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Anime / Castle in the Sky

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"No matter how many weapons you have, no matter how great your technology might be, the world cannot live without love."

Inspired by one chapter of Gulliver's Travels, Laputa: Castle in the Sky is a 1986 fantasy action-adventure tale and the first by now-legendary anime studio Studio Ghibli, which was created to independently produce the film. This was Hayao Miyazaki's third film; much of the staff consists of alums from Miyazaki's previous work, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

This film could be considered a fairy tale... one with Steampunk/Diesel Punk, flying castles, secret princesses, and magic. The film opens with a family of Sky Pirates led by the matriarch Dola attacking an airship intent on stealing a blue crystal amulet from a girl named Sheeta. Sheeta, who had already been kidnapped by the evil State Sec Colonel Muska, uses the opportunity to escape and falls to what appears to be certain death until her pendant ignites and starts gently floating her back to Earth. Her descent is spotted by a young miner named Pazu, who catches her and takes her home, eager to determine if this mysterious floating girl is somehow connected with the fabled floating castle Laputa, which his father once saw, though no one believed him or his photograph.

Dodging another attempt by Dola's gang to capture Sheeta's crystal, the kids manage to escape... right into the hands of the military. Taking the children prisoner in a castle, Muska convinces Sheeta to cooperate in his search for Laputa by threatening harm to Pazu. Sent back to his village, Pazu is immediately captured by Dola's gang who immediately set off on yet another attempt to seize the crystal. Reluctantly making common cause with Dola in order to rescue Sheeta, Pazu joins the pirates. Meanwhile, a despondent Sheeta recites a "magic spell" her grandmother taught her to recite in times of trouble. The spell activates her pendant, triggering a beam that points the way to Laputa and a dormant Laputian robot hidden in the dungeons below. Responding to Sheeta's request for aid the robot causes such destruction that Pazu and Dola manage to rescue Sheeta in the confusion but Muska ends up with the pendant. Muska and the local Army commander promptly set out for Laputa aboard the Goliath, an enormous aerial battlecruiser.

Seriously outgunned and outnumbered but armed with Sheeta's description of the location of Laputa, the kids and the pirates nevertheless try to head off the government agents aboard Dola's own airship, the Tiger Moth, hoping that fair winds and a little luck will allow them to beat the army to the prize. What will they find in Laputa? Will it be filled with treasure or danger? What does Muska want with Laputa, and why is he so obsessed with it?

The film did not reach the United States for over a decade; Streamline Pictures distributed an English dub with several regulars as an in-flight movie for Japan Airlines, but this version was only distributed on a now out-of-print DVD in Japan. Disney eventually brought the film to America in 2003 with a voice cast including Anna Paquin, James Van Der Beek, Cloris Leachman, Mandy Patinkin, Mark Hamill, and Andy Dick as well as a new score provided by Joe Hisaishi (who wrote the original soundtrack). This latter decision caused controversy with fans and critics more familiar with the more silent Japanese version, but Joe Hisaishi mentioned in his blog that he and Miyazaki were pleased with the soundtrack.

The Disney dub, originally recorded in 1998, was initially scheduled for a 1999 video release, but continually delayed before finally debuting on VHS and DVD in April 2003, alongside Spirited Away and Kiki's Delivery Service. This dub is one of only two Ghibli films (the other being Kiki's Delivery Service) that Disney "Americanized"; future Ghibli releases only featured new voicework instead of the extensive musical reworking that Laputa and Kiki's Delivery Service underwent. A 2010 re-release of the film replaced the re-scored soundtrack with the original for the subs and also removed some of the additional chatter added to the dub, but the faithful subtitle track on the 2003 DVD release was replaced with a dubtitle. This has been rectified with a reissue on BD and DVD in 2017, providing fans with the choice to see the Disney dub with either score (minus extra dialogue and redone sound effects) — as well as a subtitle track for fans of the Japanese version.

Not to be confused with either the Chinese Series Novoland: The Castle in the Sky or Castle in the Air, the literary sequel to Howl's Moving Castle, the latter of which was also adapted into a film by Studio Ghibli.

This film provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Played in the dub with titles. While Pazu and Sheeta keep calling Dola by her name, and all the pirates constantly call her Mom, she keeps insisting they call her Captain.
    Dola: We'll all find her! And call me Captain!
    Pirates: Yes, Mom!
  • Action Mom: Dola is no longer the stunner she used to be, but she still leads her pirate clan consisting of mostly her sons, and she's no armchair admiral either.
  • Advanced Ancient Acropolis: Laputa is a relic of an earlier, more advanced civilization. There is only one robot still active and walking around in the city, at least until Muska activates A LOT more of them.
  • After the End: The environment on the Earth's surface seems to display signs of past violence — see also Ghibli Hills.
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier: The Goliath and the Tiger Moth, although they are very different in concept. The Tiger Moth relies solely on its smaller "flaptor" aircraft for combat, and while the Goliath can be glimpsed carrying three scout airplanes hanging on its underside, it doesn't deploy them in-story. But it has enough guns and infantry on board to invade a small country.
  • All Myths Are True: The film blends legends and myth with that of biblical events. Muska references the blast from Laputa with that of Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction in the bible.
  • Amulet of Concentrated Awesome: Sheeta's necklace's is made of Aetherium. This means it has anti-gravity effects and is needed for spells involving Laputa.
  • Anachronism Stew: The general technology level is roughly that of 1920-1925: radios are used as wireless telegraphs, long-range air travel is done with dirigibles, steam engines remain commonly in use, and automobiles have not yet become commonplace. Pazu's rural village lags a couple decades behind. Laputan technology/magic was obviously at least a century ahead, with highly adaptable robots and energy weapons. Even within these split tech levels, there are technological anachronisms: all of which was probably intentional to add to the fairy-tale atmosphere.
  • Anti-Hero: Dola and the pirates. They aren't the nicest of people - self-centered and thieving - but they're eager to oppose real villainy.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Aetherium (or Volucite), which Sheeta's necklace is made of, has anti-gravity powers. It has other powers that are activated by incantations.
  • Arcadia: Sheeta, having grown up in a pastoral lifestyle, explains at the climax that Laputa had been abandoned because their ancestors had learned that it cut them off from nature, and an Arcadia was truly a better place to live.
  • Armies Are Evil: The army is a ruthless antagonist in the movie. Although still not as bad as Muska.
  • Art Shift: Flashbacks are done in a sketchier-looking style, most obvious in the opening credits and the flashback to the robot falling to earth.
  • Asshole Victim: Muska dropping all the soldiers who came with him to the floating city thousands of feet to their deaths is a ruthless betrayal, but it's hard to feel sorry for all those assholes.
  • Author Appeal: Loads of flying scenes, fantastical aircraft, and precipitous heights; all typical of Hayao Miyazaki.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: How Sheeta determines the direction to Laputa.
    Dola: But the beam from the crystal was pointing directly due east. Are you sure about this?
    Sheeta: Yes, I'm sure I could see the sun rising from the tower. You know, it's the end of grass-cutting season, so the sun rose not from due east, but a little further south. The light was pointing to the left of the hill from which the sun rose, you see?
  • Balance of Good and Evil: Sheeta's spells are both positive ("Save me and revive the eternal light [that shows the way home]") and negative ("one she told me I must never use... the spell of destruction"), and her grandmother taught her that the good ones would be useless without also having the bad ones. Ultimately, the spell of destruction is the one that saves the day.
  • Balcony Escape: Sheeta tries this on board the zeppelin in the beginning to evade capture. She ends up falling from the sky.
  • BFG: The pirates happily arm themselves with gigantic grenade launchers.
  • Big Bad: Colonel Muska, AKA Romuska Palo Ul Laputa, who plots to use Laputa's powers to Take Over the World.
  • Big Eater: All the pirates, which means that Hilarity Ensues when Sheeta is tasked with cooking for them.
  • Big "NO!": Muska's final words while Laputa collapses around him.
  • Blown Across the Room: When Pazu is hanging from the roots of the tree at Laputa, he suddenly gets blown into a duct by some explosives going off beside him.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: Sheeta makes a deal with Muska to free Pazu. It involves telling Pazu to return to his home town and forget about her, which he reluctantly does. Dola discusses this later.
  • Bridal Carry: How Pazu holds Sheeta after he catches her in the beginning. Although he visibly strains while trying to carry her.
  • Broken Heel: Played with. When running from the pirates, Sheeta slips over a stone and loses her cap, exposing her pigtails and hence blowing her cover.
  • By the Hair: Muska does this to Sheeta when he takes her hostage so as to better control her.
  • Campfire Character Exploration: Sheeta reveals some of her past to Pazu while they relax and eat by the light of his oil lamp in a cave.
  • Captain Obvious: Muska and one of the soldiers after the robot escapes.
    Soldier: It's the robot!
    Muska: It's coming towards us!
    • Also Sheeta, after Dola's speeder stalls out.
    Sheeta: No! They're falling!
  • Cars Without Tires Are Trains: The Dola gang pursues the heroes with their car on railroad tracks.
  • Chiaroscuro: The final confrontation shows Sheeta and Pazu as light figures against a dark background.
  • Children Are Innocent: Pazu and Sheeta are treated as being pure-hearted if a little naive.
  • Close-Call Haircut: Happens to Sheeta in the climax, when Muska shoots off both her pigtails as a threat, telling her that her ears are next. It's lampshaded by Dola when they reunite, as she also wears her hair in pigtails.
  • Clothing Damage: One of Dola's sons tries to intimidate Pazu's boss by flexing his muscles enough to burst his shirt, only for the boss to burst his own shirt in response, much to his wife's displeasure.
    "I'm not mending that, I hope you know."
  • The Coats Are Off: Dola drops her coat before going on to shoot at the heroes during the train chase scene.
  • Cold Open: The film jumps right into the action by showing Dola's attempt to steal Sheeta from a passenger airship. She escapes. Cue the opening credits.
  • Collapsing Lair: Laputa collapses due to the spell of destruction.
  • Comforting Comforter: After Sheeta falls into Pazu's arms, he lays her down and covers her with his jacket.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Both the children. Pazu's mother isn't mentioned and his father is implied to have taken his own life when he was called a liar about Laputa. Sheeta's parents were said to have died in her backstory. Thus there is no one to help the latter in the beginning, and no one to stop the former from going after her.
  • Cool Airship: The Tiger Moth, controlled by the Dola and her pirates. It even has a crow's nest that can turn into a kite. The Goliath is a much bigger one, controlled by the army and has enough firepower to take out just about anything that challenges it. Aside from the robots from Laputa, of course. The implication is that dirigible technology is the default for air travel.
  • Cool Planes: The army employs a scout plane that was used to track down Pazu and Sheeta. And especially fun are the pirates' small aircraft called "flaptors" which fly by flapping dragonfly-style wings, inspired from the concept of the ornithopter, a toy of one that Pazu demonstrates in his house at one point.
  • Cool Train: The armored train controlled by the army, and the little mining shunter that helps Pazu and Sheeta escape.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: The spell of destruction that Sheeta's grandmother taught her.
  • Determinator: Pazu and his quest to find the city his father told him about. He also will stop at nothing to save Sheeta from Muska and the army, even if it means teaming up with pirates.
  • Disappeared Dad: Pazu's father, the only man who had seen Laputa with his own eyes. It's implied that after his neighbors mocked him for his glimpse of "a city in the sky," Pazu's father went on an expedition to get proof and never returned. Sheeta's parents are explicitly said to be dead.
  • Disney Death: Dola and her crew are seemingly blown up by the Goliath, but are later shown to still be alive on Laputa, albeit captured by the military.
  • Disney Villain Death: Muska disposes of the general and his men by dropping them from Laputa into the ocean, but then Muska himself dies in the same way after the city is destroyed.
  • Dub Pronunciation Change:
    • In the English dub, the titular city of Laputa is pronounced "LAP-yoo-TA" because the original pronounciation was "lah-POO-tah", which is Spanish for "the whore".
    • The dub also gives "z" letter in Pazu's name a German-ish "ts" pronunciation, saying it like "Pa-tzu".
  • Dulcinea Effect: A strange girl drops out of the sky with a mysterious pendant and she's getting chased by suspicious-looking men and the army. Does Pazu ask any questions? Never!
  • Enemy Mine: Even though the pirates ransacked his house, Pazu teams up with them to save Sheeta and stop Muska.
  • Establishing Character Moment: We first see Sheeta trapped in a room on an airship surrounded by military folks, looking an awful lot like a Damsel in Distress. Until the part where they stop watching her, and she crashes a bottle over the only guard left in her room and escapes through the window of the moving blimp.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Though Dola and her boys aren't all THAT bad, they are still pirates and it is clear that they have a lot of respect for their mom.
  • Even the Subtitler Is Stumped: During Sheeta's dream where she remembers her grandmother teaching her spells, the subtitles suddenly go silent when the spell is spoken. Justified, as the spell is muttered in the forgotten Laputa language.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: General Muoro despises Muska...and this proves to be not without reason when Muska causes him and his crew to die a Disney Villain Death.
  • Evil Laugh: Muska, when he takes control of Laputa's power and uses it to dispose of the General and his army and their almighty battleship.
  • Evil Plan: Muska wants to Take Over the World using Laputa as a Kill Sat. To this end he enlists a local military and kidnaps Sheeta so he can find and use the place.
  • Falling into His Arms: Sheeta falling out of the sky into Pazu's arms.
  • Fall-in Angel: said scene is the Trope Codifier.
  • Fantastic Nuke: Muska's plan is to take over and convert Laputa into a Kill Sat of sorts. Luckily the robots that guard the city aren't having any of it...until Muska takes control of them and kills every one of the soldiers on Laputa.
  • Filling the Silence: Extra lines of dialogue, particularly the Dola gang's banter, were added to the dub. It proved jarring to some when Disney removed the additional lines for its 2010 reissue, like with Jiji's oneliners in Kiki's Delivery Service.
  • Flashback: Sheeta has a dream where she remembers her grandmother teaching her spells.
  • Floating Continent: Laputa, the titular Castle in the Sky, is shown in the opening sequence to be the last of an entire civilization built on floating islands.
  • Forbidden Chekhov's Gun: Sheeta mentions to Pazu that her pendant has a spell of destruction that her grandmother taught her, but told her never to use. Guess what they wind up using at the end?
  • Foreshadowing: Even though Laputa is a mere legend no one believed in until the military found the robot, Muska notes when showing it to Sheeta that he can read the language, indicating he’s more than just a government stooge.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Near the end of the movie when Laputa starts to fall apart, if you pause at the right time you will actually see Muska in the debris falling to his death.
  • Gentle Giant: The Laputan robots are all-terrain war machines of terrible power, but if left to their own devices, they care for innocent birds' nests, befriend small animals and put flowers on an ancient grave.
  • Ghibli Hills: Naturally. Pazu's hometown is a mining village, surrounded by deep chasms riddled with tunnels and endless wooden scaffolding, and the green grass on the surface is punched full of craters because of the robot's laser attack on Sheeta's agressors. Also, it is another Ghibli film that references an apocalyptic past — particularly obvious when one considers the parallels between the superweapon in the heart of the Castle and nuclear weaponry.
  • Gilded Cage: After Pazu and Sheeta are captured by Muska, they're taken to General Muoro's coastal fortress, and while Pazu is locked up in a dark dungeon in a subterranean level of the military base, Sheeta is housed in an ample private sleeping quarters in an upper floor of a tower, the type of room that would be occupied by a VIP, like a high ranking officer, visiting statesman, or diplomat. To help ensure her cooperation, Muska even left a large number of luxurious gifts in the middle of the room, although the only thing that eventually motivates her to talk is Pazu being freed, with the vague promise that she too would eventually get her freedom.
  • Girl in the Tower: Sheeta is housed in a spacious private sleeping quarters reserved for a high ranking officer on the upper floor of one of the fortress' towers.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Sheeta and Dola both style their hair this way. It is a point of bonding.
  • Go Through Me: Pazu's boss does this to protect him and Sheeta from the mooks chasing them.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Implied in-universe at the ending. The entire military expedition sent to find Laputa was killed by Muska before they could report their discovery to their government and Laputa itself has relocated to the world's upper atmosphere, out of reach of humanity's current level of technology. The only survivors of the incident are Sheeta, Pazu, and the Dola Gang, who all agree that keeping Laputa's existence a secret from the rest of the world is for the best.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Sheeta smashes a champagne bottle over Muska's head at the beginning of the film.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy:
    • Subverted in the initial scene. There the guards are fending off the Dola Gang, and even then they leave Muska in charge of watching the girl. Muska later lays the blame for Sheeta's escape on the military because Dola was able to decode one of their transmissions.
    • At Laputa, when the pirates are overpowered and bound, the soldiers forget to search Dola. She loans Pazu a grenade launcher she had hidden in her puffy pants.
  • Hard Head: Pazu jokes about having one, saying it's harder than his boss' fists. In the dub, he jokingly says that if it were any harder it could be used for a cannonball.
  • Heavenly Concentric Circles: Laputa is an idyllic floating city and the remains of an advanced, ancient civilization. By the film's present, it has become the stuff of myths. Laputa is arranged similarly to a medieval city on a hill —with thick, concentric walls built around an enormous tree. Its exterior is comprised of expansive green areas while the inside is a maze of high-tech circular corridors and ambients.
  • "Hey, You!" Haymaker: After one of the pirates get into a fistfight with Pazu's boss, a member of the watching crowd suddenly does this to him. This quickly turns the fight into a full-blown brawl.
  • High-Speed Train Reroute: The Dola gang uses a car on tracks to follow Pazu and Sheeta who are fleeing on foot. When the heroes change tracks, Dola shoots the lever with her Flare Gun so they can switch tracks also and follow along.
  • Holding Hands: Pazu and Sheeta do this often, either for emotional support or so they're less likely to be separated.
  • If My Calculations Are Correct: Dola, when discussing with Sheeta the distance to Laputa. It is ultimately subverted. The weather shifts, making Dola's calculations incorrect.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Apparently, the best a trained army can do against an unarmed boy is slightly graze his cheek.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Muska is a great shot. He manages to shoot off both of Sheeta's pigtails mid-range.
  • Improvised Weapon: Sheeta rescues herself in the first scene of the film by beaning one of her captors in the head with a bottle. Later, she throws a coal shovel at Dola's boys during the memorable train chase sequence.
  • Industrial Ghetto: The backdrop mining city is not exactly polluted, but people do live in squalor and there's not much more than a struggling silver/tin mining industry to keep it afloat. It's inspired by Welsh mining towns.
  • Informed Attribute: One of the Sky Pirates warns Pazu that Pa is even harder on people than Dola. On the contrary, he's shown to be far more mellow. Though that might have to do with the fact Pazu actually knows what to do with an engine, unlike his sons.
  • In My Language, That Sounds Like...: The chapter of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels dealing with a floating island by the name of "Laputa" was actually a scathing satire on scientists and the British royal family, both of whom Swift cordially despised. The name was intentionally derived from one of the worst Spanish epithets—"la puta," which loosely translates as "the whore"—partly as a further insult, and partly for the sake of an etymological joke. His idiot-savant scientists assumed the name derived from Greek or Latin, when its true origin was obvious to the readers. However, given that this work was centuries old and in another language, Miyazaki was innocent of the name's true derivation when he decided to base his movie on the works of Swift and Jules Verne. Consequently, many international releases drop the "Laputa:" from the beginning of the title. It helps that, at least in the English dub, the name is pronounced differently than "la puta," going with LAP-yoo-TA instead.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Dola has a portrait of herself as a young lady in her bedroom. She was very pretty.
  • Jabba Table Manners: Dola and the pirates don't have much use for polite eating.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dola. Pazu even comments at one point that Dola "is much nicer than she pretends to be."
  • Journey to the Sky: The story is about the search for the lost kingdom of Laputa, which floats somewhere in the sky. Eventually the young protagonists (Pazu and Sheeta) have to team with a crew of Sky Pirates to get there before government agents do.
  • Jumped at the Call: Pazu is quite happy to get dragged into a seat-of-your-pants adventure by the arrival of Sheeta. To him, it just means that he won't have to wait 'till he's finished building his flyer before heading out on an adventure.
  • Large Ham:
    • In Disney's dub Cloris Leachman's performance as Dola in general. When Muska goes crazy at the end, Mark Hamill really gets to have fun, laughing maniacally and spouting a very memorable "Goodbye! Enjoy the ride!" prior to sending the soldiers to their deaths. There are even places where he sounds like The Joker.
    • The pirate trio of Louie, Charles/Shalulu, and Henri all sound like they are obviously enjoying themselves.
    • You can tell Jim Cummings is having a blast doing that line, and the role in general.
    • The General in the Japanese version definitely fits this trope. Ichiro Nagai was practically the go-to guy for hammy villains in his day.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: For the Big Bad. Muska wanted to restore Laputa and use it to rule from on high as he looked down upon the people of the earth. At the climax of the film, he's blinded, falls to his death, and Laputa crumbles away.
  • Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone: When the conversation between Sheeta and Pazu in the Tiger Moth's lookout starts to get a little intimate, Dola smiles to herself and reaches out to close the communication line so that she's no longer listening in on them. Unfortunately, at that moment Pazu spots trouble.
  • The Legend of Chekhov: From the very start, Pazu believes the mythical city of Laputa exists. He's not wrong.
  • Letterbox: Disney included widescreen picture on the 2003 VHS.
  • Lost Technology: Anything made by the Laputian people. They abandoned Laputa, as well as their other floating cities and castles, which all fell back to Earth so long ago that they've passed into legend. Only Laputa survived, and the technology there is far more advanced than anything else seen in the movie.
  • Lost in Translation: Although faithful in spirit overall, some aspects of the original script didn't survive in the script for the Disney dub. The references to "Gulliver's Travels" and "Treasure Island" are both omitted, and the last part of Sheeta's speech at the end of the film is changed from "you can't survive without mother Earth" to "the world cannot live without love," which feels out of place with the actual song. Oddly enough, even though the forgotten '80s JAL dub maintains the last part of Sheeta's speech and the "Treasure's Island" reference, it too omits the "Gulliver's Travels" reference.
  • Made of Iron: Pazu takes some pretty astounding punishment and bounces right back.
  • Magical Incantation: The "spells" Sheeta uses are commands that activate her Aetherium pendant's mysterious powers.
  • Magic Compass: Sheeta's pendant, when activated with the right spell, will shine a thin beam of light in the direction where Laputa is.
  • Manchild: All of Dola's adult sons act more like boys. Blame it on their Apron Matron.
  • Marshmallow Hell: Done by Dola to Sheeta through overt concern and enthusiasm. Played for laughs, see Victoria's Secret Compartment below.
  • Memento MacGuffin: Sheeta's pendant, which was passed down from her grandmother and is an heirloom of the Laputian royal family.
  • The Men in Black: Those two henchmen of Muska's dress in the style and are indeed mysterious.
  • Midair Repair: One of the odd jobs Pazu is asked to do while he and Sheeta are in the Tiger Moth is provide maintenance to the dirigible's rudder. Which he does, while the ship is aloft and he's dangling from a rope. It's as bad on the sense of the audience's acrophobia as it sounds.
  • Missing Steps Plan: Muska disposes of his own men after he seizes control of Laputa. He is alone. His folly is even pointed out to him by Sheeta, for a king cannot rule over an empty kingdom.
  • Mr. Exposition: Uncle Pom drops Infodumps about the origin of the glowing necklace.
  • Myth Prologue: The second prologue (which plays during the opening credits) uses stylized animation to portray the rise and eventual fall of the Laputian civilization. It ends with Sheeta standing alone then cutting to her falling as her pendant lights up and she then floats the rest of the way to the ground
  • Nature-Loving Robot: The robotic guardians of Laputa are Fantastic Nukes, but when left to their own devices, they care for small animals, guard innocent birds' nests, and tend to the nature overgrowing the floating city.
  • Neglectful Precursors: The advanced Laputians left the pendant, essentially the key, to a terrible super-weapon lying around, instead of destroying it outright. Then again, the people were once even worse than this trope, having personally wiped human cities off the map that the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah were based on.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: A minor example: One of the trailers for the 2003 dub included a brief scene that looked like Pazu and Sheeta in a hanglider, flying towards Laputa. This scene is from the end of the film, and in actuality they're flying away from it. The arrival on the floating island is nowhere near as smooth.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Dola's speech to Pazu about him choosing to forget about Laputa and leaving Sheeta behind is enough to snap him out of his Heroic BSoD.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Dola and her boys are typical Miyazaki heavies who eventually get won over to the good side.They weren't really evil, just goofy pirates. This is Averted with Muska. He is actually the most unusual villain for a Miyazaki movie as he is totally malevolent with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. The only other Miyazaki villain that even comes close is the very similar Count Cagliostro from The Castle of Cagliostro, but that was really more Miyazaki playing around in someone else's universe.
  • Not Quite Dead: The robot at the fortress is shot down and seems dead, but then it gets a second wind and gets up to destroy the entire place before finally being destroyed by cannon fire from Goliath.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: Muska claims he wants to find Laputa because it's a threat to his country and world peace, but in truth he wants to take control of it to become the new ruler of the world.
  • Ominous Clouds: While trying to evade Muska, the pirates see an ominous dark cloud in their path. Pazu tells them to fly straight into it, as it's where the flying city of Laputa is concealed.
  • Ominous Floating Castle: Laputa's ruins, the robots, and the superweapon inside all make it mysterious and dangerous place aside from the fact that, of course, it is a flying castle.
  • One Bad Mother: "Ma" Dola, pirate family boss.
  • The Oner: The scene where Dola listens to the conversation between Sheeta and Pazu is the longest scene in the whole movie.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Anna Paquin, who voices Sheeta in the English dub, slips into her New Zealand accent frequently. This works to the benefit of the character though, since Sheeta is supposed to be from somewhere far away.
  • Opaque Nerd Glasses: Papa is the only one of his family to wear glasses and he is an engineer. His eyes can't be seen but this doesn't make him sinister.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: Sheeta's pendant is a momento from her deceased parents.
  • Out of the Inferno: The Laputian robot's climb out of the fortress, wading through burning rubble and molten steel like it's nothing; it is driven by a desire to protect its creator's princess.
  • Overt Operative: Muska refers to himself as the government's top agent to a roomful of a people.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: The robots, one of which was able to single-handedly devastate the army's fortress despite its own damage from when it fell from the sky. Thankfully, they're wholly benevolent, at least towards the protagonists.
  • Pink Means Feminine:
    • Dola, the only female pirate, has pink hair.
    • Sheeta's outfit is blue at the beginning of the film, but once she joins the pirates' crew she gets a new outfit that includes a pair of pink pants.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: Dola pulls out a German "potato masher" style stick grenade and pulls the pin with her teeth. Potato masher grenades didn't have pins. They used a pull cord in the handle instead.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Averted. Dola's sky pirates begin the movie when they skyjack an airship, although they pass up the chance to rob the passengers in favor of finding Sheeta. They favor gas grenades and other non-lethal weapons, and seem pretty casual about violence and kidnapping. However, they're definitely Type 2 Pirates: they're in it for action, excitement, and treasure. While they're just as greedy as the Army, Dola points out that pirates should be held to a different standard than soldiers.
  • Plucky Girl: Sheeta. Being a Miyazaki heroine, she has plenty of determination and optimism.
  • Power Glows: Aetherium (Volucite), the Applied Phlebotinum of the story, glows brightly whenever its active. The Spell of Destruction at the end caused a glow bright enough to leave Muska blind.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Muska's "Goodbye! Enjoy the ride!" quip in the Disney dub before dropping the soldiers to their deaths.
  • Primal Fear: Laputa plays on the audience's acrophobia, as there are many places where the characters could easily fall off. This is especially emphasized in Pazu's Le Parkour moments, as he makes daring leaps and hangs onto tight ledges for dear life.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The General and his army are working for the government. They're all too willing to plunder Laputa's treasures, but they turn on Muska once his plan is revealed.
  • Pursued Protagonist: Sheeta and later also Pazu are chased by Muska, the army, and the pirates.
    Pazu: There are pirates chasing us, Uncle Pom! And the army's right behind them!
  • Reclaimed by Nature: The people of Laputa abandoned their floating castles and continents a long time ago, so the magic technology the characters find upon visiting the titular castle in the sky is overrun with nature.
  • Recruit the Muggles: When the air pirates chase Pazu and Sheeta through Pazu's hometown, he yells for help and quickly gets it when the townspeople come out to face down the pirates, with the most notable moment of this being a boxing match between Pazu's boss and The Brute.
  • Redshirt Army: The Army becomes this once Muska gains control of Laputa; when they resist, they are absolutely massacred as Muska sends them all falling to their deaths, and finishes off the survivors on Goliath when they flee the scene and try to destroy the dome beneath the city.
  • Re-Release Soundtrack: When the film was initially released in North America, it had an entirely different score than the original Japanese version (done by Joe Hisaishi himself as mentioned). When it was re-released in 2010, the original Japanese score was reinstated. The 2017 re-release allows the viewer to choose either score.
  • Riding into the Sunset: Pazu and Sheeta fly off into the sunset in the end.
  • Robot Soldier: Laputa and it's remaining citizens are guarded by an army of fearsome flying robot soldiers.
  • Rollercoaster Mine: The railroad chase scene in the first part of the movie.
  • Royal Blood: Only the Laputian royal family can use Laputa's powers. Sheeta and Muska are both descendants of the royal family.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Colonel Muska's glasses do this on at least one occasion. He's a villain, after all.
  • Scenery Porn: Another Ghibli staple; it seems like every time you blink, there's another establishing shot or sweeping pan of the landscape, the clouds with the sun or Laputa itself.
  • Shabby Heroes, Well-Dressed Villains: Pazu wears work clothes and Sheeta wears a plain dress. For his part, Muska wears a fine maroon suit.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The fox-squirrel critters from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind make an appearance in Laputa. The odd headless beaver-tailed creatures and the longhaired yaks are from Nausicaa as well, and the robots strongly resemble the Heedra. The latter three only appear in the manga.
    • The robots with guns as their "faces" are reminiscent of robots in Gulliver's Travels Beyond the Moon, a 1965 animated feature film on which Hayao Miyazaki had one of his first jobs. More significantly, Castle and the 1965 film both took inspiration from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.
    • The tree floating away into space resembles the final shot of Silent Running.
    • A slow, old, but faithful tram engine with a number 7 on its side? Hmmm...
  • Sinister Shades: Muska and his agents wear shaded lenses and are definitely sinister.
  • Sky Pirate: Dola and her crew soar through the skies to find treasure.
  • The Social Darwinist: Muska, as he reveals in a Motive Rant, believes that he is a superior breed of humanity and must use Laputa's power to guide the stupid commoners.
  • Solar Punk: The city of Laputa features hanging gardens and overgrowth that's reminiscent of the urban farming movement of the 21st century.
  • Spiritual Successor: Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water took inspiration from this film.
  • Steampunk: A very influential work on the subgenre, what with its massive dirigible airships being full of soldiers boasting bolt-action rifles and soaring over a landscape of rural mining towns straight out of the late Industrial Revolution.
  • Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: One of the active robots in Laputa is a gardener and guardian of the wildlife, but like all of the other Laputian robots it appears to be armed with weapons of mass destruction.
  • Surprise Checkmate: Motro lands one on Dola while they talk in their quarters.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Sheeta dresses as a boy to evade capture. The disguise doesn't fly for long.
  • Sympathetic Villain, Despicable Villain: Dola at first appears as the sole villain in the story, as she and her crew attempt to steal Sheeta's necklace and she and Pazu must escape from her. However, their success in this impresses Dola, and she allows them onto her ship. She shows a kinder side and has a moment with Sheeta that shows they aren't so different. She is also shown to care deeply about her crew, who also doubles as her family. It is even pointed out by Pazu that she isn't as mean as she pretends to be. Muska is later revealed to be the true Big Bad, who wants to use Laputa's power as a weapon of war to conquer the world. His role as the despicable villain is further solidified when he murders the soldiers who accompanied him, as well as threatening to shoot Sheeta and Pazu. He is one of the only Miyazaki villains who is a complete Hate Sink with no redeeming qualities.
  • Tap on the Head: Pazu gets one when he and Sheeta are captured by the army. He wakes up in the dungeons.
  • Those Magnificent Flying Machines: Might as well be considered flying machine porn considering how many there are and how they're all after a castle that flies high in the sky.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The Army and General Muoro ultimately play this trope straight, all too happy to follow Muska to Laputa's many treasures no matter how much they test the immense power of Laputa and the crystal carried by Sheeta. When they finally realize Muska's true intentions, the General shoots at what is just a hologram of Muska. This proves a fatal mistake and the Army is quickly massacred as they try to flee the city.
  • Train Escape: Pazu unhooks the tractor unit of the train to shake off the pursuers.
  • True Name: Sheeta and Muska. For the record, they are Lucita - pronounced Lusheeta - Toel Ul Laputa and Romuska Palo Ul Laputa, which points out their status as members of the Laputian royal family.
  • Twirl of Love: Upon reaching the titular Laputa, Pazu and Sheeta embrace and spin.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Dola somehow manages to fill her cleavage with jewels even as they barely escape with their lives. Then there's the grenade launcher plus reloads she keeps hidden in her stuffed trousers.
  • Vortex Barrier: One of the indicators (and obstacles) of Laputa's presence are two contra-rotating vortices of air. The presence of the Heart of Laputa opens a path through them, after which, they seemingly dissipate entirely.
  • Wave-Motion Gun:
    • The Laputian robot's "eyes" are the muzzles of two of them: a slashing laser and a Destructo-Beam. It's worth noting that the lasers used by the robots follow a realistic theory about the capability of laser weapons: they don't have a maximum range and they travel near-instantly. This is most clearly demonstrated when Sheeta throws off the damaged Fortress robot's aim and the beam shoots off across the countryside for miles before it can cut the beam to avoid risking harm to Sheeta.
    • The city itself has a huge Wave-Motion Gun that makes the entire edifice a floating Kill Sat. When Muska test-fires it, it triggers what looks a whole lot like a nuclear explosion in the sea below.
  • Wham Line: "Who are you, Muska?" when Sheeta finally understands the depths of his obsession with Laputa.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: The entire crew of the Goliath are wiped out in a series of catastrophes. Nobody seems to care. Probably not without reason, though.
  • World Tree: Laputa is built around a huge, millennial tree. At the end of the film, the city is destroyed, but the tree lives on and finds a new home floating far above the Earth.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The majority of the villains are big hulking men, and very few of them show hesitation to hurt two young children. Muoro advocates torturing Sheeta to get the location of Laputa out of her, both children get shot at, Pazu is bashed on the head hard enough to knock him out for several hours, Sheeta is slapped and dragged around by Muska near the climax, etc.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • General Muoro decides Muska has outlived his usefulness after he test-fires one of Laputa's superweapons on the surface (the understated enthusiasm Muska showed while doing so may have also pushed the General toward this). Unfortunately, he finds out that he's only shooting at a hologram of Muska and Muska feels the same way about him and subjects him to a Disney Villain Death.
    • Dola implies to Pazu that this is likely the fate that awaits Sheeta once she fulfills her end of the bargain with Muska in helping him find Laputa.
    "You really think they'll keep her alive? Can't you see they forced her to make a deal?"
    • Muska leaves his bodyguards to die just before he takes control of Laputa. They are shown falling to their deaths later when trying to climb out of the city.
  • You Must Be Cold: When Sheeta shivers on the lookout, Pazu covers her with his blanket.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: They are huge and largely made of metal with cloth used for some of the smaller ones.
    Pazu: Is - is this ship made from cloth?!
    Dola: And don't you rip it!


Video Example(s):


Castle in the Sky

It's raining men! Hallelujah, it's raining men!

How well does it match the trope?

4.44 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / DisneyVillainDeath

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