Ahh, this is more like it. After my last Ghibli film, I was rather deflated so I was very glad to come back to this, a much better offering. It still has that environmental message but this time more expertly incorporated into the story, with the sense of wonder that Only Yesterday aimed for and missed.
We open with a raid on an airship by strange bee-like aircraft as pirates try to take a necklace belonging to a little girl. This girl, Sheeta, is being ‘protected’ from the pirates by a handsome secret agent but, at the first opportunity, she knocks him unconscious and tries to escape from both the pirates and her protectors/captors and falls from the skyship in the process.
Down on the ground Pazu, a young engineer’s apprentice, sees a light descending slowly from the sky and runs to investigate, finding the unconscious body of Sheeta slowly descending. Rescuing her, he takes her back to his accommodation. When she wakes, she tells him the necklace she wears is made of a levitating crystal which is linked to the mythical floating city of Laputa, and that her family name includes reference to that city. The pirates want the crystal to find the city and loot its treasures; the government want to find it to eliminate a possible source of threat and, maybe, to take any weaponry they find. Sheeta and Pazu try to elude the pirates and the government and find Laputa before any harm can be done to it.
Shot through with strong anti-war and respect-the-environment messages, this has a strong narrative, exciting set-piece scenes, a lot of humour and a sense of wonder. There is an ‘alternative Victorian’ aesthetic to the airships and flyers that reminds me of Michael Moorcock’s fantasy novels, while Laputa itself has echoes of the Atlantis myth and there is an air of Silent Running about it, when it is finally discovered.
This restored my faith in the Ghibli studios.