Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Crystals, and Robots #SquareEnix

“No matter how many weapons you have, no matter how great your technology might be, the world cannot live without love.”
-Sheeta, Laputa: Castle in the Sky

Greetings! It’s been a while I know; school’s started again and the weight of a thousand souls that have yet to pass on are keeping me busy. That, and I’m just the laziest boy on the face of the earth. But here I am again, and I thought I’d take some time to talk about a film that’s quite close to my heart and those of many others. If the title of the article didn’t give it away, it’s called, Laputa: Castle in the Sky.

"Yes, get me the Colonel. I need to kill Tyler Bauer for his attempts at humor."
“Yes, get me the General. I need Tyler Bauer killed for his sorry attempts at humor.”

Laputa: Castle in the Sky is a film produced by the one and only Studio Ghibli way back in 1986. I wasn’t alive back then so I don’t know what was going on–it was probably something to do with Russians, as opposed to now, where there’s something to do with Russians. Either way, it was their first feature film and would show the world what the studio was to become.

Directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, it tells the tale of a young boy named Pazu, who lives alone on a hilltop just outside the mining town where he works as an engineer’s assistant. One night, an equally young girl falls from the sky, aided by a magical amulet. Her name is Sheeta, and she explains to Pazu that she is being pursued by people wishing to possess her amulet.

Over the course of the film, the two encounter a goofy gang of sky pirates led by Captain Dola, an old man in the caves, a totalitarian military regime, mysterious ancient robots, a dangerous agent named Muska, and the eponymous castle in the sky, among other things.

"Other things."
Pictured: “Other things.”

The film begins that traditional Ghibli art style which has changed very little over the years. The characters are kept relatively simple yet enormously expressive, and the backgrounds are filled with breathtaking detail and gorgeous color palettes. The animation is fluid and fills the world with life-giving motion. From complex falling train tracks and flying airships to Sheeta’s pigtails simply blowing in the wind, the animators at Ghibli are masters at showing things move with elegance and fidelity.

Accompanying the wondrous art is the soundtrack headed by the fabled Joe Hisaishi. The scores within the film are thrilling and intense, like during the pirate chase scenes. At others, dark and grim, often when Muska makes an appearance. And most often it tends to be mysterious and dreamlike, especially in Laputa. The music goes every which way, yet it all fits together to follow Pazu and Sheeta as the world around them changes in tune.

One of the reasons I enjoy this film so much, is because it tells a story that anyone of any age can take to heart. Unlike later films like Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke, Laputa: Castle in the Sky can be viewed by younger children and they can take many things from it that they wouldn’t otherwise. Both Pazu and Sheeta begin the journey innocent and unaware, and through it they learn of their responsibility towards each other and the people they’ve met along the way. The main antagonist, a great example of a villain, is Colonel Muska, who plays on both their trust and the trust of everyone else. He acts as a force to show them what the worst of mankind can bring when it has the power to attain what it seeks.

The name “Laputa,” is a direct reference to the novel Gulliver’s Travels, which I have not read. This is the point where if I had read it, I would have compared parts of the two. But I don’t read books, let alone one from 1726.

And old things are scary.
And old things are scary.

I’ve never been to Wales either, but I do know that the mining town in the film is based on a mining town Miyazaki visited in 1984. While he was there the UK miner’s strike was going on, and the atmosphere he saw influenced how the town in the movie looks and how its people behave.

Even though many people Kyle would scoff at the though of watching a dubbed version of anything Philip: “Why isn’t Saoirse Ronan Arrietty? Why do we get Bridget Mendler?”, the dub produced by Disney for the film’s planned 1999 release to VHS isn’t awful by any means. Sure, both Pazu and Sheeta sound a few years older than they do in Japanese, but that’s like always the case with you Asians and your Fountain of Youth. Cloris Leachman provides the aged and perfectly fitting voice to Captain Dola, while Colonel Muska’s foreboding tone is given to him by the great Mark Hamill. The rest of the cast do their part to give each character a fitting voiceover, but don’t expect anything beyond acceptable.

Not sure if this is acceptable.
Not sure if this is acceptable. Or even consensual.

As a Ghibli film, Laputa: Castle in the Sky may not stand as tall as Academy Award-winning Spirited Away, or capture hearts as easily as the famous My Neighbor Totoro. But as a film on it’s own, separated from it’s pedigree that had not yet become a thing, it holds a place in many people’s hearts and minds as a piece of art that shows us a mirrored glimpse of our own world. It tells of what humanity can achieve when working towards a better future, and what happens when another part of humanity subsequently tears it down. It gives us a view of what things were, and what time has made them since then. And even though all castles eventually fall, the sky will always be there for those with the willpower to go beyond it.

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13 thoughts on “Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Crystals, and Robots #SquareEnix”

  1. My thoughts on the dub are cemented in the fact that I fell asleep on Tyler’s couch-bed, which is a feat since that thing was so painful.

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  2. In Gulliver’s Travels, Laputa is a flying island that can be moved by its people. You can see the correlation. “Laputa” also means “whore” in Spanish, but the deeper symbolism there is lost on me, seeing as how I haven’t yet seen the movie. I’m also surprised you called it Laputa: Castle in the Sky–do you have the UK version or something?

    Nice article.

    P.S. Bridgit Mendler is butt.

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    1. The Japanese title is “Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta”. Laputa is in the title, they changed it over here because it does mean “whore” in Spanish. I always leave Laputa in the title when I refer to this film.

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  3. Really love this movie, and I happen to think the dub is fantastic. Not perfect, but still great overall. I never understood the backlash against it. Hamill and Leachman were the stars, but I thought the rest of the cast did a great job too. Even James van der Beek isn’t bad at all as Pazu; I liked the energy he brought to the part — it cancelled out the maturity issue by far. Anna Paquin’s Sheeta was the only performance who had the occasional iffy moment, but other than that I thought her performance was solid. Everyone else was great.

    Liked by 2 people

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