Movies

I Watched Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle In The Sky For The First Time And I Have Thoughts

I have seen many Hayao Miyazaki films, but there are still many that I need to watch, After seeing The Boy and the Heron at a screening at the Chicago International Film Festival, I restarted my journey of watching the Miyazaki films that I hadn’t seen. Castle in the Sky seemed like the perfect place to restart as one of Miyazaki’s early feature films. 

I didn’t know much about Castle in the Sky before watching it. Going into it unaware of the plot helped enhance my viewing experience. Though it didn’t become my favorite Miyazaki film, I enjoyed it. I can see why it’s considered one of Hayao Miyazaki’s best movies. I had a lot of thoughts while watching it for the first time. These are a few of them. 

Warning: Castle in the Sky spoilers ahead. Proceed with caution.  

Sheeta and Dola in Castle in the Sky

(Image credit: Studio Ghibli)

It Showcases Strong, Nurturing Women 

Dola compares herself to Sheeta in Castle in the Sky. Initially, this may seem like a crazy comparison because of how different the woman and girl seem. However, as Castle in the Sky continues, I noticed their similarities. Dola’s many sons fall for Sheeta because they believe that she will grow up to become just like their mother. Because Dola is a pirate and seems rough around the edges, it seems comical that she compares herself to this sweet young girl.

But Dola’s sons become excited about the idea of Sheeta becoming like their mother because she treats them well. She nurtures and cares for them. Dola is caring and kind, despite how she tries to present herself. I see Castle in the Sky as a female empowerment movie. Dola and Sheeta are portrayed as tough, caring, and strong. They can successfully execute a heist or save the world and make an amazing meal. 

Dola is a pirate but she’s also a good mother. Sheeta saves the day and wins people over because of her kind heart. Unlike the portrayal of some female action heroes, Miyazaki is going against certain stereotypes that make it seem like female characters either have to be tough or nurturing. They can’t be both. Dola and Sheeta prove that strong women are layered and can be mothers and pirates. 

Sheeta and Paku in Castle in the Sky

(Image credit: Studio Ghibli )

I Can See How Castle In The Sky Helped Hayao Miyazaki Develop His Signature Style 

Castle in the Sky isn’t the first film by Hayao Miyazaki, but, according to the official Studio Ghibli website, it was the first film produced under the production company. Therefore, you can look at it as the starting point for future Studio Ghibli films. Most of Miyazaki’s feature films have similar aesthetics and animation styles. He has a signature method. 

This becomes very apparent when watching Castle in the Sky and some of his later works, including the upcoming The Boy and the Heron. One similarity I noticed between Castle in the Sky and other Miyazaki films is how he draws his older characters. Dola looks a lot like the many older women in other works. Then one of the minor characters in Castle in the Sky looks a lot like an early version of Ponyo from Ponyo. The repetition of creatures appears in some of Miyazaki’s films and happens with the robots and birds in Castle in the Sky. Then there are other similarities, such as children being the main characters, delicious food, the look of characters, magical places, mysteries, and much more. 

Now, I may rewatch all Miyazaki films (seen or unseen) to find the overlapping themes and pick up more of his signature style. 

Sheeta and Paku in Castle in the Sky

(Image credit: Studio Ghibli )

I Want To Know More About Laputa 

Castle in the Sky does a great job of making me understand why Muska desperately wants to find Laputa. I can see both the beauty and potential power that comes with this kingdom. Miyazaki’s Laputa seems fascinating and rich with legend and history.

I finished Castle in the Sky wanting someone at Studio Ghibli to write a book on the history of Laputa (Miyazaki’s version). A deep dive into its origins. I wanted to know more about it, from its start to its eventual end in Castle in the Sky. 

Sheeta, Paku, and the robot in Castle in the Sky

(Image credit: Studio Ghibli )

This is A Very Pro-Robots Movie 

There are a lot of anti-robot movies, ones where they try to destroy humanity. All robots aren’t bad, as we’ve seen in movies where they save society. However, Castle in the Sky takes a completely different approach to robots. They’re almost oppressed by humanity. The robots are peaceful without human interference. It’s when humans get involved that they become dangerous. 

Castle in the Sky seems to argue that technology isn’t bad, but it’s how humans use it that can become a problem. When technology and nature work together or are used together, peace exists. It’s when technology is used for destruction or to disrupt nature that harmony fades. It’s not the presence of robots that cause problems, it’s humans turning them into killers. 

Sheeta and Muska in Castle in the Sky

(Image credit: Studio Ghibli )

Castle In The Sky Is Not Quite Family Friendly 

Many people assume most animated movies are family-friendly movies, especially when it doesn’t have explicit adult content. However, Castle in the Sky falls somewhere in the middle of completely family-friendly and mostly family-friendly. It has a lot of violence and weapon usage that may not be suitable for younger children.

I didn’t expect to see so many guns in this movie. Muska taking off Sheeta’s pigtails with a gun is a dark and scary sequence. I can’t imagine how a very small child would feel watching that on a big screen. I think Castle in the Sky is fine for 12-year-olds and older, but under that age range may be a bit too young.

Sheeta and Muska in Castle in the Sky

(Image credit: Studio Ghibli)

It Perfectly Blends Science Fiction And Fantasy 

Castle in the Sky starts as a fantasy mystery, but the science fiction elements become more prevalent later. Laputa’s robots and advanced technology, and almost being an alien planet, represent the sci-fi aspects. I enjoyed that science fiction played such a dominant role in this story because I wasn’t expecting it.

It helped add to the film’s uniqueness and add layers to this world. It’s a world where magic and science can coexist, or even where science is put on the same level of importance as magic. They’re both powerful concepts that can heal or harm the world. 

Muska in Castle in the Sky

(Image credit: Studio Ghibli)

Muska May Be One Of The Scariest Animated Villains  

The best Disney villains have nothing on Muska. He is a frightening madman. He’s also a madman with lots of influence and power — the worst kind. Muska is also one of those characters who becomes more dark and dangerous as the movie progresses. He also represents a certain kind of real-life figure that still occupy this world.

I started Castle in the Sky not realizing he would become this looming monster. He was unpredictable and power-hungry. I didn’t know how far he would go to get what he wanted and that made him terrifying. When an animated villain can create fear in my heart, that’s great storytelling.

Paku and Sheeta in Castle in the Sky

(Image credit: Studio Ghibli)

Other Thoughts 

Let’s discuss some of my other thoughts about Castle in the Sky.  

  • It’s an oddly romantic film. I can imagine Pazu and Sheeta marrying when they get older. 
  • I love that Max offers the original language version and the 2003 English dubbed version for those who want options. 
  • This film is nearly 40 years old but looks like it could have been created yesterday. Very beautiful and timeless animation. 
  • The final half of Castle in the Sky makes the movie exciting and memorable. 
  • A King with no compassion does not deserve a kingdom,”— biggest mic drop moment of the movie and sums up the message. Also, very relevant. 

Castle in the Sky is one of the many Studio Ghibli films that prove that Hayao Miyazaki is a master of storytelling and creation. I can’t wait to watch the rest of the films that I haven’t seen. If you like Castle in the Sky, I highly recommend catching The Boy and the Heron when it’s released on December 8. 

Stream Castle in the Sky on Max. 

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