”This guy’s got some mad game” says our reviewer, who watched the Hayao Miyazaki classic for the first time at the age of 30.

In Japan, the anime films of Studio Ghibli occupy a place in the cultural landscape similar to Disney animated movies in the west. Some people are hard-core fanatics, some are casual fans, but just about everyone has seen a bunch of them.

Our Japanese-language reporter Daiki Nishimoto, though, is a major exception. In his entire life, he’s seen exactly one Ghibli movie: My Neighbor Totoro. It’s not that he’s got anything against Ghibli, he’s just never made a point of going to the theater or turning on the TV when the studio’s movies are playing.

But like we said, the animated works of director Hayao Miyazaki and his Ghibli comrades are pretty much part of Japan’s shared pop cultural heritage at this point. So with Castle in the Sky Laputa, the very first Studio Ghibli movie (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind was produced before the company was formally founded) airing on Japanese TV recently, Daiki, who’s now 30 years old, decided to watch it and see what he’s been missing out on for the three decades he’s been alive.

▼ Trailer for Castle in the Sky Laputa

▼ Daiki

Starting with his overall impression, Daiki says “It’s a ridiculously entertaining movie.” Laputa is the closest thing Ghibli has made to a straight-up grand adventure movie, and Daiki was impressed by its captivating sense of momentum. “The characters are active and engaging, and the scenes are packed with spectacle. It also looks amazing, with visuals far beyond what you’d expect from an anime that came out in 1986.” He was also happy to finally get the full context for Laputa’s “balse” scene, a cinematic anime moment that’s so famous it’s often shattered Twitter records when the movie plays on TV, and when it came time for the credits to roll, he found himself legitimately choked up.

OK, so Daiki liked literally everything about Laputa, right? Well, not quite. Actually, he had a major issue with male lead Pazu.

For those who haven’t seen the movie, Pazu is a kid living a relatively quiet life until he meets Sheeta, a girl who mysteriously floats down from the sky. He takes the unconscious Sheeta back to his home and puts her to bed, and when she wakes up the next morning, Pazu is already awake and feeding the birds that gather on his roof. As Sheeta joins him, Pazu says:

“Oh, so you’re a human after all. At first, I thought you must be an angel.”

“This girl just floated down from the sky, with a magical pendant, and that’s his opening line?” says Daiki. “As soon as he said it, I was like, ‘Whoa, this guy’s got some serious game…’”

This isn’t the only time when Daiki was startled by how suave Pazu’s dialogue was. When trouble comes looking for Sheeta, naturally Pazu gets caught up in it too. In a brief pause as they’re making a manic escape, Sheeta apologizes for getting Pazu involved, but he’s got another pick-up-artist-level line at the ready, telling her:

“When you came down from the sky, I was so excited. I felt something wonderful was about to start.”

“What sort of experiences did Pazu have that made him able to say things like that without even the slightest twinge of embarrassment or self-consciousness?” asks Daiki, who was also overwhelmed with exasperated admiration when Pazu:

● Tells Sheeta he doesn’t care about leaving behind a great treasure they found, saying “I don’t need it. Thanks to [that treasure], I was able to meet you.”
● At the film’s denouement, nonchalantly tells Sheeta, “Once things settle down, I’ll take you back to [your home town]. I want to see where you were born, the house and the valley you grew up in.”

Then there was the moment where Pazu and Sheeta take a tumble, and end up held in each others’ arms, staring into each other’s eyes. “At that moment, there was so much chemistry I felt like I should say ‘I now pronounce you husband and wife,’” Daiki remembers.

But lest you come away thinking that Daiki didn’t like Laputa, or just didn’t like Pazu, neither one of those is true. He just couldn’t help noticing how effortlessly cool Pazu was, and how he and Sheeta seemed to be instantly drawn to one another. “There’s a scene where Pazu and Sheeta are holding each other, and one of the [comic relief] sky pirates says ‘Man, I wish I had that,’ and that’s exactly how I felt,” says Daiki. “Maybe if I’d watched Laputa for the first time when I was still a kid, I’d be able to see myself in Pazu, but now…from the warped perspective of a guy who can’t get a date…I just feel disappointed in myself.”

But again, Daiki wants to make it absolutely clear that he really enjoyed Laputa, and plans to rewatch it many times in the future. He’s already looking forward to how his feelings about it might be different if he watches it when he’s 40 or 50 years old, but in the meantime, he can take heart in knowing he’s not the only person who’s left with a bittersweet feeling after watching Ghibli’s iconic stars be so perfect, and also in that even Hayao Miyazaki himself says there’s more to life than anime.

Images ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]

Follow Casey on Twitter, where Laputa is the only Ghibli movie he’s watched at 4:30 in the morning.

[ Read in Japanese ]