Castle in the Sky: If the Robot Dies, I Quit.

It's here. It's time. Another first.

This week, dear listeners, we head into the world of anime. And who better to take us there than Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki? This week we are discussing their 1986 film 'Laputa: Castle in the Sky".

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We have had quite a few people ask us if we would be tackling anime, and the answer is yes. But we figured this would be a good time to remind everybody of some of our rules for film selection.
1) We have to be able to watch the film and follow it. This means it at least needs to have English subtitles or be in English, and it needs to be of watchable quality. We don't have a VHS so it's going to have to be online or on DVD/BluRay. It also has to be affordable. We're not going to dish out over $50 for a DVD that is no longer distributed
(lookin' at you 'Rock-a-Doodle').
2) We don't want to get movies illegally. So no torrents for us.
3) We have to find enough information to make a full episode. We've had to cut some movies on our list because we just cannot find information on them beyond the typical release information. Also, see #1 for source material. Aly ain't paying big bucks for an out of print book.

That all being said, we do also understand that our podcast has a North American bias. We grew up in North American culture, and so a lot of the things we address are being looked at through that lens. We're also following North American theatrical releases, if it wasn't released in theatres in the USA or Canada we're not going to cover it (yes, there are some exceptions). This also means that we're going for the most part by the North American release dates. So some international movies (including anime) may not be covered until they eventually hit the USA or Canada years later.

But yes, we are covering anime. It starts today. We will absolutely be covering Studio Ghibli, and as for other anime films, we will see if they meet our above criteria when we get to them in our timeline.

So let's get started!

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This week is a little bit messy because Aly and Sarrah don't always talk about their notes before they hit record. Oops. This means Aly talks a lot this episode as Sarrah is saving some material for later episodes.

Since there is no official source material, Aly starts us off by talking about Miyazaki's TV show 'Future Boy Conan', as it is widely seen as an inspiration and precursor to Castle in the Sky. It was the directorial debut of Miyazaki, and included on the team was Isao Takahata (who we sadly lost earlier this month) and Yoshiyuki Tomino. The main characters are very similar, as is the basic plot arc of a young girl holding the key to a forgotten power that a suspect government greatly desires. She details the similarities further as well as a brief summary of that project.

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Sarrah joins Aly for a discussion on the style of this film, which has been labeled as 'steampunk'. Steampunk is a genre or style that combines modern technology with steam power and is usually set in the Victorian era. Steampunk is a branch of Retro-futurism, which Sarrah walks us through (think original Disneyland Tomorrowland) and appears in many different novels, films, tv shows, as well as fashion and architecture. Aly explains the connections between Castle in the Sky and steampunk, and how the term 'Laputa Effect' may have more to do with steampunk than Miyazaki's film.

After our steampunk discussion, Aly talks about some of the other facts and influences for Castle in the Sky. Included in this are it's connections to Gulliver's Travels, the unfortunate similarity to a certain Spanish word, and how we can ground the film firmly on Earth.

This is where we realized that we had many of the same notes, and Aly had covered most of Sarrah's. Sarrah gives us the basic details of animation and confesses that she wants to save much of the studio history for later episodes that will discuss Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. With that we move to a very complicated voice-cast corner!

Aly gives us a very brief summary of what it is like to dub a movie versus record for original animation, and then she dives into the many voice talents for this film. We may have a Western bias on this show, but we will be damned if we don't try to recognize the many people who's hard work went into making a film! With that in mind, please forgive Aly if she stumbles over the pronunciations of Japanese TV shows. She tried to choose the biggest highlights of each of the original release voice-actors, but not being familiar with Japanese television it may be a bit off. She also gives a rundown of the voice-actors for the Disney 2003 release.

We're then off to release and reviews before spinning into inspiration and influence. Sarrah and Aly inform us about a Twitter world-record involving this film, and Aly begins a multi-episode tour of the Studio Ghibli museum exhibits.

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Our walk-through includes some differing opinions on James Van der Beek, a quick and strong attachment to the guardian robots, and our delight at how freaking funny this film can be!

So grab your wayward brothers, be wary of men with tiny sunglasses, and make sure you understand the magical properties of a necklace before you jump off a roof...and let's watch Laputa: Castle in the Sky!

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Castle in the Sky Rating: Four Stars
Voice Acting: Half - We have to admit that sometimes the English dub on our version was a little rough. You could tell when actors were rushing lines to fit the timing. But there were some stand-out performances by Mark Hamil (Muska), Cloris Leachman (Dola), and James Van Der Beek (Pazu).
Script & Story: Full - Original story that was a perfect mix of funny and touching. There was witty dialogue, tense moments, and characters that did tug at our heartstrings. We have to believe that since this is a translation, the original script was even better.
Music & Songs: Half - The electro-symphonic music was cool, but it was really the moments of silence that brought us in. The music set the tone, but there wasn't anything we walked away humming.
Animation & Technical: Full - It was stunning.
Style: Full - Everything about this we loved. Studio Ghibli makes beautiful movies with a style that is timeless. The backgrounds were beautiful, the character designs were interesting but not over the top, and the addition of the steampunk-esq qualities took it over the top for us.


Halfway through the movie we realized...we have another Princess!

Princess Lusheeta of Laputa finds herself at spot #4 on our list.
Sheeta is a pretty brave girl. She takes the opportunity of the pirate attack to knock out her kidnapper with a bottle and proceeds to hang off the side of an airship to try to escape. Later she faces down that same kidnapper as he holds a gun to her face, then Sheeta gives zero fucks as he shoots off her pigtails! She also is more than willing to give her amulet to Pazu and sacrifice herself for the good of Laputa and the world, rather than run away with Pazu or even let him help her. We also give her points for reminding Dola that she's not limited just because he's a girl.
However, Sheeta does need to be pushed into action. She does let Pazu lead the adventure until near the end of the film, and is more than happy to follow Dola's orders. But what really cost her points in the fact that her decisions are not always well thought out. Where was she planning on going after climbing out the airship window? She didn't know the amulet would protect her. She also trusts Pazu completely upon knowing him for less than a minute, even handing over her priceless heirloom necklace without question. She's a little niave, but we have to give her points for making it count when the situation gets intense!

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Our Sources:

IMDb page for Castle in the Sky
Wikipedia Article for Castle in the Sky
Wikipedia Article for Studio Ghibli
Wikipedia Article on Future Boy Conan
Studio Ghibli Museum Official Site

Wikipedia Article on Retrofuturism
Wikipedia Article on Steampunk article on 'What Is Steampunk?' article on Castle in the Sky article on Castle in the Sky article on Castle in the Sky article on Castle in the Sky article on Castle in the Sky article on the Laputa Effect