Up next we have a title that I'm actually revisiting for the first time in a couple of years. I remembered liking it back then, and I can happily say that it only gets better upon multiple viewings... even if its only my second.
Right from the get-go, we learn that a young girl named Sheeta (Keiko Yokozawa/Lara Cody/Anna Paquin) has been kidnapped by a government agent named Muska (Minori Terada/Jeff Winkless/Mark Hamill). The ship is attacked by a band of bumbling pirates, lead by Captain Dola (Cloris Leachman). One thing leads to another, Sheeta falls from the airship, and lands in the presence of a boy named Pazu (Mayumi Tanaka/Barbara Goodson/James Van Der Beek). she survives this fall by being guided by the "levitation stone" she wears around her neck.
The pair form a very solid friendship pretty much right from the beginning, and Pazu tells Sheeta of a floating island known as Laputa; an apparent myth, but something Pazu's father brought home clear photographic evidence of. Soon enough, long story short, the duo find themselves set on an adventure, teaming up with unlikely characters, on the run from the government, and on course for Laputa, itself.
One fairly consistent theme throughout Hayao Miyazaki's films is, evidently, flight. This movie has that by the truckloads, and it makes for some of its most appealing charm. Some of the scenery we get in this is just plain beautiful, showing off vast landscapes and breathtaking views. Once again, no surprise, but the animation is easily one of the best parts of this title.
Characters in this one, I sort of meet in the middle. For me, I can't help but love Pazu. He's a scrappy little go-getter, willing to risk everything to help out this girl who fell from the sky. You just can't help but find the kid charming. Sheeta, on the other hand, I have to admit wasn't entirely interesting to me. That said, I was able to empathize with her overall situation just fine. She's confused as to a lot of what's going on and ultimately just wants to get back home. I think its perhaps that after someone like Nausicaa, Sheeta kinda takes away from that strong female lead. She has her talents, to be sure, but ultimately she sort of ends up being the typical princess who needs rescuing.
Perhaps the most interesting character to me here was, surprisingly, Dola. If I say too much about it, it approaches a bit of spoiler territory, but let's just say she plays an interesting contrasting character. One might say a "true neutral". As for Muska, he's the villain doing his villain thing. Unlike a character like Princess Kushana of 'Nausicaa', there's not a whole lot of depth to him. He's just kind of a jerk after what he wants. So the characters here kinda just level out for me.
What really makes this movie special though, is the overall storytelling. When you stop to think about it, the whole thing feels like a truly original concept, especially when you get down to some of the finer plot points. And I have to say, it's awesome to see the relationship that Sheeta and Pazu have. It's like there's a sort of unspoken something between them, but they still consistently come across as just really good friends. In other words, the romantic side of things never gets much in the way of the storytelling. If there's a charming moment between them, it lends itself to the plot going on outside of their relationship.
At the end of the day, I think this will end up being one of my favourites of the series that I keep going back to, and enjoying more upon multiple viewings. I know that's a super bold statement, considering how much I have left to go, but there was so much more to enjoy here than to dislike. The animation, the concept and the soundtrack are all aspects of the movie I really loved. Even if a few characters were a bit weaker, it wasn't enough to take anything away. It's a high-flying fantasy adventure with a lot of imagination and charm - what's not to like?
As anime is an all-around untapped resource for my viewing pleasure, I have decided to explore the Ghibli titles, one-by-one. It seemed good a place to start as any. I'll be focusing on these titles throughout the month of August.