Anime Blu-ray/DVD Combo Review: Castle in the Sky

GKIDS’ Blu-ray/DVD combo release for Castle in the Sky includes one Blu-ray Disc and one DVD.

Castle in the Sky
English Publisher: GKIDS
Format: Blu-ray/DVD Combo
Release Date: October 31, 2017

Castle in the Sky opens with a young girl named Sheeta in a flying vehicle, being escorted by Colonel Muska and his agents. The vehicle is attacked by a band of sky pirate, and during the confusion, Sheeta grabs a pendant from Muska and escapes. However, when the pirates try to grab her to get the pendant, Sheeta falls from the vehicle. When she does, the pendant glows and Sheeta starts floating gently to the ground.

A young boy named Pazu sees Sheeta falling from the sky and catches her. Her takes Sheeta to his home, and the two become friends. While at Pazu’s house, Sheeta sees a picture of Laputa (an ancient mythical city that floats in the sky). Pazu explains that his deceased father took that picture, but no one believed his father was telling the truth. Pazu is working on building a plane to try to get to Laputa and prove that his father wasn’t lying.

The sky pirates arrive at Pazu’s house, which forces Pazu and Sheeta to flee, and they end up being pursued by both the pirates and Muska’s men. As the pirates and the government officials fight, Pazu and Sheeta fall from a rail trestle. Fortunately, the pendant activates again, which slows their descent toward an abandoned mine. In the mine, they meet an old man named Uncle Pom. Through him they learn that the pendant Sheeta has is made of volucite, which is the crystal that provided Laputa with its power. Sheeta then admits to Pazu that she has an ancient secret name: Lucita Toel Ul Laputa (which means, “Lucita, True Ruler of Laputa”).

Sheeta and Pazu are separated when Sheeta is captured by Muska, and Sheeta learns more about her heritage and connections with Laputa. Pazu finds himself allying with the sky pirates in order to get Sheeta back. The film shows Pazu going through some character growth as he discovers who he is and the strength that he possesses. And the sky pirates evolve from simply being a group wanting Sheeta’s pendant to becoming allies of the two main protagonists. This evolution is most noticeable in Dola, the leader of the pirates. While she can still be a tough broad by the end of the film, she’s able to show a softer side to Sheeta (and, in some respects, to Pazu as well).

When I watched the film on this Blu-ray release, it was my second time seeing it. I thought it was just as compelling as the first time I saw it. The animation for Castle in the Sky still holds up over 30 years later, and it really helps to bring the story to life. And I still think the design of Laptua is especially impressive because of the fantastical feel that it has.

The Blu-ray that is included in this release is 1080p High Definition Widescreen (1.85:1), and the audio includes English DTS-HD 5.1, Japanese DTS-HD 2.0, and Francais Dolby Digital 2.0. The DVD is in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), and the audio includes English DTS-HD 5.1, Japanese DTS-HD 2.0, and Francais Dolby Digital 2.0. It should be noted that on this GKIDS release, there are two versions of the English dub available. The first version is the one that Disney released, which has a different music score than the Japanese version. The second version of the English dub is accompanied by the original Japanese music score, and this release marks the first time that this version has been released on home video.

This release comes with an exclusive booklet, which includes writeups by Toshio Suzuki, Hayao Miyazaki, and Isao Takahata. The booklet also includes some stills from Castle in the Sky.

There are several bonus features included on this release. The first is “Feature-Length Storyboards,” which is the entire film in storyboard form. This is one of those bonus features that just don’t do much for me, unfortunately. While I wouldn’t mind seeing a handful of scenes in a storyboard version, the entire film is just too much for me to take in.

“Behind the Microphone” is the same bonus feature that appeared on Disney’s release of Castle in the Sky. It runs for about four minutes and includes interviews and footage of recording sessions with some of the American voice actors. It’s not a bad feature for what it is, but I’m still surprised that Anna Paquin, who voiced Sheeta, wasn’t included.

The next few bonus features (“The World of Laputa,” “Creating Castle in the Sky,” and “Character Sketches”) included subtitled interview footage of Hayao Miyazaki talking about Castle in the Sky and is intercut with footage from the film. These features aren’t bad for what they are, and it’s nice to learn about some of Miyazaki’s thoughts and thought processes for the film.

The next feature, “Producer’s Perspective: Meeting Miyazaki,” includes subtitled interview footage of Toshio Suzuki, and he talks about how he first met Hayao Miyazaki. While this was interesting and kind of amusing, the story he’s telling takes place several years before the creation of Castle in the Sky. Perhaps it was included here since this film is technically the first one released by Studio Ghibli?

“Scoring Miyazaki” is the exact same bonus feature that appeared in the My Neighbor Totoro 30th Anniversary Edition release. I guess since both films were highlighted in this bonus feature, GKIDS decided to include it on both releases.

“Promotional Video” is a promotional video that was released in Japan back in 1986 to promote the release of Castle in the Sky. It was interesting to see how much younger Hayao Miyazaki looked back then, because he looked so different. The promotional video also includes interviews with Toshio Suzuki, Isao Takahata, Joe Hiashi, and other members of the film’s staff. This was basically the longest bonus feature outside of the storyboard version of the film.

“Textless Credits” are textless versions of both the opening and ending credits. They appear back-to-back in the feature, with a little bit of black space separating the two. To be honest, the textless opening was a lot more interesting to watch than the textless closing, simply because there’s a lot more going on visually in the opening.

“Original Theatrical Trailers” is the same bonus feature that appeared on Disney’s release of the film. They run for a little over four minutes, and there’s also technically a television spot mixed in with the theatrical trailers.

Castle in the Sky is a classic Studio Ghibli masterpiece and should really be in the home anime library of anyone who considers themselves a fan of Hayao Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli. If you’re looking for the film on Blu-ray Disc, then this is a release I would highly recommend.

Additional reviews of Studio Ghibli films:

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