Today I started re-watching all of the Studio Ghibli films, in anticipation of a trip to the Tokyo Studio Ghibli Museum in early January.  Though I’ve seen most of the films already, I love them so very much that I wanted to watch them all again in an orderly fashion and to record simply and briefly exactly what I love (or don’t love) about each, mostly because … well … I just want to.  😀

So, on the first of these “Miyazaki Mondays,” I viewed the very first official Studio Ghibli film (though not Miyazaki’s first) — Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986).  Unless otherwise noted, I’ll be watching the Disney US releases of these movies, which feature what I consider to be quite excellent (though highly stylized) voice acting from a range of (more or mostly-less) notable talents.  Laputa contains vocals by Mandy Patinkin, Cloris Leachman (as Dola, haha!), and a very young Anna Paquin, among others.

Anyhow, Laputa is a thoroughly enjoyable film, and it’s Ghibli through-and-through.  Its characteristically beautiful score certainly lends it much charm — the incredibly talented Joe Hisaishi is indeed single-handedly responsible for producing the same delightful musical charm in most of Ghibli’s films, and in my opinion his scores alone serve to create much of Ghibli’s wonder and excellence.  (Notably, he did not score The Secret World of Arietty … and it suffers greatly from his absence.)

Laputa‘s animation is not quite as crisp and detailed as most of Ghibli’s work … but this was still the 80’s, haha.  And what it’s lacking in visual detail, it makes up for with its adventurous yet still (again, characteristically) sentimental story.  From the gentle hilarity of a band of bumbling sky pirates led by their brash and boisterous mother, to the ever-evil government and military cronies, to the gorgeous sky-city with its peaceful garden and its silent yet dedicated guardian, Laputa delivers two hours of refreshingly innocent and fantastically engaging amusement.

Pros:  great music, completely kid-friendly, yet with enough subtle humor for grown-ups who don’t take themselves too seriously to enjoy the show as well, engaging and memorable characters, the recognizable Ghibli guardian (of course!), and a typically (some would say over-)sentimental yet nonetheless true message about nature, simplicity, friendship, and love

Cons:  less beautiful animation, a little trite at times, slow in some places

Overall, a great film.  Classic, though not Ghibli’s greatest.  *** out of *****