Laputa – Castle In The Sky

Created in the mid-1980s hot on the heels of his lifework Nausicaa and The Valley of Wind, Hayao Miyazaki’s Laputa: Castle in the Sky is another breath taking fantasy adventure simmering with its director’s famous environmental ideals and unbounded love of flight.

Laputa begins with our young heroine, the pig-tailed Sheeta, held captive on a gigantic military airship. She is a quiet, unassuming country girl being dragged into a barbaric world utterly foreign to her.

Her ship is hardly safe though and she is instantly in mortal danger as her kidnappers are attacked by a small group of pirates also intent on nabbing Sheeta. In her desperation to escape the violence, Sheeta wriggles through an airship window and begins to edge across the outer hull. The pirates spot her but it’s already too late, Sheeta loses her footing and falls into the wispy clouds below.

She faints during the fall but her stone pendant, an age old family air loom, suddenly shines like a star and envelopes her velocity, slowing her down to the point of floating like a feather. At this moment we meet young Pazu, an apprentice engineer in a working class mining town. While he wanders off for a cheerful evening stroll, something in the sky catches his attention. Like a sleeping angel descending from heaven, Sheeta is falling from the stars in front of his very eyes.

And so the adventure begins; chased by the military, hunted by pirates and searching for the mythical floating city of Laputa, Sheeta and Pazu (who instantly form a warm bond of friendship) embark on the journey of their young lives, a journey that spans the awesome beauty of such endless blue sky.

From the moment Sheeta meets Pazu, Laputa had won me over. Serious without a hint of sarcasm, joyful without melodrama, this is another fantastic ride through the epic scale of Hayao Miyazaki’s imagination. While it may suffer from some simplistic characters- the main villain is a notably two dimensional personality; a man  devoid of human emotion and driven by incompetent megalomania- you can’t help but admire Laputa for how everything is so loving presented.

With its roots in the steam powered era of industrial Europe, Miyazaki also captures the period’s sense of limitless adventure; the old days when our world still held a kind of magical mystique. Some of the main characters are known as pirates, but really, they are simply people in love with the expansive freedom of their world. We follow them and feel that same sense of awe the moment they clap eyes on something truly beautiful, be it the sight of a young girl cooking them dinner or the moment they discover the titular castle.

Very little can do justice to just how magical, exciting and awesome some of this movie looks. When compared with Miyazaki’s similar movie Nausicaa, there is a remarkable sense of optimism running throughout Laputa. Of course there is a trademark lamenting of human destructive nature but rather than fail, here beauty endures.

Musically, Miyazaki’s long time collaborator Joe Hisaishi again delivers some subtle, touching and tender tunes. Some of the happier moments sound very electronic and nostalgic of the 1980s but rarely overpower the visuals; indeed, the music is at its best when complimenting the subtle elegence of Sheeta or the inspirational limitless ambition of Pazu.

What is most remarkable about Laputa is the relationship between Pazu and Sheeta. They share an intense friendship that could easily become romance but for the fact they are too young to even understand those kinds of feelings. There is a wonderful moment at the beginning of this movie, where Sheeta and Pazu meet for the first time; Pazu is feeding a flock of pigeons and Sheeta joins in, they hold the bird feed in such a way that the pigeons climb all over them to get to the food. They laugh together and instantly understand and trust one another, it’s such an innocent, fragile moment that captures the magical optimism of childhood.

In Summary

It may well suffer from some weaker characterization and a perhaps overly simplistic conclusion, but Laputa: Castle in the Sky is another eye catching marvel from Hayao Miyazaki that captures his wonderful eye for detailed and epic adventure but also charts a poignant and moving journey of life affirming friendship.

9 / 10


Washed up on the good shores of Anime UK News after many a year at sea, Paul has been writing about anime for a long time here at AUKN and at his anime blog.

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