Pazu, an enthusiastic worker in a remote mining village, finds his world is turned upside down when he catches the slowly falling body of girl in his arms. She is Sheeta, recently ejected from the airship of villain Muska who has kidnapped her for a reprehensible scheme that he has devised to reclaim the power of the fabled Laputa, a magical floating island in the sky. He believes that Sheeta holds the key to finding this amazing place. Pazu, too, harbours a desire to see the floating lands because his father had claimed to glimpse it once, the only evidence a fading sepia photograph of a land shrouded in cloud. Less idealistic in their desire are the Dola Clan, a ruthless band of misfit pirates led by the irascible, cackling Mama Dola. Will Pazu, Sheeta and the pirates manage to thwart Muska’s plans to seek the floating island and use its incredible power?
Laputa: Castle in the Sky features everything a solid adventure yarn should. As raw entertainment this has all of the classic elements you could hope for – strong, witty and intelligent central characters (both male and female), workers addressing political issues, environmental concerns, industrial and physical warfare as well as those essentials of pulp entertainment – giant robots, aircraft warfare and pirates. There is even some time for a sweet romance. Where else could you find small birds, new flowers and beautiful landscapes mixing screen time and resonance with laser spitting robotic destruction in such a compelling and artistic manner? Laputa is not only a fascinating and engaging story for youngsters who will end up watching a far more intelligent and respectable animation than is normally granted to their market but also older viewers who simply enjoy brilliant and exciting movie making.
Laputa has finally been converted to Blu-Ray which shows off the detail of the beautiful animation and, perhaps more importantly, the artwork, to a very fine degree. The film looks as crisp as you could possibly want a home version to look – it’s about as good as it gets short of actually seeing this projected. The extras consist of an interesting interview with Miyazaki about his interest in flying and the derivation of the fantasy and sci-fi elements through references not only to Swift (whose Laputa was, of course, in Gulliver’s Travels) but also the imaginative fiction of Jules Verne. Also included is an interview with tenacious Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki. The other extras are more suited to the English dubbed version.
Although rights and credit changes have created some variance as to which films are regarded as Studio Ghibli’s, Laputa was actually the first official Ghibli film to be made and is an ideal introduction to their wonderful world. Laputa is truly a film that is designed to appeal to all generations at multiple levels without being patronising or deliberately engaging any of them to the detriment of the others.
An artistic yet thoroughly engaging rip-roaring adventure, Laputa: Castle in the Sky is essential viewing for everyone.