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Laputa: Castle in the Sky Thursday, June 25, 2009

Posted by j128 in Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli.
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Disney cover of Laputa: Castle in the Sky (or Castle in the Sky) is a 1986 anime film directed by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli and it is loosely based on Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. As with Mr. Miyazaki’s earlier Studio Ghibli films, several English translations were made, and sometimes there were characters’ name spellings and pronunciations changed, etc., and it wasn’t until Disney made a deal with Studio Ghibli that Castle in the Sky was officially released in North America.

†Title

The English translation of the Japanese title (Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta, translated as The Sky’s Castle: Laputa) was changed to Castle in the Sky upon release in several countries with Spanish speakers, and even some countries that have little Spanish influence such as the U.K., as the word Laputa, though meaningless in Japanese, English, and French, it translates as “prostitute” ( la puta) in Spanish. This was perhaps Jonathan Swift’s intention when he wrote Gulliver’s Travels, as he claimed that Spanish was one of the many languages he was fluent in; however it should be noted that Mr. Miyazaki hadn’t been aware of the word’s meaning until after the film’s release and he said that had he known of the word’s meaning, he wouldn’t have used it, and he apologized. For Spanish speakers and readers, Laputa has been replaced by a euphemism such as Lapata.

History of Laputa

Within the storyline of Castle in the Sky, in the opening credits and throughout the story the history of the floating island is alluded to, connecting this story to our world, which is strengthened by the obvious European influences, such as mediaeval castles, miners, etc. According to legend, humans have always been fascinated with the sky and flight, and as they ventured further into making aerial exploration possible their flying machines became more sophisticated. The most famous of these legends was Laputa, a floating castle in the sky that was an entire city hidden within a violent storm and that within the storyline had been abandoned seven hundred years ago, and most people have ceased to believe in it. Only a few believe in it now and competition to find it is dangerous and tense. See Wikipedia for more information on the history of the setting.

Summary

The story opens in the sky, a young girl is being held by agents under the command of Colonel Muska on an airship, being taken to an unknown destination. The airship is attacked by sky pirates, who seem to be after the girl. In the resulting confusion, Muska tries to send a message using Morse code, while doing so, the girl suddenly hits him on the head with a wine bottle and knocks him out. She takes a crystal from him – at that moment, the pirates barge into the room and she and the crystal are almost seized, causing her to fall from the airship.

Meanwhile, a young boy named Pazu sees the girl, who is now no longer falling, but floating and a blue light is emitting from the crystal. He catches her and within a few seconds, the crystal’s light ebbs and disappears. He takes her to his home, where she wakes up next morning to the sound of his trumpet and he feeds his pigeons that he keeps in a coop. Pazu apparently lives alone.

While there, the girl whose name is Sheeta, sees a photograph of a floating castle in the sky. Pazu explains that his father took the photo and that he was an explorer, he tried to find a legendary city called Laputa, and he shows her a copy of Gulliver’s Travels. (In the Disney dubbed version, it is his father’s journal.) Hardly anyone believes Laputa exists but Pazu believes the city does exist and wants to find it.

Suddenly the pirates arrive that had tried to get Sheeta and she and Pazu quickly try to leave the town, with Sheeta being disguised as a boy, but when she stumbles when Pazu tries to go to his master for help, her braids give her away. A riot ensues in the small street while Pazu and Sheeta go through the back and go down the railroads and get a ride. It’s not long, though, that they are followed by the pirates and then they’re surrounded by the military – the agents that had held Sheeta hostage in the first place.

While running, Sheeta and Pazu fall, only being saved from death by the crystal, and they float down into an underground tunnel where they find an old miner called Uncle Pom, who reveals Sheeta’s crystal to be “volucite” (“aetherium” in the Disney adaptation) and that’s what keeps Laputa floating.

When the children emerge, Sheeta reveals her secret name to Pazu, which is Lucita Toel Ul Laputa, an ancient name she has inherited meaning “Lucita, True Ruler of Laputa” in Laputan. The agents appear and surround them and take them by force into custody. They are taken to a fortress, a mediæval-style castle, and are separated: Pazu into a prison cell and Sheeta is treated like a princess and is shown an old Laputan robot that fell from the sky.

Pazu is released, being given some gold, and he goes home only to find the pirates have taken over and he is tied up. He realizes his foolishness at going, being paid gold for Sheeta’s capture, but Dola, the pirate leader, comments on Sheeta’s courageous action for Pazu’s escape while she faces danger. She compares Sheeta to herself when she was a girl and advises her sons that when they marry, to marry a girl like Sheeta.

The pirates and Pazu go off to rescue Sheeta. Meanwhile, Sheeta remembers an ancient spell for help that she learnt from her grandmother when she was a little girl, and repeats it. Suddenly, the crystal glows blue light and the robot awakens. Chaos ensues in the fortress and the robot protects Sheeta from the guns and bombs that are directed at it. It manages to fend off the offensive forces until Pazu and the pirates arrive, who successfully rescue her. Unfortunately, when Sheeta fainted, the crystal bounced off down to the ground, and is found by Muska, who can now touch it without being harmed, and everyone sees the light is pointing in the direction of Laputa.

Meanwhile, Sheeta and Pazu are taken aboard the pirate ship where they lend a hand. Pazu helps Dola’s husband, a mechanic, while Sheeta is employed to work in the kitchen, which she has to clean up first before cooking anything. Soon, Dola’s sons are all helping her in the kitchen, who all seem charmed by her. In the Japanese version, she is seen as a potential motherly figure to the sons, while in the Disney English dub one of the pirate sons even makes a profession of love to her. (“I’m in love with you!”)

The pirates and Muska’s fleet compete in the discovery of Laptua – Sheeta and Pazu get to the island first on their own in some sort of aerial contraption that is separated from the pirate ship during an attack from the government agents when they enter the violent storm.

There Sheeta and Pazu find another Laputan robot, and many more like it, but they’re all asleep. The moving robot takes care of the flora and fauna and looks after it. They soon hear gunfire and see that Muska’s fleet has also arrived and the clouds have parted; the pirates have been captured and the children persevere to rescue them, in the process Sheeta is captured by Muska and disappears with him into the deep interiors of the city where Muska displays the terrible power the crystal can unleash. He kills all his fleet using the Laputan robots and the power of the crystal. It is revealed that Muska is also in line of inheritance.

Sheeta finally manages to get the crystal back and runs, with Muska in pursuit, and she finds Pazu again who’s been looking for her. She gives him the crystal and tells him to throw it away before being caught by Muska.

In the final showdown, Muska is defeated by the children when they both use the crystal, uttering a spell of destruction, and Laputa disintegrates. The pirates manage to push off just in time. Muska is blinded and supposedly killed. The children are saved by the roots of the giant forest and they find their flight contraption, still in good condition, and fly away from the island, that steadily floats up higher and higher until apparently being caught in Earth’s orbit while the pirates and the children depart, going their own ways.

Original Japanese Trailer

Trivia

  • During one of the Laputan sequences, two fox squirrels are seen, from another of Mr. Miyazaki’s films: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.
  • A crystal similar to the one that Sheeta wore is one of Howl’s accessories in Howl’s Moving Castle.
  • At the Studio Ghibli Museum there is a life-size statue of a Laputan robot.

Images

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