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Laputa Castle In The Sky

Laputa Castle In The Sky

By Arpad Lukacs • May 10th, 2011
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
LAPUTA: CASTLE IN THE SKY (Blu-ray + DVD)
Optimum Home Entertainment 

Release date: May 9th 2011
Certificate (UK): PG
Running time: 124 minutes
Year of production: 1986

Director/Writer: Hayao Miyazaki

Voice cast: (English): Anna Paquin, James Van Der Beek, Cloris Leachman, Mark Hamill

Around 360BC, in his writings of Timaeus and Critias, Greek philosopher Plato first described a legendary island called Atlantis. The island was said to be a naval power that was destroyed by earthquakes, floods and eventually swallowed completely by the ocean in one single night.

And there began speculation and passionate discourse about a lost civilisation that has lasted centuries and is still believed to be real by some. The scholarly consensus is however that Atlantis was merely a literary device used by Plato to convey political ideas about government and power – not even our fairly recent understanding of continental drift and plate tectonics could turn that around.

Laputa, Castle in the Sky

Ancient myth or historical truth, Atlantis has inspired literature, film, animation, comic books, video games and music – in one word: art.

Although the creators of Castle in the Sky cited Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels) and Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island) amongst others as the influence for the anime, the story at its heart is in fact closer to Atlantis than it is to anything else.
Legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki, well known for his interest and passion in aviation, re-created Plato’s lost civilization accordingly: legend has it that there is a lost world in the sky hiding inside a giant cloud waiting to be discovered.

Laputa, Castle in the Sky

At the centre of the story is Sheeta (Anna Paquin), a girl with a mysterious past, who is hunted by both government agents and a group of pirates due to her possession of a pendant with magical powers. On the run, she encounters a miner boy named Pazu (James Van Der Beek) whose late father once took a photograph of a floating island called Laputa as it briefly became visible from inside a large cloud. The two of them together discover that Sheeta’s pendant is the key to finding the island that is said to have once ruled the world.

In spite of Castle in the Sky speaking mainly to a younger generation with a straightforward story about good and evil, Hayao Miyazaki creates engaging characters that don’t patronise younger viewers. The pirates are greedy, but as one event follows another, we learn to like them and accept their imperfections.

Laputa, Castle in the Sky

Leading them is the old and grumpy Dola (Cloris Leachman), who later becomes a mother figure of sorts to Sheeta and Pazu as they make their way towards the lost island of Laputa. Colonel Muska – voiced superbly by Mark Hamill – makes a sinister yet elegant villain working for the government while harbouring his own personal agenda.

SPECIAL FEATURES: 

  • Storyboards (PiP)
  • Promotional Video (12.38)
  • Behind the Studio (11.46)
  • Textless Opening and End credits
  • TV Spots, Original Japanese Theatrical trailers (17.02)

Arguably, when compared to Miyazaki’s other works, Castle in the Sky stands as a less complicated, fairly predictable anime. The Atlantis inspired narrative is less original than anything else in his repertoire. However, Castle lives up to its own expectations admirably and doesn’t try to be something it isn’t.

Laputa, Castle in the Sky

It’s an adventurous fairy tale with mystery, exciting action, beautifully crafted flying sequences and the pirates never fail to provide us with laughter. The backstory of the crystal in Sheeta’s pendant testifies to Miyazaki’s environmentalist views and aviation dominates Castle in the Sky even more than it does Porco Rosso (1992).

While this film does not convey the full height of Hayao Miyazaki’s captivating imagination, his finger prints are all over Castle in the Sky in a visually impressive and entertaining anime.

Arpad Lukacs

Arpad Lukacs

Arpad is a Film Studies graduate and passionate photographer (he picked up the camera and started taking stills just as he began his studies of moving pictures). He admires directors that can tell a story first of all in images. More or less inevitably, Brian De Palma has become Aprad’s favourite filmmaker.

Then there’s Arpad’s interest in anime. He was just a boy when he saw Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind on an old VHS and was hypnotised by the story of friendship, devotion and sacrifice. He still marvels at the uncompromising and courageous storytelling in Japanese anime, and wonders about the western audience with its ever growing appetite for “Japanemation”.

Have a look at Arpad's photography site, and you can follow him on Twitter @arpadlukacs.

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