The final film showing during Ghibli Fest 2018 is right around the corner, and we couldn’t think of a better film to close this year’s fest than Castle in the Sky. The 1986 animated film, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, was Studio Ghibli’s cinematic debut after the studio formed in 1985. Largely inspired by Miyazaki’s visit to a Welsh mining town and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, the two-hour adventure gives us likeable characters, beautiful animation, and breathtaking action.
Castle in the Sky follows Pazu, a young orphaned miner, and Sheeta, a young girl who literally fell from the sky into Pazu’s arms, on their adventure to find the deserted island in the sky, Laputa. Sheeta and Pazu are fleeing from sky pirates and the military in order to protect a mysterious crystal necklace that Sheeta has in her possession. Both groups believe the necklace has powers to unlock the secrets of the ancient island. In attempt to reach Laputa before the military can exploit it for their own agenda, the duo makes unexpected friends during their journey to the legendary island in the sky.
Setting and Characters
Castle in the Sky is filled with aviation, nature, and a highly advanced, yet ancient, steampunk fantasy world, that gives us all the beautiful imagery and animation that Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli pride themselves on. The beautiful, bucolic landscapes and small, European-like towns give the scenery of Castle in the Sky a diverse setting. Of course, this could not be a Ghibli film without likeable characters that take us along with them on their adventure. Although there isn’t very much depth to our protagonists, Ghibli finds a way to make Sheeta and Pazu seem bold and ambitious, making it easier to root for their success to reach the retro futuristic island of Laputa.
Laputa itself, which is seemingly barren, is actually quite beautiful and interesting. Both a massive ancient weapon and a lush utopia, the once advanced civilization befell an undisclosed tragedy, forcing its inhabitants to flee, leaving the dichotomy that is Laputa, abandoned. The only things left existing on the mythical island are gentle but also dangerous robots, the nature that took over, and the remnants of what Laputa once was.
Animation and Music
Like every Ghibli film I have ever seen, the animation is fluid and the imagery is so stunning that you feel completely immersed in the world that Miyazaki and the rest of the Ghibli team created. It is clear that Miyazaki was heavily inspired by his 1984 trip to Wales and the miners strikes that were happening at the time. His admiration for the the small, Welsh mining towns and the men, that were dedicated to their work, show in the setting and character design of Castle in the Sky. Themes of pacifism, environmentalism, and Miyazaki’s love for aviation also shine through in this film, much like many of the titles in Ghibli’s arsenal.
Even the soundtrack composed by Joe Hisaishi, which is different in Japanese and English versions, blend perfectly with the film. Action packed or subtle and soft, every scene is enhanced by the score of this film. No matter which version you watch, the musical masterpiece will immediately evoke emotion at the appropriate times.
Overall, Castle in the Sky takes you on a wonderful adventure with likeable characters, captivating scenery, and a soundtrack to match.
If you haven’t seen this Ghibli classic, or are new to the works of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, be sure to check out the first film under the studio’s name. It’s showing Nov. 18-20 as the final film in Studio Ghibli Fest 2018!
Featured image credit: Studio Ghibli