Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Featuring Voices by Anna Paquin, James Van Der Beek, Cloris Leachman, and Mark Hamill
One of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli’s most acclaimed works, how does it hold up on Blu-Ray?
Castle in the Sky is a wholesome tale of two children – Pazu and Sheeta – bonding together while on the run from pirates and the military, all searching for the mythical flying kingdom of Laputa. The adults want treasure or power. Sheeta just wants to go home, and Pazu wants to protect her and prove his father’s stories of Laputa.
This film is a fun and captivating adventure. These kids run, fight, jump on trains, fall out of the sky. It’s an exhilarating chase. Pazu and Sheeta are so earnest and innocent that you can’t help but cheer them on. This isn’t to say the adults are automatically the bad guys. Several help the children along the way, and some who seemed evil turn out to be kind-hearted heroes by the end.
The design of this fantasy world is super, beautifully drawn. The overall locale is inspired by early 20th century Europe, from rolling green hills that go on forever to the cramped mining town that’s refreshingly not overly slathered in soot. The fictional airships – from gigantic war behemoths to single-passenger air carts with dragonfly-like wings – are remarkable yet still aesthetically fit in with a world where cars are still uncommon. The flying castle of Laputa itself is a neat mix of old-school castle fantasy with overgrown shrubbery and sophisticated science.
The English voice-acting cast does a good job with their characters. James Van Der Beek and Anna Paquin voice the two stars Pazu and Sheeta respectively. They play the children a bit older than their Japanese counterparts (sounding maybe early teens instead of younger adolescence). While Paquin occasionally slips in and out of an accent, Van Der Beek does a decent job. Of course though, it’s all about top voice actor and occasional Jedi Mark Hamill, whose villain Muska sounds like a sane yet still villainous Joker. All around though, good work.
Clocking in at two hours and five minutes, the film sounds long, but it grabs you for the ride and keeps you. This is a journey you’ll enjoy all the way through the deepest mining tunnels and the highest heights of the sky.
The film is presented in 1080p, 1.85:1 widescreen. The animation is smooth, and the art is beautiful. I wish the colors popped a bit more, seeming a bit muted at times, but that’s more of the coloring choice than video quality. With its various shots of the lush landscapes and gardens, it’s still a gorgeous work.
The main audio is English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with French and Japanese being in 2.0. The Japanese track, master audio of the original production, seemed louder than the English at times when switching back and forth. Also included are subtitles in English (both standard and for hearing impaired) and French. However, the English subtitles when played over the Japanese audio are obviously transcribed from the adapted dub script as opposed to being a more strict translation of the Japanese one.
The soundtrack though is quite excellent, ranging from fast and whimsical to more somber and serious, all conveying vastness of the world and the adventure the characters partake.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This Blu-Ray has an impressive set of bonus interviews. Three interviews are with writer/director Hayao Miyazaki, detailing his inspiration for using normal children characters, English-like settings, and themes of flight in the story. I especially like the interview with music composer Joe Hisaishi – Miyazaki’s go-to guy for his films – explaining his inspiration behind several of his signature tunes in various Miyazaki’s works. I’m not generally a music guy (obvious by how poorly I describe it, I’m sure), but Hisaishi does some great and memorable work. All told, these are some good interviews for any Ghibli fan.
A DVD is also included in this release, with the film and the same John Lasseter introduction as on the Blu-Ray.
Overall (Not an Average)
This is an enjoyable and fun romp with emotional depth and beautiful art and music to match. The film, released in 1986, is technically Studio Ghibli’s first film (the studio being founded after Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind). Considering how Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli knocked it out of the park with early hits like this, it’s no wonder they remain a powerhouse in animation today, over 25 years later.
The Film 10/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 10/10
Overall (Not an Average) 10/10