RogerBW's Blog

Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta 24 September 2018

1986 dieselpunk fantasy: AniDB, vt "Laputa: Castle in the Sky" and "Castle in the Sky". Pazu the engineer's apprentice catches a girl falling from the sky; bad people are after her, and all is not what it seems as various factions hunt for the legendary floating city Laputa.

The backgrounds are gorgeous, as in everything where Miyazaki has had control, so it's rather a shame that the lead character designs are so crude: very much in the tradition of mid-1980s anime, sure, but they're clearly optimised for fast drawing in manga rather than for detail or subtlety. The further you get away from the leads, the more variation is allowed: "Mama" Dola, leader of the pirate gang chasing the girl Sheeta, and some of her crew are much more interestingly designed (though a few could have dropped straight out of Lupin III), and while the lead government agent is reminiscent of many other untrustworthy-neat-guy characters the soldiers do a better job of looking like distinct people.

The thing that impresses me most about the animation is the way the movements work: an engineer, fixing the guts of an airship power plant in a confined space, moves in the way one does when one's near, but used to, fast-moving dangerous things. And yes, there are the requisite implausible flying ships, both peaceful and warlike: some are relatively conventional airships, but others are bulbous solid shapes bedizened with propellers and rotors and rudders and turrets. Aerodynamics clearly works differently here, and that's just fine.

As for the plot, it has a pleasing sophistication in how it makes (some) enemies into allies rather than just writing them off as Bad People; perhaps that's why the eventual resolution strikes me as a little on the trite and simplistic side.

A continuity of influence stretches back to the Future Boy Conan series (also directed by Miyazaki) and forward, at least as far as visual tropes go, into Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, No Game No Life, and the Final Fantasy games, among many others. That's why a great deal about this film looks familiar to the experienced anime viewer, much as The Lord of the Rings is full of tired old fantasy tropes; but it still stands well on its own.

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