A mythical floating city, a girl who falls from the sky, and a chase to rival any modern-day Hollywood film. Check out our thoughts on Castle in the Sky – Hayao Miyazaki’s third film, and the first in our “Miyazaki Month” after the jump.
Castle in the Sky is the first film produced and released by the Japanese Animation studio, Studo Ghibli (スタジオジブリ), which was founded by Miyazaki and Isao Takahata in June 1985. The film won the Animage – Anime Granprix in 1986; and it currently sits at #250 on the IMDB Top 250 films, and at 94% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
In a time long past, humans built floating cities in the sky. However there was an unknown disaster which destroyed the cities, and they are no more….except one. Laputa is believed to be still floating in the sky, concealed by the clouds, in a location which no one has been able to find.
Enter Sheeta – a girl who is living under guard on an airship. The ship comes under attack from pirates and in an attempt to escape, Sheeta falls from the ship and plummets to almost certain death. However, a crystal pendant which she stole from her guards on the airship has magical powers and it slows her fall, allowing her to drift into the arms of the very surprised Pazu – a young boy with his own ramshackle cottage who works for the boss of the mines in the small village. Sheeta and Pazu soon realise that a lot of people out to get Sheeta – her guards and their army need the crystal back, while the pirates are equally keen to get their hands on the valuable object. You see, it turns out that this pendant is forged from the crystal at the heart of the fabled city of Laputa, and the guards and pirates both believe that the crystal will show them the way to Laputa, and the treasure that it holds.
What plays out from here is an utterly magical adventure that will have your gripped throughout. It starts off as a simple chase film and a search for treasure, but quickly turns into an epic quest in which the survival of Laputa is at stake.
What makes this film incredible (aside from the gripping story) are the very strong characters, and of course the beautiful animation. The friendship that develops between Sheeta and Pazu is utterly magical and very childlike. They have a mutual respect for each other and absolute unwavering trust. Pazu is an extremely strong boy who has little fear, and who is not afraid to do absolutely anything to project Sheeta – his resolve is put to the test many times, and you really feel for him. People can only fall from great heights so many times! Sheeta is a lovely character who is both brave and extremely frightened. When push comes to shove she isn’t scared to act, but she is undeniably a small girl, and these events are far beyond what she has ever had to deal with.
A mention must be given to the pirates and their leader Dola. Dola is utterly fierce and willing to do absolutely anything to get that crystal. She leads her pirates with an iron-fist, and it is very funny to watch the band of men quiver at her anger. Some of the best comedic moments in the film are between the bumbling pirates and the very unimpressed Dola.
Of course there are also the robots – Miyazaki has somehow put more heart and emotion into these awkward creatures, than is in the average flesh and blood character. Heart-warming and heart-breaking. Keep a watch out for them.
The animation is without question amazing, and even more so when you remember than this was created in 1986. Miyazaki is a details man, and every scene has little details that they average person probably wouldn’t pay attention too. For example, there is one particular chase scene which takes place on an elevated railway. Rather than just having the ground below a blur, Miyazaki has created the world below in such detail that you can clearly see the village between the rail tracks as the train speeds by. It is simply astounding. Much detail has also been paid to the mechanics and internal workings of the machines and vehicles in the film. Miyzaki likes to illustrate clearly how his world and it’s machines work, and he pays much attention to making sure the mechanics of all the machines are understandable (or at least imaginable!) for the audience.
A final mention must be given to the music. Studi Ghibli films always have beautiful scores, and this is no exception. The score is magical, energetic, and moving. It adds the feeling of adventure to the chase scenes, and emotion to the sadder moments. It really does complete the film.
Castle in the Sky is a magical adventure with a whole lot of heart. If you have never seen a Studio Ghibli film, then this is a wonderful place to start. We guarantee you’ll have a fantastic time! This film is suitable for kids and big kids of all ages. It is pure magic.