My review for Laputa: Castle In The Sky could be summarized to this: I LOVE THIS MOVIE. WATCH IT. NOW. But since it can’t be this brief, let me elaborate a little bit more!
Castle in the Sky is one of Miyazaki’s best films and the only one that had me laughing like crazy. Like most Studio Ghibli’s films, it has countless meanings hiding behind every detail, alongside with anti-war and environmental messages.
This is the first movie ever made by Studio Ghibli and has lots of adventure, astonishing fantasy, drama, and romance. Let’s see what makes the movie so special.
A teenage girl named Sheeta is abducted by the government and chased by air-pirates. Both of them are after her crystal necklace, which is believed to hold the key to Laputa, an ancient floating city with glorious treasures and advanced technology. While trying to escape, Sheeta falls off an airship and gets found by Pazu, a teenage boy, who joins her in the race of finding and protecting Laputa.
Plot & Story
Castle in the Sky shows us once again Miyazaki’s love for the element of the air. Airships, floating cities, and the majority of its story occurs in the sky. The film starts with many questions. Who is this girl? Why is everyone after her necklace? Who abducted her? Is the pink-haired pirate a man or a woman? But all queries are explained sooner or later.
After Sheeta manages to escape and is saved by the mysterious powers of her necklace, she ends up in the hands of Pazu. Pazu works as an assistant in a mine outside the village he lives. Both Pazu and Sheeta are orphans and they quickly attach to each other, developing a strong karma bond which is very emotional to watch. He tries his best to protect her, having his whole -ultra manly- village by his side. When Pazu’s boss fights against the intimidating pirates, one of the most iconic and comical events of the film takes place (Alpha male alert). Aaaaaannnnd the pink-haired pirate not only happens to be a woman but is also the mother of all pirates. They all adore and fear mama (who used to be a Mamacita back in her time -oh la la, lucky papa), and obey to everything she says. They have a strong family bond, taking care of each other, and never separate, similar to Pazu and Sheeta. You can’t judge a book by its cover, and mama-pirate Dola is the perfect example that looks may be deceiving -as she seems very bad and ugly at first, but once you get to know her you just love her. For every bad trait, there’s also a good one.
When the government manages to capture Sheeta and Pazu, she discovers that she’s the princess of Laputa and the necklace’s magic works only when summoned by her. In order to save Pazu and under the threats of the vicious government, she agrees to help them, showing great self-sacrifice and love for him. The cost of saving Pazu was that she stayed in captivity of the corrupted government, leaving Pazu devastated. He returns home heartbroken but guess what! The pirate family is there to surprise him, demanding to know where Sheeta is. What could they possibly want from Sheeta and Laputa? Treasures of course. Pirates!! Pazu pleads them to join the pirate team, as his first priority is to save Sheeta. Working together, they try to save the princess Sheeta and the race of ‘Who finds Laputa first’ begins. At that point, I started to love the pirates even more! During their adventurous journey, they will come across the outstanding beauty of the Kingdom. With an architecture inspired by European 1600s paintings, Laputa stands in the middle of the sky like a jewelry. It is built around a gigantic tree and nature is all over the place. Majestic flowers, tall trees, colorful bushes, all of them are carefully cared by the CUTEST robot-gardener ever, showing that sometimes even machines can have better manners than people. I felt really sad when I found out that he was the last robot left. Tough job to take care the whole kingdom’s garden, but being friends with all the remaining living creatures there was so lovely.
When Sheeta and Pazu decide to destroy Laputa in order to protect it from villains like Muska, it is eventually not destroyed, it just raises even higher in the sky, where no human eye can see the city. The flying kingdom protects itself from mankind until people are mature enough to face peace, balance, and power.
Art and music
The soundtrack is composed by Joe Hisaishi who has worked for many of Miyazaki’s films and they are close friends. The music is decent and conveys the feelings of agony or joy during the movie. The anime is hand-drawn with amazing details and colors, all in the original style of Miyazaki. Looking at the movie’s landscapes is like looking at a painting, so magnificent.
Themes and Trivia
Although it is the first Studio Ghibli movie (!!) and won the Animage Anime Grand Prix in 1986, many people consider it the second one, since Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind was created by the founding members two years before releasing Castle in the sky (fun fact: fox-squirrels seem to live in Laputa too). Miyazaki’s characters in Castle In The Sky were actually prototypes from the 1978 series named Future Boy. Laputa was named after the flying island in Gulliver’s Travels and although this word has no meaning in Japanese, it translates as ‘bitch’ in Spanish. Also, it’s worth mentioning that ‘Sheeta’ has a funny accent too (hue hue hue). Castle in the sky takes place sometime between 1868-1900, as the photo Pazu’s father took is dated ‘1868. 7’
Castle in the Sky has had a strong influence on Japanese pop culture, and has shaped various anime such as the series Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (1990), and Japanese video games, including the Mega Man Legends series, and particularly Japanese role-playing video games like the Lunar series, Valkyrie Profile (1999), Skies of Arcadia (2000) and Steambot Chronicles (2005). Game designer Hironobu Sakaguchi cited Laputa as an inspiration behind his Final Fantasy video game series, particularly mentioning it as an influence on the series’ airships. There is a statue of the amazing Laputian Robot on the roof of Ghibli Museum.
Like in most Studio Ghibli films, in Castle In The Sky, the protagonist is a strong young woman who is prepared to sacrifice herself in order to protect what she loves. Laputa represents Miyazaki’s utopia, where technology and nature can live side by side in a perfect balance. Despite the fact that Laputa is abandoned at that time, people who are ready and pure -like Sheeta and Pazu- will find her and protect her again.
The viewer creates a strong connection with the characters, who have many everyday-like attitudes and flaws. Although the robots have destructive weapons, in Laputa they were used mostly for take caring, teaching that things can be good and/or bad depending on the use.
‘Gotta start talkin’ like a real pirate!’
- Amazing plot
- Laputa looks like she came out of a dream
- The pirate family
- The cute garden robot (aww!!)
- The death of the robots
- The @$%@@$$%! prince
- Sheeta’s short hair
Laputa’s ecotopia hosted an advanced civilization which managed to peacefully combine nature and technology -at least up to a point, and that’s something to admire. The plot and the character development is amazing, alongside the beautiful landscapes, making it a masterpiece that can be enjoyed by all ages. Castle In The Sky creates intense feelings and gives food for thought. You will watch it, again and again, loving it even more every time. Trust me!
6 Fascinating Trivia About ‘Laputa: Castle in the Sky’