Posted by psgels on 15 November 2007 with categories: Anime Reviews


For as far as I know, I’ve seen all of the major Ghibli-movies now, apart from the ones directed by Hayao Miyazaki. First up is Laputa: Castle in the Sky, and finally I understand why Studio Ghibli because such a big name in anime. This is the anime that inspired movies such as Steamboy and Giniro no Kami no Agito, but most importantly, even Vision of Escaflowne (one of my favourite series) shows hints that the creators were avid fans of this movie.

The amount of creativity that Hayao put into the fantasy-setting is astonishingly original. From the mining town where the story starts to the castle of Laputa itself, it’s the setting of this movie that really draws you in. The cast of side-characters also never feels out of place, and they’re the ones who make this movie really come alive. Being produced in 1986 (before I was actually born), I can imagine that this movie must have been revolutionary.

Alas, I wish I could call this movie a masterpiece all the way, though unfortunately things aren’t that simple. For one thing, some parts of this movie didn’t quite age well. Twenty years ago, the idea of a young boy, meeting a mysterious girl who happens to be the queen of an ancient race may have sounded exciting, but I’ve seen this concept being abused a few too many times. Especially the main male character proves to be just unable to carry the weight of the movie as it goes on, and all he does is go from one nearly impossible heroic deed to the other. Much like Steamboy, actually.

I’m also surprised to say this about a Ghibli-movie, but there’s a bit too many action in this one. There’s especially an abundance of grand explosions and random destruction. What surprised me even more is how Hayao hardly used this. When a wooden bridge for mine-carts gets destroyed, it just disappears from the screen. You don’t see angry miners who complain about how they have to fix the damage that was done to their constructions, the movie just acts like nothing happened. When someone falls through a roof, nobody even bothers to fix it. I just can’t help but feel disappointed when this comes from a studio that’s so good at realism.

Overall, I wouldn’t call this the best movie of Studio Ghibli. Spirited Away and The Cat Returns were both just better than what I saw here, but that doesn’t mean that Laputa isn’t one big success, especially considering the time when it came out, and there’s no denying to the influence it had on modern-day anime. With visually stunning animation and a terrific soundtrack, but most importantly a huge amount of imagination, this really is a movie that needs to be seen, despite all of the flaws that it has.

11 Responses

  1. Avatar Wyrdwad says:

    “For as far as I know, I’ve seen all of the major Ghibli-movies now, apart from the ones directed by Hayao Miyazaki.”

    Wow, does that mean you have yet to see works like Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, and the astonishingly underrated Porco Rosso? And what about, say, Princess Mononoke?

    (Not mentioning Nausicaa, because frankly, I don’t really like that one!)

    If you haven’t seen those, then it’s no wonder you’re having trouble understanding the draw of Studio Ghibli… Miyazaki was pretty much THE MAN behind the studio. Without him, Ghibli would’ve never become the household name it is today.

    All of the above-mentioned movies, along with Laputa and Whisper of the Heart, represent my favorite Studio Ghibli works (with Porco Rosso taking the #1 spot, I think – I can’t wait to see a review of that one from you, as I guarantee it’s going to take you by surprise!).

    I have yet to see The Cat Returns, actually, but based on your rave review of it, I guess I’m going to have to check it out sometime soon. (:

    -Tom

  2. Avatar Wyrdwad says:

    BTW, have you ever seen Future Boy Conan (a.k.a. “Conan, the Boy of the Future”, a.k.a. “Mirai Shounen Conan”)? It’s a classic 26-episode anime from the 70s that was directed (and written, I think?) by Hayao Miyazaki, and it’s very obvious that Laputa’s characters and general atmosphere were all based very heavily upon it… in fact, a lot of people consider Future Boy Conan to be the prototypical Laputa. In some ways, though, I think Future Boy Conan is a little BETTER (probably because it has a longer run time in which to accomplish its goals), and it definitely comes highly recommended.

    -Tom

  3. Avatar DiGiKerot says:

    For me, Miyazakis Ghibli movies (and I specify Ghibli merely as a way to sidestep the fact that Castle of Cagliostro was brilliant) definitely following something of a bell-curve in terms of quality. Nausicaa isn’t particularly great in anime form (the manga is one of the best I’ve ever read, though), Laputa is a solid “good”, Totoro has flashes of brilliance, Kiki is excellent and Porco Rosso gets my vote for Best Movie Ever.

    After that, everything starts to go downhill – I really liked Mononoke, even if it was largely a rehash of Nausicaa, and Spirited Away very much sits in the middle of the bunch for me.

    Finally, Howls Moving Castle is awful, and by that I don’t mean awful by Ghibli standards – I mean its a horrific mess of a movie.

    Whilst you are going through the Ghibli movies, make sure to try and see On Your Marks, the music video that was originally shown alongside Whisper. It’s pretty ^^;

  4. Avatar Mar says:

    (Not mentioning Nausicaa, because frankly, I don’t really like that one!)
    Me neither. The Nausicaa manga is vastly superior to the movie, which only covered volumes 2 out of 7. I highly recommend reading that instead.

  5. Avatar LA says:

    I’ve never liked this only because the ending was so sad in an uncomfortable way, and that just left me in a terrible mood.
    But nonetheless, Laputa is an extremely impressvie movie because it somehow stands out so cleary in my memories though I have watched it more than 12 years ago, comparing that I was completely forgot about The Cat Returns which I’ve watched only few years ago….

  6. Avatar Kim says:

    I know, I’ve seen all of the major Ghibli-movies now, apart from the ones directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

    Have you seen Grave of the Fireflies? That was directed by Takahata and is one of the best Ghibli films.

    Personally Totoro and Porco Rosso are my favorite Miyazaki directed Ghibli films.

  7. psgels psgels says:

    Wyrdwad: yes, I became an anime-fan relatively late, so I haven’t grown up with the Ghibli-movies like everyone else, and right now I’m basically trying to catch up with them. I have seen Nausicaä, actually, I probably liked it a bit more than you did, but I wouldn’t really call it among Ghibli’s best work.

    Kim: Grave of the Fireflies was probably the first Ghibli-movie I’ve seen; I watched it before even starting this blog, though I didn’t like it that much. It had the same flaws of all the other Takahata-movies I’ve seen up till now as in how it kept dragging scenes on for too long, and at that time, my attention-span wasn’t really that high.

  8. Avatar Jumpin' Jap says:

    “I’ve seen this concept being abused a few too many times.  E
    I think this comment depend on only your personal situation.You can not relate it to the flows this movie has.

    “You don’t see angry miners who complain about how they have to fix the damage that was done to their constructions・・・・ E
    Oh….Are you serious?Haven’t you ever seen any kind of action movie?Who care about the damage to the buildings in picture?

  9. psgels psgels says:

    Well, that’s another reason for me not to watch action-movies. :P

    Seriously though, the reason I mentioned this is bbecause these miners make the world in which the movie is set come so more alive. If a random house is destroyed, then who cares about it? But if you see the people who live inside that house, the question becomes totally different.

  10. Avatar Jumpin' Jap says:

    Your opinion is out of focus.If this anime movie would have the theme of miner’s living and life, you were right.But this movie is clealy a kind of romantic-action movie.
    I think your judgment is quite unfair.
    It seemed to me that you’re only making a false charge.

  11. the nime attract me

    i didn’t see it befor

    thanx 4 review

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