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April 19, 2003 / gus3

Castle in the Sky: A review

I just picked up Laputa: Castle in the Sky on DVD today. It’s everything I expected, and more.

The story

Hayao Miyazaki really struck gold with this story. No spoilers, I promise.

A girl, Sheeta, literally floats into the life of a boy, Pazu, and the two of them find themselves chased by pirates, the Army, and a shady code-breaker. Along the way, they find out about a very special necklace that protects Sheeta when she’s in trouble. It all goes back to Laputa, a legendary castle that floats in the sky, concealed in a dense cloud bank.

This story has it all: action, sci-fi, chases, comedy, drama, romance, pathos, even a couple fight scenes. Many movie advertisements claim "something for everyone;" this movie delivers on that. But this isn’t a typical Hollywood cookie-cutter story. Some scenes do nothing to advance the storyline; they’re there only to entertain, or to develop characters. Miyazaki takes the time and effort to create a very complete palette of characters and story.

The production

This movie has a strong "no expense spared" feel to it. The only downside that I can find, is that it was released in 1986, and it shows. Anime styles have improved in the past 17 years, so Laputa shows its age now and then. Sometimes the characters’ movement is a little choppy, and once in a while the spoken dialog doesn’t match the movement of the mouths.

However, the artistic styles more than make up for it. Some shots are included solely as "eye candy," with lush colors and richly detailed brush work.

The music

Since I prefer to hear the original voices on foreign films, I used the Japanese soundtrack and English subtitles. I have MIDI renditions of the opening and closing credit scores, which got me hooked on the Laputa experience. The music fits the story well (I had read a complete story online). As soon as I heard Jô Hisaishi’s score in the opening credits, the movie had my undivided attention as a wonderful story began to unfold. Net result: I’m going to ask for the soundtrack CD for my birthday (hint hint).

The overall experience

What can I say besides WOW! This movie exceeded all my expectations. It made me laugh, cry, gasp, sit on the edge of my seat, all that good stuff. I was concerned that three years of anticipation had built up an unrealistic idea of the movie. Fortunately, I was wrong. A half hour into the movie, I was out of breath and had to stop watching for a while. Even after I re-started the movie, the experience of watching it didn’t let up. By the end of the movie, I knew that the US$20 I’d spent was well worth it.

My advice: Get this movie. But if you’re into anime, you probably already knew that. If you aren’t yet, Laputa makes a fantastic introduction. In fact, once you see this, you’ll probably find everyone else disappointing.

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