Review: Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)

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Miyazaki’s follow up to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a distinct change of pace. Perhaps as a reaction to Nausicaa’s overly dense plot and general grimness, Miyazaki creates a film that lets its elements breathe.

Laputa can almost be viewed as the base clay of Miyazaki’s career: it features a surprising number of themes and elements that recur throughout his work. The danger inherent in the abuse of technology is at the core of Nausicaa. There is a fantastic and idealised European setting (actually based on a Miyazaki trip to Wales) that also gets a workout in Kiki’s Delivery Service and Porco Rosso. The hugely entertaining and bumbling sky pirates reappear in Porco Rosso. The sky pirates’ leader, Ma Dolo, is another of Miyazaki’s strong female protagonists, and a mysterious girl with a magical gem is a character at the center of Nadia – Secret of Blue Water, a Miyazaki-initiated project that ended up at Gainax.

Laputa is a pure delight and has plenty to offer viewers of any age. Pazu and Sheeta flee the different groups in one spectacular chase after another. When the pair finally reach the city in the sky, Miyazaki creates a serene environment that makes the viewer contemplate that, although the lives of the pioneers of potentially dangerous technology may be transient once the power is released, it cannot be taken back.

Laputa’s influence is everywhere. Its spectacular ending seems to have imprinted itself on Katsuhiro (Akira, Metropolis, Steam Boy) Otomo and even Gonzo’s recent (and fantastic) Last Exile owes plenty to this Miyazaki masterpiece.

10 robot gardeners out of 10.
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