Anime Film Review: Castle in the Sky

Castle in the Sky (which is known in Japan as Laputa: Castle in the Sky) is a film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The film was released to Japanese theaters on August 2, 1986. While this film is technically the first one released by Studio Ghibli, many consider Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind as the first Studio Ghibli film, since the founders of the studio were involved in the production. Castle in the Sky won the Animage Anime Grand Prix in 1986. In the United States, the first English-dubbed version of the film received a theatrical release on April 1, 1989.

Castle in the Sky
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Mayumi Tanaka, Keiko Yokozawa, Kotoe Hatsui, and Minori Terada
Run Time: 126 minutes
Rated: PG

After Disney acquired the rights to distribute the Studio Ghibli material, a new English dub was recorded in 1998. Disney originally planned to release Castle in the Sky to theaters in 1999; however, after the financial failure of Princess Mononoke, the film’s release date was pushed back. The new English dub was finally released on DVD and home video on April 15, 2003, alongside Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away.

Castle in the Sky begins with a young girl named Sheeta in a flying vehicle, being escorted to an unknown location by Colonel Muska and his agents. The vehicle is attacked by a band of sky pirates; during the confusion, Sheeta grabs a small pendant from Muska and escapes. While the pirates try to grab Sheeta and the pendant, the girl falls from the vehicle; as she falls, the pendant emits a blue light, and Sheeta floats gently to the ground. A young boy named Pazu sees her falling and catches her. Pazu takes Sheeta to his home, where she sees a picture of Laputa (an ancient city that, according to myths, floats in the sky). Pazu explains that his deceased father took the picture of Laputa, but that no one believed his father. Pazu, however, does believe in Laputa, and plans to find it someday.

The sky pirates suddenly arrive at Pazu’s house, which forces the two kids to escape on a railway. Their path ends up being blocked by an armored train, and the government agents traveling in the train try to capture Sheeta. While the pirates and government agents battle one another, the two kids fall from the rail trestle; however, Sheeta’s pendant activates once again, and Sheeta and Pazu float down into an abandoned mine. In the mine, they meet Uncle Pom, an old miner, who explains that Sheeta’s pendant is made of volucite (which is the crystal that provided Laputa with its power). Uncle Pom also says Sheeta’s pendant is one of the largest and purest of these crystals in existence, and reminds her that the crystal’s power rightfully belongs to the earth; she should never use it to commit acts of violence.

When the two kids return to the surface, Sheeta admits to Pazu that she has an ancient secret name: Lucita Toel Ul Laputa (which means, “Lucita, True Ruler of Laputa”). At that moment, government agents suddenly appear, and Sheeta and Pazu are separated. During the rest of the film, Sheeta learns more about her heritage and connections with Laputa, while Pazu finds himself teaming with the sky pirates to rescue Sheeta.

Castle in the Sky has a compelling story to tell, and the animation that accompanies the story really help to bring the story to life. In addition to a compelling story, there’s also action, adventure, drama, and even a giant robot. The design for Laputa is especially impressive and gives it a fantastical feel.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this film is the fact that Miyazaki was able to portray the sky pirates in such a way that by the end, the audience cares about them. I will admit that when I first saw the sky pirates appear in the film, I never would have thought that they would end up becoming likable characters.

When it comes to the DVD set, there are three bonus features included. The first is the introduction by John Lasseter from Pixar, which is the same as what you see at the beginning of the movie.

The “Behind the Microphone” feature runs for about four minutes, and includes interviews and footage of recording sessions with the American voice actors. It was disappointing that Anna Paquin, who provided the American voice for Sheeta, wasn’t included. Considering she voiced such a major character, her omission is rather glaring. Outside of that omission, this feature was decent for what it is.

The original Japanese trailers are also included as the third bonus feature, but these only run for slightly over four minutes.

The second disc only contains a storyboard version of Castle in the Sky. Like I said in my review for Howl’s Moving Castle, I just don’t understand the appeal of watching a storyboard version of a film.

This is a film that I would recommend watching and purchasing if you enjoy the work of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Castle in the Sky is a classic Studio Ghibli masterpiece that really should be in the home video collection of anyone who considers themselves to be an anime fan.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Castle in the Sky that my husband purchased for me as a gift.

One comment

  1. nikute101 · September 20, 2013

    One of my Studio Ghibi film~ I really enjoyed it. I had a special liking towards the giant robot.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.