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Bright Wall/Dark Room: “The Nuclear Resonance of Castle in the Sky

Writing for Bright Wall/Dark Room, Zach Budgor explores the philosophy underlying Hayao Miyazaki’s wonderful Castle in the Sky.

The ending of Castle in the Sky is a reflection of Miyazaki’s hardline anti-nuclear stance: no more, no less. Miyazaki was a child during World War II; his father built parts for Zero warplanes. The optimism inherent in Princess Mononoke’s ending, where even Lady Eboshi — the nominal villain — resolves to change her ways, is cloudier here. I can’t possibly unpack the psychic trauma inflicted by the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; its resonance can be felt in decades of Japanese art and popular culture. For Miyazaki, there is no middle ground.

Miyazaki folds this weighty material into one of his most exciting, action-heavy children’s movies; its breathless pacing — that push-pull between Ghibli’s animators and Miyazaki’s storyboards — also steers the film away from didacticism. The atomic metaphor enters late in the film, and it is put to rest just as quickly. Its resolution comes at the hands of children, because as adults, we have failed in our role as stewards of the future.
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