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Air pirates board an airship and threaten many lives.
A girl climbs out the window and hopes that she survives.
As pirates try to grab her, she slips and falls to earth,
But she’s saved by her crystal, which has a hidden worth.
It floats her down to safety, where Pazu’s arms await,
An engineer’s apprentice, who wonders of her fate.
He takes her to his cottage, and when Sheeta awakes,
He tells her how she floated, the crystal as her brakes.
He tells her of his father, who saw a floating isle
Called Laputa, a legend he’ll find in daring style.
But Dola and her pirates arrive to claim the lass,
And they both flee as pirates continue to harass.
The military shows up, but Sheeta’s scared of them.
Our heroes float to safety, suspended by her gem.
Once they speak with a miner, who warns them of the same,
The girl reveals that “Laputa” is part of her full name.
The government abducts them, imprisoning the pair,
And Colonel Muska spells out to Sheeta why she’s there.
He shows an ancient robot, advanced technology
That Laputa holds somewhere, which she will help them free.
When Pazu is sent back home, he teams with Dola’s gang
To rescue Sheeta, but she is having quite a bang.
She reawakes the robot, which goes on a rampage,
And Pazu saves her just in time as giant guns engage.
To find the floating island, they join the pirate crew,
For Dola and her pirates are nicer than they knew.
Since Muska took her crystal, he’s on his way as well,
And both airships are threatened by storms that crash and swell.
Pazu and Sheeta land on a peaceful grassy plot,
Just one of many turrets that Laputa has got.
They tail a lonely robot, discovering in awe
The lofty, ancient ruins that once were Laputa.
But then the military arrives to plunder loot,
Though Muska’s digging deeper for things of great repute.
The agent kidnaps Sheeta, descending to the core,
And taps the castle’s power which he was looking for.
He names himself a royal, like Sheeta, and a king,
And massacres the army as robot hordes take wing.
As Pazu hunts for Sheeta, she with her crystal flees.
Again they find each other, but Muska’s hard to please.
When they are at a standoff, the kids know what to say,
A spell of great destruction, which serves to save the day.
The pirates and the children escape and reunite,
But both Pazu and Sheeta fly off within their kite.

When Cartoon Network decided to play several Studio Ghibli films back in 2006, I steered clear of it due to my family’s poor reaction to Spirited Away, but I recall seeing a commercial that included a scene of giant robots climbing through hallways. I had no idea from which film it was, but the scene stuck in my head. When I eventually gave anime another chance and saw Castle in the Sky, I was delighted that I not only recognized that scene but also loved the movie. Castle in the Sky is the highest movie on my list directed by famed animator Hayao Miyazaki (though not necessarily the highest Studio Ghibli film), and it is a rousing adventure that showcases Miyazaki’s brilliant imagination.

Since Studio Ghibli had not been founded by the time of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky was the studio’s first official film, one that I think is much better than the more well-known Spirited Away. The hand-drawn animation is often beautiful, and certain scenes, like the impressive destruction at the end, are even spectacular. Set in a Welsh-inspired world of flying machines and steampunk inventions, the film (inspired by the floating island of Laputa in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels) is reminiscent of an Indiana Jones story with its crystalline MacGuffin and a race between pirates and the government to find an ancient civilization of power. Though Muska is a more straightforward villain than others in his filmography, it also bears Miyazaki’s recognizable fingerprints, such as his favoring of nature over technology and his love of flight. It even includes a cameo for the squirrel-fox from Nausicaä.

In the Disney dub, James Van Der Beek and Anna Paquin are likable as Pazu and Sheeta, respectively, though Paquin’s accent fluctuates a bit. Cloris Leachman sounds like she’s having fun as the no-nonsense pirate matron Dola, and Mark Hamill lapses into his famous Joker voice as the villainous Muska. My favorite thing about the film, though, is its score. Joe Hisaishi exceeded even Nausicaä’s score with his glorious orchestral compositions. Thus, the final Japanese song “Carrying You,” which borrows the film’s best theme, is in my End Credits Song Hall of Fame. Castle in the Sky is a classic of Japanese animation that has wide appeal to Western audiences. Even my anime-despising VC had to admit that it was “pretty good.”

Best line: (Louis, a pirate) “Mom, you amaze me. How do ya know these things?”   (Dola, while eating) “Oh, well, ya can’t be a sensitive woman like me without learnin’ a few things. Sheeta and I are exactly alike: all warm and mushy and sensitive!” [burps]

Artistry: 7
Characters/Actors: 7
Entertainment: 9
Visual Effects: 8
Originality: 9
Watchability: 8
Other (I like other films more): -3
TOTAL: 45 out of 60

Next: #176 – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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