My Thoughts on Laputa: Castle in the Sky- A Japanese Animated Film

Query to self: If you could meet a younger version of yourself, what would you tell her and why?

I’d definitely tell her to go watch Hayao Miyazaki’s films as soon as possible.

It’s a shame that I just knew about Hayao Miyazaki (and even Studio Ghibli and Joe Hisaishi) and all his great works just this year. Thinking that I’ve been a fan of Japanese animated series since time immemorial, it would’ve been a lot better if I had known Chihiro, Haku, Prince Ashitaka, Sophie, Totoro and many other great characters back then. I think my childhood days would’ve been more colorful and more memorable because of his masterpieces.

But then again, there’s no use crying over spilled milk. I still feel thankful that at least I got to know another great and genius filmmaker in my twenties.
Castle-in-the-Sky-hayao-miyazaki-tree

So here’s another work of art that I’d like to share my thoughts on – Laputa: Castle in the Sky. This is a 1986 Japanese animated adventure film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and the first film produced and released by Studio Ghibli. This is a well-recognized film locally and internationally. This was dubbed by Disney in 1998 with some of the famous Hollywood actors in the names of Anna Paquin (from X-Men movies) as Sheeta and James Van Der Beek (from the famous series Dawson’s Creek) as Pazu. With many recognitions and awards at hand, Castle in the Sky is undoubtedly one of the most critically acclaimed animated film ever created. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_in_the_Sky).

castle-in-the-sky-1-pazu sheeta

This is also the fifth Hayao Miyazaki film that I have watched and probably the oldest animated film I’ve seen in my entire life (so far- because I haven’t seen Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind yet). It was approximately a two-hour long movie which revolves on the life story of Sheeta, the long lost queen of Laputa (an ancient castle in the sky), and Pazu, the young miner who’s life got entangled with the former because of one incident. The backstory of the film shows human civilizations built flying cities, which were later wrecked by a catastrophe that was so devastating forcing the survivors to live on the ground with the exemption of Laputa, which remained in the sky, concealed within a powerful cloudburst.

Sheeta, whose full name is Lusheeta Toerl Ul Laputa, owns a magic crystal which she inherited from her parents. This crystal was the target of the pirate Dola and her group and also of a man named Muska who at first was shown as working with the government but in the end, turned out to be the real antagonist in the story.

sheeta and pazu

I must say that this may not be the most thrilling Miyazaki film out of the five that I have watched thus far, but when it comes to characters and the totality of the film, this will never be left out. I like the characters of Sheeta and Pazu whose relationship perfectly depicts that of an innocent and genuine love. Their characters also show the typical behavior of teenage kids- adventurous, risk-takers and just…lively…lively in every way possible. Both were orphans so they were able to immediately relate to each other. Pazu found Sheeta floating from the sky and have taken her into custody since then. They started getting to know each other and have been on several chase incidents from there on.

laputa-cave uncle pom

sheeta and the crystal

The first few minutes of the film showed Pazu and Sheeta running away from Dola’s company and from Muska’s army at the same time. In their attempt to flee from the enemy, they fell into what seems to be a pit (thanks to the crystal, they gently floated like feathers and landed safely) and there found Uncle Pom, an eccentric miner, alone in the cave. We can see here how powerful the crystal was. Even Uncle Pom requested Sheeta to hide it as its power is too overwhelming for him.

muska sheeta confrontation

Of course, the chase is far from over. Sheeta then was eventually captured by Muska. Taken into captivity together with the crystal. Pazu, being helpless, went home alone where he found Dola and her company of pirates having a grand feast in his very own home. I think the character of Dola in this movie was well thought of. I noticed that Miyazaki always incorporate old ladies’ characters (Zeniba of Spirited Away; Tribe Leader/Wise Woman of Princess Mononoke; Witch of the Waste of Howl’s Moving Castle; and Granny of My Neighbor Totoro) in his films to play very important roles in the story – more like that of a fairy godmother (except for the Witch of the Waste in Howl’s Moving Castle) for the hero and heroine.

Fast forward to the part where all the characters have successfully arrived in Laputa. One memorable scene was when the “army of green”, realizing this land had so much treasures – gold, silver and all kinds of earthly and precious gems, suddenly ‘forgot’ their mission and just went on stealing everything that they can. I remember Pazu upon seeing this said, “They are no better than thieves.”

Meanwhile, Sheeta who was still in the hands of Muska witnessed how much of a monster he is. In this part, Muska finally revealed his true self as “Romuska Palo Ul Laputa”, descendant of the royal line. He used Sheeta’s crystal which also served as key to access the advanced Laputian technology. Fortunately, due to unexpected turn of events, Sheeta was able to get the crystal back and passed it on to Pazu, who at that time, was in frantic searching her whereabouts.

dola and sheeta

The last few minutes of the film showed Sheeta and Pazu, hand in hand, uttering the spell of destruction and leaving Muska, in his very own deathbed. They were able to reunite with Dola who was also very happy to see them both alive even though their ship was heavily damaged.

It’s such a refreshing movie I must say. Even though there’s the element of love in this film, Miyazaki kept it simple and pure so that children can still relate to it. He was also able to dig deeper into this so-called ‘humanity’ through interesting characters and plots.

Selfishness. The chief and soldiers who actually represent the government was shown being greedy of the treasures they have found in Laputa. They have set aside the values that they should all practice in exchange of earthly gems.  Not to forget Muska, who, because of greed for power became a cold-hearted murderer. He didn’t care how many innocent lives were sacrificed. All he cared for was resurrecting Laputa so he can use it for his own selfish gains.

Bravery. They say bravery is not the absence of fear. One can only show how brave he is when fear is actually present. I believe in this movie, Pazu and Sheeta were able to show their bravery despite their young age. As we all know, Pazu has been living on his own, getting by day by day and not used to taking care or fighting for someone he loves the most. Because of Sheeta, he was able to find out how it feels like to protect someone. Sheeta on the other hand showed her bravery when she confronted Muska in the throne room, saying he doesn’t deserve a kingdom because he doesn’t even cared for the people. She stayed strong until she can find the right moment to finally destroy Laputa with the help of Pazu.

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Love. The ever present element in Miyazaki’s films- love for a special someone, love for family and love for friends. Love. Just. Love.

10-laputa robot

Not to forget the Laputian Robot. It was a unique and great addition to the film. Another memorable character I must say.

The collaboration of Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli and Joe Hisaishi is one of the best things that ever happened on earth. I feel honored and privileged to have the opportunity to witness their great works.

I feel truly happy and young at heart because of this! 

(Photos used are not mine, credits to their rightful owners)

 

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