Ani-Monday: Castle in the Sky (Hayao Miyazaki, 1986)

As my first-ever experience with the renowned Studio Ghibli and its marvelous proprietor, Castle in the Sky is altogether fantastically compelling in its telling of the tale surrounding the titular fabled sky fortress. Opening with a focus on the at-first enigmatic young Sheeta, fate soon draws her and self-sufficient miner’s apprentice Pazu together as they work together to unveil the former’s past. Given the possession of an apparently magical crystal necklace, our protagonists must remain on the lam from the covetous pirates and government agents vying to obtain said artifact for different purposes. Ample world-building ensues as the fabled floating Laputa is called into question regarding Sheeta’s supposed bloodline and the futures of all involved.

Steeped firmly in frolicking engagement, Castle in the Sky earns ample credit for painting portraits of two likable children. They’re not whiny, cartoonishly impressionable and generally helpless, thus effectively opening the door for a genuinely well-rounded coming-of-age spectacle rife with imagination. Between their budding relationship and unfailing earnestness in pursuing Laputa, Pazu and Sheeta’s personalities do wonders for an already captivating if noticeably bloated narrative, their personalities seamlessly meshing with those part of a palpably eclectic cast of characters.

In terms of exposition, Miyazaki employs an all-encompassing angle if only to inject his brand of fantastical logic into the proceedings. Despite the run time issue the voluminous detail presents, it does wonders for branding the anime auteur as something of a creative genius, what with Castle in the Sky‘s world-building amiably surpassing typical animated fare. From Pazu’s vast chasm-side hometown to the various airships that pilot (and pirate) the skies above, both Castle‘s timeless style and inventiveness frequently astonish as the plot thickens. Even despite rote overarching conflict involving Agent Muska’s hidden motives, the film transcends this shortcoming as tensions remain high amid storm-addled airship dogfighting and dilapidated sky fortress happenings.

As remarkable all-ages fare, Castle in the Sky is a lovingly crafted fairy tale epic – one that withstands the test of time as it rivals Disney’s then-impending Golden Age. It’s rife with touching narrative simplicity and imagination, both of which mesh wonderfully to encapsulate Miyazaki’s trademark sensibilities as a filmmaker. Length aside, it’s easy to appreciate nearly everything this film has to offer as the beauty residing within its many details effortlessly captivates.


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