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.