Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Anime Review: Castle in the Sky

LAPUTA: CASTLE IN THE SKY: It’s so full of action, it doesn’t even have time for exposition

Legends tell of a city hidden in the skies, but Pazu thinks that it is not just a mere legend. One night, Pazu sees a girl gradually falling from the heavens. It turns out that this girl, Sheeta, has been held captive by prominent people who believe that she holds the key to the legendary city. The two goes on a journey to flee from their pursuers. Soon enough, they find themselves in Laputa itself, only to find out that it’s not the kind of city that they have expected.

This is definitely the most action-packed story of all of Hayao Miyazaki’s works. The first thirty minutes features Pazu and Sheeta’s attempt to escape from their pursuers. Sure, the chase is very interesting, but the problem is, the story doesn’t give me a reason to care. What is it to me if Sheeta is captured? What is the gravity of her capture anyway? It has been hinted that her crystal necklace is an important factor on why she is being pursued, but there is no solid reason for me to care.

I’m not saying that I’m indifferent in the first thirty minutes of the film. I just find the scenes as lacking in emotional attachment. They are really entertaining though, because of the abundance of action sequences and prominence of good musical scoring.

Further in the film, the plot thickens as we are exposed to the vague royal origins of Sheeta. This is where it gets interesting. Plot elements have been introduced that will lead them to the legendary city. In their journey, there are a few conflicts and character interactions here and there, so the film remains interesting in the micro sense.

Their arrival at Laputa makes the film more interesting. The city itself portrays the negative effects of technology and the hunger for power. It’s proof that the film is one of Hayao Miyazaki’s stories that feature social and political commentaries, along with Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind.

But again, the anime has its flaws. The vague royal origins of Sheeta are not expanded. I thought they were going to be explained further in the film, so I let them pass when they were just vaguely introduced earlier. But it turned out that they remained vague.

This is not the only vague plot element. The origins of Colonel Muska, the main antagonist, are also not explained. His knowledge about Laputa is too convenient. It’s as if he has gained this knowledge solely for the purpose of moving the plot. It’s just not justifiable. It’s also such a waste that he hasn’t been moulded enough as a character.

Speaking of characters, Laputa: Castle in the Sky has some fairly interesting ones, but nothing outstanding. Perhaps the reason for this is the fact that the film is so plot-oriented that it doesn’t even have the time to thoroughly explore its characters.

The good thing about this plot-orientation is that it has given room for the animation department to stand out. There are just so many action sequences to dazzle the viewers. Not only that, the whole film is also almost consistently embedded with music -- good music at that. Its style of embedding is very similar to modern action films; there is music in almost every scene.

Overall, Laputa: Castle in the Sky is an excellent Studio Ghibli film. The only major problem I have with it is its failure to explain some of the plot elements. But looking at the anime in general, I’d go as far to say that it’s the most entertaining of all of Hayao Miyazaki’s works. The story, the characters, the animation, and the music, just blend well together to create a film that is not just there to entertain, but also to teach us the value of humanity and nature.


  1. Sounds like a really fun ride, I definitely need to see this one. Hopefully I can catch and watch all of Miyazaki’s films over my Winter break from college. On another somewhat off topic question, do you usually watch sub or dub? While I have nothing against subs, dubs is what I usually go with since it is usually more enjoyable, especially when it is a good one like Death Note, Code Geass, or Bebop.


    1. Yes, you should definitely watch Miyazaki films! Though his storytelling is a bit different compared to your usual Hollywood movies. (Just wanted to point that out because you review movies).

      To answer your question, I watch subs on series, just because. And I watch dubs on movies, because I find it easier to follow the plot on dubs in movies.

  2. Finally watch it and while I did not like it quite as much as Mononoke or Nausicaa, Castle in the Sky was a lot of fun! Any scene with Seeta and Pazu was excellent; I really liked those two characters in the film. The ending was great and so was the action and adventure. Overall, I would say that Castle in Sky is a fun two hours and one of the better animated films around. Thanks for recommending it!

    By the way, here is my review for Code Geass if you are interested.


    1. After watching a lot of Miyazaki films, I still consider Castle in the Sky to be the most entertaining (though that could change in the future!) It's not as heavy as Mononoke and Nausicaa, but it sure knows how to entertain.