I was going to do Highschool of the Dead this week, but at time of writing, I’m only up to episode 4, so that’ll have to be next week’s project. Instead, I’m going to briefly talk about a Studio Ghibli film I saw this week called Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986). I’ve been meaning to watch this film for a heck of a long time, but have only just gotten round to it. The film revolves around two young kids: a girl named Sheeta and a boy named Pazu. Sheeta is first seen on an airship which is attacked by pirates, whereupon she falls off the ship and is sent plummeting towards Earth. She is found by Pazu, who is working in a nearby mining town. The mining town setting would have been particularly relevant for the time it was released, since the British miners’ strike had ended only a year before. What follows is a quest to find Laputa: a floating kingdom believed only to be a myth. All the while, our heroes are being chased by the government, the army and the aforementioned pirates.
The film radiates Studio Ghibli charm from start to finish, and it certainly isn’t short of heartwarming moments. Some of the songs that were going through my head as I watched Laputa included: Castle on a Cloud (Les Miserables), Long Train Runnin’ (The Doobie Brothers) and Roots Bloody Roots (Sepultura). If you want an idea of what kind of film you’re letting yourself in for, here are a few examples of what’s in store: 1) A band of sky pirates led by a crazy old woman and a bloke who is basically Dr Eggman before his conception. 2) A punchup that I thought was going to descend into one of those sequences you see in Popeye. 3) Steam engines that are also tanks. 4) Robots with destructive lasers coming out of their heads that reminded me somewhat of the book ‘Iron Man’ by Ted Hughes. 5) Those cute little creatures from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, which are basically pokemon, before pokemon had even been thought of.
It does carry on the steampunk airship vibe from Nausicaa, but in all fairness, I enjoyed Laputa: Castle in the Sky more than Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind. Both are good films, I just enjoyed this one more. Perhaps it was a mixture of Nausicaa constantly stating the obvious (I watched the dub) and the Christ symbolism that turned me off that film. Back to Laputa: the animation looks amazing as well. I couldn’t see any corners being cut here. The version I watched was the Disney redub, but I had very few issues with it. It’s not without it’s faults, though. The main issue I had with the film was the sheer number of the coincidences. There were many points throughout the film where the main characters should have rightfully been killed, but were saved by the miracle of cartoon logic. It’s pretty noticeable, as some of the characters do things that even the most liberal of thinkers would consider stupidly dangerous.
All in all though, it’s a fantastic film. If you don’t watch any other Studio Ghibli film, I’d recommend giving this one a look. This goes extra for those of you who thought Treasure Planet was ok, but lacking a certain something. It has its moments that are a little frustrating, but overall, it’s a wonderful family film, and has now taken its place amongst my favourite Studio Ghibli films.