'Castle in the Sky'

"Castle in the Sky" is the first in a series of Japanese films from Studio Ghibli playing at Ciné. It will run through Jan. 27.

A boy, a girl and a magic crystal — adventure must be imminent.

Ciné continues its Studio Ghibli series this weekend with Hayao Miyazaki's award-winning 1986 anime film "Castle in the Sky," the tale of two children’s struggle to discover — and protect — a long-lost floating kingdom.

This film is more lighthearted than other Miyazaki films like “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” and “Princess Mononoke,” but it is equally purposeful.

Comical street brawls, flaring gunfire and fiery explosions – including one that suspiciously resembles the H-bomb — ridicule senseless violence and militarism. However, the only dead bodies to be seen are those of robots.

Tradition and progress collide as ancient magic informs new technology. Sheeta’s (Keiko Yokozawa) age-old crystal awakens robots, and the interior of the ancient castle of Laputa looks rather like the inside of a computer.

Even Joe Hisaishi’s orchestral score for the film contains synth influences from ‘80s pop, though significantly less than what we heard in “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.”

And just as eras collide, so do cultures, if subtly.

Miyazaki enforces the universalism of his movie’s themes by employing references to Christianity, Hinduism, even “Gulliver’s Travels.” Pazu’s (Mayumi Tanaka) village resembles a Welsh mining town, and gothic architecture draws in even more European influence.

But one of Pazu’s and Sheeta’s pirate friends uses a Far-East calculator — that is, a tiny abacus — and the architecture of Laputa isn’t exactly Western.

The racial ambiguity of the main characters also contributes to the sense that this film’s purpose is globally relevant.

In this first of the Studio Ghibli films, Miyazaki presents a message that will become familiar to his fans — that of respect for the earth.

Sheeta and Pazu find themselves indebted not to futuristic instruments of war but to ancient tree roots. And as evil Colonel Muska (Minori Terada) revels in newfound — and short-lived — authority, he nearly destroys the very kingdom he wants to rule.

Ciné’s decision to show this film in the original Japanese with English subtitles lends authenticity to the viewing experience, not to mention an appreciation for the Japanese language, which I confess I rarely hear in Athens.

The crackling 35 mm print, coupled with the crunch of $1 popcorn, made seeing this film a genuine Ciné experience.

And a genuine Miyazaki experience, at that — one in which the friendship of two children conquers all.

"Castle in the Sky" will play at Ciné through Jan. 27.

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