Friday, July 30, 2010

Anime review: Castle in the Sky

To escape both pirates and military forces following her, young Sheeta finds herself falling from an airship with a glowing blue crystal pendant in her possession. A miner by the name of Pazu happens to find Sheeta as she lands on the ground, apparently protected by mystic powers within the pendant. Pazu brings Sheeta to his small house and shows off some of his designs for airships as well as an image of the fabled Laputa, a castle literally floating in the sky. As both forces assume pursuit of Sheeta once more, she and Pazu find themselves on a path that may ultimately lead them to find the real Laptua and uncover the true nature of the crystal Sheeta carries with her.

Castle in the Sky is a difficult film to sum up without giving much away. Like many other Studio Ghibli films it relies on the sense of adventure and wonder as its major selling point. But the more the film progresses, the more viewers will realize the decent depth put into the plot and why each of the characters is so important. The initial plot is a tad cliché, but things quickly pick up in terms of originality so this only downgrades the film's quality a minimal amount.

Pazu is a kind-hearted and crafty young man who proves an invaluable ally to Sheeta. Sheeta herself is not so much a damsel in distress as she has no qualms about following dangerous paths, but because of her crystal pendant she finds herself in tight situations time and time again. The pirates are a group of goofballs, but as their nature is revealed to be much more innocent than they initially let on they become a plentiful source of good humor. At times they may come off as a tad annoying, but they are easily the most entertaining characters in the film.

The film's pacing aids the story's coherence a great deal. While the actual run time is a little over two hours in length, Castle in the Sky feels more like two and a half. That isn't to say that the film feels like it is dragging on forever, nor that the story runs in circles - quite the opposite, rather. Castle in the Sky manages to balance elements of action, suspense, comedy, and adventure all at near-perfect levels to create an enthralling tale. In short, if it seems the film is taking its time to reach a certain point, it's only for better cohesion with the rest of the story.

Overall the English voice actors do a very good job in the dub. Mark Hamill provides a calm yet eerie voice for the cold and calculating Muska. Both Sheeta and Pazu’s voice actors do excellent jobs at conveying their character’s emotions, though the latter sounds noticeably older than the character he is portraying. Dola and her sons are all portrayed by fitting voice actors, while many of the remaining characters aren’t involved in the film long enough for their actors to make a major difference one way or another.

The animation shows its age in comparison to other films by Studio Ghibli. That said, the colors are vibrant and lush, the attention to detail spectacular, and the lighting effects very solid. There are some background details lacking from time to time, usually during chase scenes or in environments meant to be dark-lit. For the time of its release though, Castle in the Sky looks quite good.

Castle in the Sky combines elements of the sci-fi and fantasy genres into one exciting adventure. It’s a film that all ages can enjoy, but it doesn’t sacrifice anything from the story for the amount of action therein. There are a few sequences where older viewers might feel inclined to point out some obvious mistakes made by the military forces or the film's interwoven messages about protecting the Earth, but Castle in the Sky is meant to spark one’s imagination. It may be one of Studio Ghibli's older works and the animation isn't exactly top-notch by today's standards, but overall Castle in the Sky has aged quite well.

My rating: 8.75 (out of 10)

1 comment:

  1. I think a lot of purists are WAY too hard on the dub for this movie, for I too think it was an excellent job. Not perfect, perhaps, but still awesome. Seeing people like you giving the CASTLE IN THE SKY dub a fair chance is extremely gratifying, as I've always loved listening to it (then again, I LOVE all the Disney Ghibli dubs!)

    Great review, BTW.


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