probably telling that Lupin is back to the same greenish-blue jacket for Cagliostro.

The series got low ratings at the outset, so TMS fired the original director and installed a pair of up-and-coming young animators by the names of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata to finish it. Miyazaki and Takahata ended up directing all but 6 episodes, with varying degrees of influence from the original director on episodes that had been partly completed before he was fired.

Having watched the entire series, I can say that before Miyazaki and Takahata took over the plots tended to be strange, disjointed, and didn’t make a lot of sense. But Miyazaki and Takahata changed the tone of the series rather dramatically—though it still wasn’t enough to keep the it from being canceled three episodes short of its intended 26-episode run. In Cagliostro, as you can see here, Miyazaki has changed the tone even further, changing Lupin from a rather irresponsible carefree, thief to a sort of a romantic-in-general hero.


More About Maurice Leblanc

The Lupin III manga and anime were originally based on a series of stories and novels by a man named Maurice LeBlanc. Maurice LeBlanc was a French journalist who had written one unsuccessful novel. Then Leblanc heard from a friend of his who was starting a magazine called Je Sais Tout, or “I Know All,” in the mold of British magazine The Strand. He wanted Leblanc to write some stories that could serve as a counterpart to The Strand’s hit fiction series, which was by a fellow named Conan Doyle starring a guy named Holmes.

Perhaps it was the rivalry between the UK and France of the day that led Leblanc to want to go in the opposite direction of his British equivalent out of sheer contrariness. Whatever the reason, instead of a great detective, Maurice Leblanc invented a great thief: Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Burglar. Lupin was probably inspired in part by French anarchist Marius Jacob, whose trial at the time was a matter of much public interest. Leblanc might also have based Lupin’s name on that of Edgar Allen Poe’s detective C. Auguste Dupin (for whom Holmes expressed disdain in A Study in Scarlet).

As I noted in the commentary, one of Arsène Lupin’s cited accomplishments was introducing jujutsu (then known as “jiu-jitsu”) to France. At the time, jujutsu and similar martial arts were a huge fad in Europe, touched off by Edgar Barton-Wright’s founding a “Bartitsu” school of martial arts (anachronistically referred to by Conan Doyle as “Baritsu” in one of his Holmes stories). In France, they were especially popular because roving street gangs called “Apaches,” armed with knife/knuckles/revolver combination weapons, terrorized citizens who weren’t permitted to carry arms. Jujutsu was seen as a great equalizer. It’s not surprising Leblanc would hitch his Lupin’s wagon to that star.

You can find a lot of the Arsène Lupin novels on Google Books, the Gutenberg Project, and other public-domain repositories. I even donated a couple of them myself. I should note, though, that the public-domain-era English translations are often significantly bowdlerized—the French mores of the day were a bit too scandalously liberal for Edwardian England and Jazz Age America. There are more recent translations for sale by Black Coat Press that provide a better sense of just what the stories were about.

One of the funniest things about the original Arsène Lupin was that he sometimes fought a thinly veiled Sherlock Holmes parody called Holmlock Shears or Herlock Sholmes. (He originally was explicitly named Sherlock Holmes, until Conan Doyle objected. The character has been renamed back to Holmes in some of the translations made after the Holmes books started passing into the public domain.) As you might expect from a French author, English hero Shears was written pretty badly, for the sake of making Lupin look good. And Shears’s Doctor Watson counterpart seemed to exist solely for the slapstick purpose of collecting various amusing injuries over the course of their adventures.

Another interesting parallel between Leblanc and Conan Doyle is that they both had problems later in their career with the success their most famous creations had achieved. Conan Doyle is known for outright killing Sherlock Holmes off in the hope that it would give him some breathing room to work on other projects. (It didn’t work, and Conan Doyle eventually brought him back by popular demand.) Leblanc’s problem was more internal: he would start some story about a new character—an American private eye, say, or a minor European nobleman-turned-adventurer—only to find, by the end, that character pulling off his mask and revealing he had actually been Arsène Lupin all along.

Also like Conan Doyle, Leblanc dabbled in science fiction apart from his Lupin stories. One of his novels involved an earthquake raising a new land bridge from England to France, and another featured first contact with aliens via the then-science-fictional concept of video transmissions. If things had gone a little differently, perhaps we’d consider Leblanc more a contemporary of H.G. Wells than of Conan Doyle. These science-fictional concepts sometimes even intruded into the Arsène Lupin series, as when in one book a man who was thought to have been killed by being shot through the head turns out actually to have been struck in the head by a micro-meteorite. (Fritz Lieber would later reuse this idea in one of his “Change War” stories, “Try and Change the Past.”)


Lupin and Conan

In one of the 1981 interviews linked above, Miyazaki notes that, apart from Leblanc’s The Girl with Green Eyes, a major influence on him was the novel by Edogawa RanpoGhost Tower. This book hasn’t been translated into English, but apparently involved a clock tower like the one in which Cagliostro‘s climax takes place. The Studio Ghibli Museum hosted an exhibit based on the work from 2015 to 2016.

In being based partly on an Edogawa Ranpo work, Castle of Cagliostro offers yet another curious parallel to Meitantei Conan, or Detective Conan (known as Case Closed in English adaptations). Though Ghost Tower wasn’t one of them, Edogawa is best known for writing a series of detective novels in the early 20th century that are often compared to Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. The Case Closed manga by Gosho Aoyama, adapted into one of Japan’s longest-running anime series, draws heavily from those works of Ranpo and the Sherlock Holmes stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The anime throws in the Kaito Kid—a character from one of Aoyama’s other manga, Magic Kaito, based on Maurice Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin. Apart from the fact that those works are now in the public domain so Aoyama can draw on them with impunity, this is strangely similar to the origin of the Lupin III manga. What’s more, at least two voice actors from Cagliostro (Sumi Shimamoto and Ichiro Nagai) had recurring roles in the anime.

Aoyama is a big Lupin III fan as well—so it’s a small surprise that, after a “cameo” by Lupin and Jigen in one of the Detective Conan movies that turned out to be a couple of robbers wearing latex masks, the two series officially crossed over in a TV special followed by a theatrical movie. As noted in the links list above, both of these were licensed by Discotek.


The Fanfic Connection

Consider that, in Castle of Cagliostro, we have a story…

  • …partly inspired by the works of Maurice Leblanc, who borrowed a name from Edgar Allen Poe for a character based on a real-life figure, and then outright stole a character from Conan Doyle.
  • …featuring as its protagonist another character (Lupin III) similarly inspired by those works.
  • …incorporating one character (Goemon) based on a real-life historical/mythical figure, and another (Zenigata) based on a series of Japanese mystery novels.
  • …set in a castle (Neuschwanstein) based partly on the works of Richard Wagner.
  • …borrowing many elements from another story (Mr. Wonderbird) set in such a castle.

This story in turn inspired…

  • …climactic scenes in at least two Disney movies.
  • …sequences in two different Batman: The Animated Series works.
  • …the look of an important Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles character.

…and was arguably responsible for helping to inspire Detective Conan a decade or so later. And who knows what other influences can be traced back to it?

The character of Lupin III was only possible in the first place because Japan didn’t honor trade copyrights at the time. When it did, the Leblanc estate was able to get sanctions slapped on exporting it to other parts of the world even though a number of Lupin works were already in the public domain even then. The only reason Detective Conan was able to get away with as much as it borrows is that more of those works had passed into the public domain by the time it was launched.

And these series, in turn, inspired me to get interested in and seek out more of the original works on which they were based.

Can there be any greater argument that the more borrowing is allowed, the more creativity can flourish? And this new creativity helps to promote the original works as well, as people seek them out to discover what was borrowed and how it was changed.

And yet we still allow corporations such as Disney to buy longer and longer extensions to copyright law that get in the way of this sort of thing. Hopefully we’ll come to our senses sooner or later.


 So Much Pronunciation

There have, historically, been an awful lot of mispronounced words around Lupin III and Castle of Cagliostro. For starters, there’s “Lupin.” Not surprisingly, many English-speakers pronounce it as “LOO-pin,” like the hirsute professor from the Harry Potter stories. Others (such as the Manga/Animaze dub) pronounce it “LOO-pon.” (And that’s not even getting into how AnimEigo would pronounce it as “Rupan,” for the reasons I went into in the commentary track itself!)

I originally learned to mispronounce “Lupin” by learning it in text and from the odd dubs. (On the old commentary track, what with my rerecording odd bits of it at odd times, I managed to pronounce it two or three different ways over the course of the thing!) But if you were pronounce it in French, it would sound closer to “luh-PAN.” So that’s how I tried to pronounce it for this commentary.

Another fun one is “Cagliostro.” Macek’s dub—and, for that matter, the characters in the Doctor Strange movie when speaking of the sorcerous tome written by the Marvel version of Count Cagliostro—mispronounced it “CAG-lee-OH-stro.” (And I pronounced it the same way in that Carl Macek audio clip to which I link above. Makes me cringe now, listening to it.) But the Animaze dub pronounces it “COLLIE-ostro,” with a slient G after the Italian fashion, so that’s the pronounciation I tried to stick to here.

It wasn’t easy, because unless I constantly reminded myself, I would invariably revert to one of the old pronunciations in the stress of recording. So in the end I did a global search and replace on my commentary scr ipt to change “Lupin” and “Cagliostro” to “luh-PAN” and “COLLIE-ostro” so that I’d be reminded every time I came across the words in the script. It seems to have worked. (But I do think I pronounced “Clarisse” two or three different ways over the course of it. Maybe I should have written that one down, too.)

Reed Nelson also pointed out a few Japanese words I mispronounced the first time ’round, and I carefully wrote the correct pronunciations into my script. As for all the Japanese and other foreign names I encountered, I did my best at reading them. If I goofed any up too badly, gomen nasai. At least I tried.

(I am perhaps more proud than I should be of the fact that I do pronounce “homage” correctly when so many don’t, thanks to my upbringing by strict grammarians. This is also why I noticed the archetypal/archetypical thing.)

On a related note, I chose to standardize my use of Japanese names to the English given-name-first, surname-last scheme instead of the other way around as it is in Japanese—simply because it’s more common to hear about “Hayao Miyazaki” than “Miyazaki Hayao” in English discussions of him, and I wanted to be consistent. If I accidentally goofed and gave any names the other way around, please let me know.


My Equipment

In case you’re wondering what I recorded this on, I used a Logitech ClearChat USB headset H390 for the recording, into Audacity for Windows which is also what I used to edit and rerecord the segments I needed to fix. I read my script from Scrivener, which is also what I used to write it and also keep all my research notes organized. To transcribe the old version, I used Express Scribe transcription software, which was able to slow my motor mouth down to match my typing speed. It still took forever to get it all down, though.

For playing back the video while I talked, I kept a VLC video player window open. It was a little annoying having to pause and restart everything simultaneously, though, and probably led to my need to shove a lot of stuff a few seconds forward or back when I went through my first edit pass. It would be nice if there were some sort of turnkey solution for recording audio commentaries in sync with video the way Sharecrow used to allow you to play them back in sync. If there is something like that, I’d love to hear about it.


Special Thanks

Reed Nelson helped me a lot with this commentary, and I’m really looking forward to listening to his. Without him, I’d have made significantly more errors, even in this revision.

“Kitsu” sent me a lot of useful information about the Venetian Oligarchs—considerably more than I had room to go into, but I think I managed to fit the gist into the discussion about the portrait Fujiko peeps through.

Beyond that, I didn’t mention any names in my commentary, because I probably lost track of them, but I’d like to thank everyone who sent me in corrections or additions, especially the ones I’ve used. If you remember telling me something, and you heard it show up in this track, then I probably did get it from you, and I’m sorry I lost track of your name. If you want to be mentioned here, prod me and I’ll update this listing. Thank you so much.


 Change Log

  • v2.0 (6/15/2017)
    • Completely rewrote and rerecorded commentary track from scratch, with substantial revisions; moved some material to this liner notes page.
  • v2.01 (6/16/2017)
    • At 0:43, rerecorded to make it clear Discotek had licensed both Lupin vs. Conan shows.
    • At 1:39, inserted correct redirect URL; expanded description of liner notes web site and added Amazon affiliate remarks.
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