Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Mayumi Tanaka, Keiko Yokozawa, Kotoe Hatsui, Minori Terada
Even when told through the eyes of children and a method more pleasing to them, animated films have a way of connecting on an emotional level for someone from any age group. No one could tell these stories better than the legendary director Hayao Miyazaki. With his third feature, Castle in the Sky, he fully embraces the style that would make him an eternal icon.
After having her airship raided, Sheeta (Keiko Yokozawa) floats down to a mining town where she meets Pazu (Mayumi Tanaka). As she learns about this new town, Sheeta discovers her lineage, the power of the amulet she wears around her neck, and exactly why everyone has a vested interest in capturing her.
The juxtaposition of Sheeta and Pazu continues a running theme in Miyazaki films of combining the normal with those who have this higher calling. A combination of two who are able to accomplish so much by combining their abilities and belief to take on a world of adults. In this specific world, the adults seek the power of the amulet held by the young Sheeta. Castle in the Sky beautifully world builds in establishing the city floating in the sky, why the villains want to reach it, and the power held there. Like almost all of Miyazaki’s films, everything is seen through the perspective of the children. They cannot comprehend everything at stake with the amulet held by Sheeta.
The amount of power available for the taking up in Laputa comes with the ability to take over the world, which both Muska (Minori Terada) and Dola (Kotoe Hatsui) seek. The slow dissemination of information beautifully flows through the screenplay as we learn about the lineage of rulers of Laputa along with Pazu. Sheeta does not have much awareness of it either, which makes all of this a learning experience. While exposition comes with it, the information becomes vital to the story and comes through in an eloquent way.
Much like Miyazaki’s other films Castle in the Sky successfully blends the childlike sensibilities of his characters with some adult themes the story introduces and expounds on. Part of it comes with the violence on display. To get to Sheeta and her amulet, the army led by Muska will do whatever it takes. It makes for some whimsical action sequences, which pose a large threat to our protagonists. With each act, the stakes get larger because we know what hangs in the balance and what will occur if Muska gets his hands on Sheeta’s amulet.
Lessons come aplenty in this film in the way it speaks on power and how it can corrupt those who desperately seek it. Additionally, it explores the purpose of Laputa as a city and why it floats in the air. The way Sheeta and Muska look at the world of royalty and what comes with it says plenty about their character, and eventually dictates their fate in the story. Everything has a deeper meaning, which comes to no surprise from the quality Miyazaki always brings with his feature films.
The animation style carries the trademark of the Studio Ghibli style, which displayed some characters having similar designs to ones in other films. For example, the features of Captain Dola closely resemble Yubaba in Spirited Away. Everything about this style feels comforting because of the impact of the story and how these characters progress throughout the story. It may have a more profound connection with those who grew up on some Studio Ghibli films. No other animation style can compare with its inventiveness and use of rich colors to create wonderful and elaborate worlds.
Castle in the Sky creates an expansive world for you to explore and does so with some lovable characters and with villains with clear and dangerous aims. The messages flowing through its story maintain a universality that can connect with children, but also resonate with adults seeing the parallels happening in our world. It contributes to what makes these Studio Ghibli films so incredibly special and I adore everything happening in this movie. It contains all one could want in this adventure story about confronting one’s past and the ills of absolute power. Truly something to continually watch and appreciate for all ages.