To prepare for a trip to Japan, I watched Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky. I've been happily working my way through his collected works for a while now. This entry is solid, but not outstanding.
It takes place in a world where earthbound villagers work in mines for ever-decreasing returns, while high above fly cruiseships, zepplins, dirigible destroyers and air pirates. These pirates attack an airliner and a mysterious girl escapes overboard. Her mysterious pendant slows her descent, and she hovers to a stop next to a young boy.
This boy, Pazu, is a classic Japanese kid - full of spunk and hustle, omnicompetent, he seems to run the mining village he lives in. He longs to follow in the footsteps of his air-explorer father and discover the floating city of Laputa. Of course, mysterious girl Sheeta's pendant consists of phlebotinum, which is linked to just that floating city. So, chased by the fascistic government troops, the plucky kids join up with the air pirates to search for their destiny.
The best part of this was (some of) the artwork. It has a lovely handshaded Moebius style, all rounded edges and sparse crosshatching. The scenes are inventive, especially Laputa, the eponymous castle. But I don't think it ever takes off into the kind of transcendence we see in Nausicaa or even Porco Rosso (although the air pirates with more issues and hearts of gold are pretty similar in the latter).
Also, although our young lad is spunky (perhaps too spunky), the princess is a bit passive. She might be more lovable to a Japanese audience. The Magic Necklace plot device doesn't stand up to even cursory examination, but that shouldn't be an issue.
In conclusion, a good Miyake, perhaps not a great Miyazake.