Laputa: Castle in the Sky

Laputa: Castle in the Sky

anime1Hayao Miyazaki’s fantasy adventure Laputa: Castle in the Sky begins with a chase scene through a flying ship, where all the passengers are after the young girl, Sheeta. Going overboard in order to avoid capture, Sheeta is rescued by her powerful crystal necklace, which floats her down to safety. Not soon after, she’s recovered by Pazu, a young resourceful boy who works in a small mining town. Finding out that they share a common desire to see Laputa, the castle in the sky, Pazu and Sheeta team up to outrun the pirates and the military.

Led by their hard-bitten matriarch Dola, the pirates are a rowdy and dimwitted group of brothers who are after Laputa’s foretold treasure. The military are led by the greedy yet civilised Muska, and they are after Laputa’s secret powers. Everyone is racing to get to the abandoned castle of Laputa, which has been overgrown with vines and plant life. Its only inhabitants are the animals and robots who protect a hidden, magical garden. As the different parties fight over who gets to control Laputa, it’s up to Sheeta to use her ancient knowledge to save it from ultimate destruction both externally and internally.

This is a beautiful film, but I am loathe to spoil the major events for those who have not yet watched. Whilst the plot may bear similarities to other cartoons and take certain elements from famous literature, there’s a unique atmosphere and touch to this film which is all Miyazaki.

The floating island of Laputa is a place of startling mystery. Like the robots who tend its gardens, Laputa is both technically advanced and intertwined with nature. Inspired by the well-known Laputa of Jonathan Swift’s classic 18th century novel, Gulliver’s Travels, it’s both an Eden-like paradise and a weapon of war. Miyazaki also ties the city into other legends, developing the idea that the island’s destructive power is rumoured to be responsible for legendary disasters in the Biblical Old Testament and the Hindu epic, Ramayana.ANIME2The film draws costume inspiration from the Edwardian era, and this is also reflected in the machines and architecture designs. This combination of folktale and futuristic makes for some stunning scenes. What is created here is a vast world of floating, ironclad zeppelins, tiny gliders and magic crystals. The robots of Laputa are beautifully melancholic – silent, enigmatic machines structured like humans – devastatingly powerful but oddly gentle.

Studio Ghibli’s Laputa: Castle in the Sky is essentially a film that balances many aspects: action, adventure, fantasy, introspection and comedy. Even so, there are times when this film is also truly moving, and that’s thanks to the finely-honed storytelling that Miyazaki has made himself known for.