Studio Ghibli is one of the most well-known and renowned animation companies in the world, and their beautiful and melancholy films are among Japan’s most popular exports. Laputa: Castle in the Sky, their first formal production as a studio, was well-received in Japan and has stood the test of time against even current animation (albeit the film was eventually renamed in certain places to just “Castle in the Sky” owing to “La Puta” meaning “The Whore” in Spanish slang). Despite its success in Japan, the picture is frequently eclipsed by Ghibli films that have been famous in the United States, such as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. As part of the film’s 30th anniversary celebrations this month, we take a look back at one of the studio’s most misunderstood classics.
The secret welsh connection
Miyazaki’s visit to a Welsh mining community during the 1984 strikes served as inspiration for Castle in the Sky. He became captivated with what he observed there, particularly the impacts of the decrease in industry, and stated that he “admired the way they fought to save their way of life,” as did the Japanese miners. Despite its fanciful qualities, the film is set in one of these towns, The Slag Ravine, where a young kid named Pazu works in the mines to make ends meet. The monotony of his life is disturbed when a girl named Sheeta falls from the sky, and the two go on a journey to discover the famous Laputa, racing against pirates and foreign spies. With British-style buildings and attire, the town’s architecture is mostly inspired by Welsh towns. Miyazaki returned in 1986 to prepare for Castle in the Sky in order to depict the power of the miners.
Castle In the Sky and environmetalism
Another important aspect of Miyazaki’s pacifism and work is his concern for our human relationship to the environment; he has a vision of how we should live in harmony with nature that is deeply rooted in Japanese Shinto. Adult humans are purposely portrayed as immoral, greedy, and selfish in Castle in the Sky. Laputa is both an utopia and a weapon of war, where kind robots coexist peacefully with their surroundings, yet man is yet unable to do so. Nature has taken control, and we’ve learned that the Earth can only flourish where man cannot touch it.
Hayao Miyazaki and war
Hayao Miyazaki was born in Tokyo in 1941, and his father produced fighter plane rudders. His family lived comfortably during World War II, despite the firebombing assaults on Utsunomiya, which greatly affected him. With its flying machines and anti-war sentiments, Miyazaki’s background inspired both a passion with aircraft and a pacifist stance, both of which are evident in Castle in the Sky. Miyazaki has never shied away from tackling conflict throughout his career, including publicly criticizing Japanese Prime Minister Shinz Abe’s policies.
We encounter a white European military soldier early in the film who feels that a superior entity has no option but to burn people who aren’t like him, a striking echo of American beliefs about the Japanese during WWII. In a deliberate allusion of the atomic bomb, he then unleashes Laputa’s old weapon on the earth to test it, and the outcome is virtually comparable to a nuclear explosion, forming a mushroom cloud.
Despite his misanthropy and seeming skepticism toward humankind, Miyazaki maintains a refreshing optimism for children, who will inherit the world and are the only ones who can preserve it. Castle in the Sky’s kid protagonists are idealistic, and their wins are not won by using violence against others. Miyazaki is a pacifist at heart, and warriors are not revered or regarded as winners like they are in other mediums. The aggressiveness of the other planes, compared to Pazu’s childish astonishment at his own small plane, only helps to exacerbate the gap between adult avarice and children’s curiosity.