Character dynamics in the anime classic were inspired by the relationship between Miyazaki’s mom and her four sons.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is often mistakenly credited as being Studio Ghibli’s first film, but that anime slightly predates the company’s founding. Instead, the honor of being the first Ghibli movie goes to Laputa: Castle in the Sky.

But even without that extra historical significance, Laputa would be an important anime, and the expertly crafted adventure tale still holds up more than 30 years after its theatrical release. As a matter of fact, even now Laputa commands big ratings when it’s shown on broadcast TV in Japan, an event that happens almost annually, and most recently last Friday night when it aired in Nippon TV’s weekly Friday Roadshow movie slot.

To commemorate this year’s broadcast, the official Friday Roadshow Twitter account decided to share some behind-the-scenes information about Laputa, cluing fans in on the surprising inspiration for the character Dola.

Dola, who can be seen in the above image with her thick pink pigtails flaring out behind her, is the rough-and-tumble leader of a band of sky pirates. While she starts off as an adversary to main characters Sheeta and Pazu, she eventually becomes one of their most stalwart allies, and her gruff, boisterous exterior hides a heart that’s loyal and caring to those who need her protection.

If those last characteristics sound like admirable maternal traits, it’s no coincidence, because Friday Roadshow says that director and Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki based Dola on his own mother.

In contrast to the vivacious Dola, Miyazaki’s mom was often in poor health, and from the time he was six years old she spent much of her time in a sickbed. Nonetheless, her mental and emotional fortitude was something he instilled in Dola, giving her a commanding, authoritative aura. “My mom had four boys,” Miyazaki said, speaking of himself and his siblings, “but none of us dared oppose her.”

The revelation adds a new, emotionally honest layer to the comical way the sky pirates alternately fear and rely on Dola, as well as her stern but fair attempts to whip them into self-reliant shape. Armed with this knowledge, we can’t wait to watch those scenes all over again, so hopefully Laputa will be back on the air again next year.

Featured image: Twitter/@kinro_ntv
[ Read in Japanese ]