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Review Castle in the Sky (1986)

By Hayao Miyazaki | Japan
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With Studio Ghibli now established and everyone’s attention pointing right at him, Miyazaki followed up his stunning breakout film “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” with an equally, if not more whimsical tale that surpasses in every department. “Castle in the Sky” is indeed bigger, more epic, and with much more characters to pack into one film, but it surprisingly do so well in nailing everything down to perfection. The animation is obviously astonishing (no question about that) but even in its design, detail, and world building — something that this film specially excels at — were all done in a flawless way.
The story is a familiar one, especially in the works of Miyazaki. A young boy from a beautiful hidden village (check) meets a young princess (check) and has to embark in an adventure (check) to search for an ancient magical place (check) known as Laputa, a flying city thought of as mere legend. Pursuing them is a band of flying pirates and an army of soldiers, both faction equipped with a variety of bug shapped aircrafts, vintage weapons, and robotic machinery poured straight out of Miyazaki’s creative head. The results are possibly the best adventure film ever made or at the very least, certainly the most imaginative one. And it’s really that sense of wonderous adventure that really pulls you in with these movies. It makes you feel like a kid again, which is what Miyazaki is aiming for.
Yet the common misconception is that the biggest strengths of these Ghibli films lays solely on its visuals, which though great indeed, still is only in service for the greater quality of Ghibli : the emotional journey. It’s no secret that anime is a master at jerking people tears, but it is most true here. “Castle in the Sky” elevates its every moment with raw emotion. Like the child protagonist of every one of its film, you will be thrusts into moments of immense beauty or sorrow, all even more heightened with Ghibli’s visual palette. In these other worlds, happiness comes as blue as the skies are, and the sorrow even greater when surrounded with its ambient night lights.
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“Castle in the Sky” is one in a long line of animated masterpieces made by Studio Ghibli and its creative head, Hayao Miyazaki. Though its easy to see this film as the gorgeous visual feast that it is; its outer beauty can only compete so much with the real mastercraft it hid within its cobblestone houses and mining cliffs. The journey to find Laputa is not a physical one, but more so an emotionally charge experience of finding oneself. Which makes that moment of discovery, as our two heroes stood just near a cliff looking down on the breathtaking view, such a cathartic release.
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