Allegory in Laputa - Bryan Wilkinson - 20 January 1994
Allegory in "Laputa"
Written by: Bryan Wilkinson, 20 January 1994
Edited and Re-formatted by: Steven Feldman, 30 October 1994
Laputa was Steven's favorite, I believe, so it was a big topic a while back - in fact, I posted the same interpretation of Sheeta's loss of her "childish" tails at the end - there are other indications, too. The film is, directly, about children vs. adults, automatically suggesting childhood meeting adulthood. Secondly, the age of the two (Pazu and Sheeta) protagonists (14, according to sources). Thirdly, the mythic quest for the lost utopia of Laputa.
Laputa itself seems all innocence until Mooska arrives, and we see, as it is corrupted, the darker side of Laputa unveiled. Later, Laputa will shed this corrupted part and ascend out of reach. Sheeta's monologue delivered to Mooska is not something one would expect from the girl-child introduced at the film's beginning, nor Pazu's sacrificing of the dream he carries on from his father. Note that these correspond to the moment she loses her braids. The Sheeta and Pazu that fly off in the glider at the film's end are undeniably no longer children. One article I read likened "Laputa" to Peter Pan in some of these allegorical respects, and noted on the side that the flight scenes in "Pan" were of some inspiration to Miyazaki. . . . I don't think either sounds unreasonable.
What then, of the relationship that matures between Pazu and Sheeta? Their bond, akin to the one between Conan and Lanna in "Mirai Shonen Conan", is one that puts them beyond the grasp of the world's colder aspects, one that is more kindred than affection. This might also be regarded as a possible manifestation of anima/animus duality - the chracter(s)'s "other side" manifested incarnate form.
One other point is the clothing worn by Sheeta. In the film's first part, she wears a loose dress, followed by boy's clothing to directly diguise her gender, and a loose gown while captive. When they are taken on by the Dola clan, Dola Mama gives her some of her old clothes (in the background we see a painting of a young, Nausicaä-like Dola wearing similar clothes and the tails, elaborating on the pirates' comments on her resemblance - is Dola representing a surrogate maternal figure of sorts? I think so...), which she wears tightly with the aid of a belt. Here, for the first time, Sheeta's figure is revealed, and it isn't the one of a child, but rather of an adolescent. I seriously doubt this fact was hidden before then by chance.
This point is driven home by the air pirates taking a definitely sexual notice of Sheeta - I dare anyone to argue with that! :)
(Interestingly, Kiki, who is 13, is given a childlike figure, which seems relevant to her film being one that deals with the BEGINNING of coming-of-age, in contrast to the direct confrontation with adulthood represented in "Laputa".)
Are the pirates, then, representing a surrogate family for Sheeta and Pazu? This, too, seems a likely possibility.
These are some of my thoughts on the allegorical aspects of Laputa.