Castle In The Sky

laputa
From: Castle in the Sky (1986, Studio Ghibli), directed by Hayao Miyazaki

On a weekend visit to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, I was in their renowned Asian art gallery when I noticed it: an ancient Chinese painting of paradise. I stared at it for quite a while. It showed a floating landscape with hills and mountains. A spacious cave or hollow space at the center of this landscape contained what appeared to be a palace or city. There were symbolic elements in the picture, as well, but I won’t belabor all of the details. This painting influenced my own concept of paradise for a story I was writing at the time and which I am in the midst of slowly revising. When I went back to the museum on a subsequent visit, the painting was no longer on display. I have been unable to find it since.

Examples of floating cities or islands can be found in religion, art, literature, and animation. The book of Revelation mentions the new Jerusalem descending from heaven.  I doubt that this is what the artist of the following painting had in mind, but I couldn’t help but notice the similarity of concept. Since it shows a restored Temple of Herod along with the current mosques (not to mention the ruins and human figures in the foreground), this painting raises questions and draws the eye. Click on the image to see it in more detail.

Floating Jerusalem by Howard Fox
Floating Jerusalem by Howard Fox

The floating island of Laputa appears in Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.

From: Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (illustrated by J. J. Grandville)
From: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (illustrated by J. J. Grandville)

 Everything I’ve said so far is background. Castle in the Sky from Studio Ghibli incorporates this idea and even borrows the name, Laputa, for its floating city. Without going into too many details, the story is centered around Sheeta, a descendant of a royal line with supernatural insight, and Pazu, the boy who befriends and helps her when he finds her floating down from the sky, as they try to foil the plans of the sinister Muska, another descendant of the royal line.

laputa-sheeta-pazu
Sheeta and Pazu
laputa-bottle
Sheeta and Muska

The point of contention on which the characters are focused is a stone of mysterious power which is released by an incantation that only Sheeta and Muska know.

laputa-stone
Sheeta wearing the Laputa stone

The city of Laputa, the apparent source of the stone,  is a supernaturally wonderful place corrupted in the past by the use of its power to develop destructive technology. Added construction has converted it into a fortress of cataclysmic capability. Their is an interesting scene in which all of the wrong-minded embellishments are stripped away to reveal the righteous and beautiful core of Laputa.

Laputa purified
Laputa purified

The animation is, as usual for a feature directed by Hayao Miyazaki, wonderful, and the story is an imaginative blending of mythology, science fiction, and social commentary on war and environmentalism. Also typical for Miyazaki is the refreshing portrayal of self-sacrificing friendship between children of opposite sexes.

laputa_still05

If you haven’t seen this one yet, I definitely recommend it.

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17 thoughts on “Castle In The Sky”

  1. I haven’t watched it, but it is def on my list along with Ghost in the Shell. I am just getting into anime. My friend introduced me to Erased. So far it is cool, involves a killer and a man goes back in time a couple minutes whenever he sees a blue butterfly. Just thought I would share that.

    Liked by 1 person

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