This is not the first time we mention Hayao Miyazaki on this site, having boundless admiration for his magnificent animated movies, such as 1986’s Castle in the Sky.
The magical adventure takes life in the heart of the action, where a group of eccentric flying pirates assaults an army aircraft.
Led by their elderly chief, Mrs. Dola, their target is a young girl, Sheeta, or rather, the precious stone she holds.
The girl falls to the ground during the clash, but fortunately, the stone’s power saves her at the last moment. When she regains consciousness, the girl meets a cheerful young miner, Pazu, with whom she immediately establishes a solid and sincere friendship.
However, their peace of mind is short-lived, as flying pirates arrive in town still on the girl’s trail. But the real danger is not from the pirates themselves, but instead from the army that initially held the girl captive.
The arrogant and ambitious Muska leads this special government team, obsessed with the myth of Laputa, a legendary flying island supposedly filled with priceless treasures.
Coincidentally, the young miner is also very interested in the same myth since his father is the only one to immortalize this mysterious city in a photograph.
Unfortunately, the soldiers’ relentless advance is too much for our heroes, who are finally captured. Desperately, Sheeta agrees to lead the army airship to Laputa in exchange for Pazu’s safety.
Humiliated, the boy flees, feeling the weight of guilt for failing to protect his friend, but decides to join the pirate crew of the fearsome Dola to redeem himself.
From this moment, the story becomes a race against time to reach the legendary flying city and rediscover the futuristic technologies of the past within it.
Immortal hand-drawn dreamscapes
In previous works such as The Wind Rises and Porco Rosso, we have already seen Hayao Miyazaki‘s love for the aviation world.
Here, the animation master inserts his passion for flight and aircraft adventures within a fascinating fantasy world, resulting in a unique work rich in detail and suggestion.
The gentleness and sensitivity of Miyazaki’s pictures remain intact, transforming each scene into a delicate visual poem.
His unique touch stands out no matter what, whether in the intimate and moving sequences where two friends confide and support each other or in the spectacular and hilarious combat scenes.
Moreover, Miyazaki’s unparalleled mastery also reflects in the talents of his trusted pupils at Studio Ghibli, the celebrated Japanese animation firm founded by the director himself.
Each character created by these artists has an identifiable and memorable personality. Even those appearing for only a few minutes succeed in leaving an indelible imprint on the spectator’s mind.
This love of detail extends even in the care of the aircraft models and the rural beauty of the cities populating his fantasy world.
The superb charm of Laputa, the fallen city once dominated the entire world, becomes the ideal stage for a romantic and adventurous setting.
With an aura of sadness and lost grandeur, this mysterious place provides the perfect setting for the final clashes between the various protagonists.
Studio Ghibli keeps the beautiful hand-drawn animation tradition alive in this age dominated by technology and digital computer graphic.
These works rise above fads and trends, acquiring a timeless quality that testifies to the artistry and dedication of a master who leaves a legacy of animation movies to discover for future generations, such as Castle in the sky from 1986.
American Voices Soar in Japanese Classic
Regarding the voices of this animated masterpiece’s American version, the actors’ talents are not afraid of their Japanese rivals/colleagues.
In the role of the young hero Pazu, we find James Van Der Beek, the iconic face from the teen series Dawson’s Creek.
The actor successfully gives the character the right balance of courage and vulnerability, always remaining optimistic despite the worst difficulties.
From the very first moments, the relationship between Pazu and Sheeta, voiced by the lovely Anna Paquin, comes across as splendid and touching, with the innocent romance of these two children being a true force of nature.
However, Sheeta is no mere defenseless girl; thanks to the magic stone, she can command Laputa’s fearsome robots.
A power she hesitates to use, fearing to hurt her enemies, even though they show her no mercy.
Because of this, the lady pirate Dola, voiced by the energetic Cloris Leachman, goes from hunting down to taking her into care, almost like an adopted daughter.
The old warrior revisits the lost days of her youth in the two protagonists, just as the crew of silly and funny pirates/children become equally attached when they board their flying ship.
Finally, it is impossible not to mention the story’s excellent villain, Muska, masterfully voiced by the legendary Mark Hamill, the first and still best Jedi in the Star Wars saga.
The actor infuses the character with the proper delusion of omnipotence, making him a cunning and ruthless adversary, even betraying his comrades-in-arms.
However, he has not interest in the gold and jewels of Laputa but instead in the terrifying and beautiful technologies of that once so-powerful civilization.
In conclusion, there is little more to add, except to praise Castle in the Sky again as one of the best flying movies back in 1986.