James Helsby

LRE #16: Castle in the Sky

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Little Red Envelope

In my mailbox this week:
Castle in the Sky

Release Year: 1986
Staring: James Van Der Beek, Anna Paquin, Cloris Leachman, Mark Hamill

There are, by my crude count, 11 Hayao Miyazaki feature length films. You would be wise to purchase every single on of them. They, in general, are some of the greatest pieces of animation to have ever been penned. Castle in the Sky is no exception.

Castle in the Sky, exists in a world after it has reached the pinnacle. The very top of their development, but then retreated. Much in the same way that Nausicaa occurred in a world reverted; devastated by some long  distant war. In Castle in the Sky, society mastered the air. They produced an entire civilization that never needed to touch the ground below.

Sheeta, (Voice Anna Paquin) is chased by pirates. In the battle, she slips and falls from the air-ship she is traveling on, and goes hurtling to the ground. As she nears the earth, a blue glow from her pendent slows her descent and provides enough of a glint in the sky for Pazu (voice James Van Der Beek) to be able to see her. He chases her down, and catches her moments before she falls into a mine-shaft.

A classic story begins to wind itself up, in that Pazu is following in his fathers footsteps, seeking the mythical flying city of Laputa. Coincidence being that Sheeta, is of Laputa decent. Sheeta, and her magical necklace are being pursued by everyone. Pirates, Armies, and secret government agencies.

Castle in the Sky, was released originally in 1986, and followed 2 years on the heals of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Nausicaa is often considered to be one of (if not the) greatest Japanese animated films of all time.

Of the 11 films that I mentioned, I have seen all of them. But the reason I have chose this film to be in the mailbox this week, is for my son. Sharing my love of Miyazaki films with him is a joy. This week alone, we have watched 2.

Castle in the Sky is very reminiscent of Nausicaa. The animation, character designs, scenery, and machinery are very similar. It’s not a negative, because Nausicaa was made well enough that the repeating elements don’t detract from it.  It might not be as grand as it’s predecessor, but it doesn’t need to be.  Nausicaa secured Miyazaki his reputation, but Castle in the Sky reinforced it.

The film is beautiful. The character designs are simple, but they don’t need to be complex. Half of the enjoyment of this film for me, is in the technologies. The flying machines are designed in such a way that you know instinctively that they couldn’t fly in reality, but that you still could fully accept that they do. The ‘Thopters’ are essentially a mix between a Rolls Royce, and an insect. The four wings beating furiously up and down. But when you get to the large scale machinery, they are simply beautiful. Much in the same way that I always loved seeing the SDF1 in Macross.

The robots also are amazing. Simplistic and idealistic; they function and perform in unimaginable ways.

The only downside to this film, as is the case with all the Disney releases of the Studio Ghibli. Disney doesn’t really choose voice talent in the best way. They prefer to grab a big name, whose voice doesn’t really match the character. A booming voice, for a small frail man. A wimpy little voice for a powerful girl. Although, I will give them points for Mark Hamill having a part in this epic film.

Castle in the Sky is a must watch. When you do watch it, watch it in Japanese, with subtitles. It isn’t exactly the same as the original, but it is pretty close (subtitles have a tendency to slip based on the English translation.)

How much alcohol did it take: I didn’t need any. But a glass of Sake would have been nice.
Rating: 9/10. Must watch. The only reason it wasn’t a perfect 10, was because Anna Paquin’s accent would slip around too much.

The Wife’s Retort: The movie really sucks you in. You feel like you are flying in the sky, being a pirate. You want to be the one searching for Laputa.

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