Castle in the Sky (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

March 1, 2010 by  

A magnificent Hayao Miyazaki film with animation, the quality that Studio Ghibli is known for. If you have never seen this classic animated film, this special edition of “My Neighbor Totoro” features a ton of special features and is the definitely worth owning! A magnificent DVD release!

Image courtesy of © 1986 Nibariki-G. © Disney. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Castle in the Sky

DURATION: 125 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Widescren (1:85:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions, English Dolby Digital Sound, Japanese and French Language Tracks, Subtitles: English and French

COMPANY: Studio Ghibli/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (For Fantasy Action Violence and Peril)

Release Date: March 2, 2010

Originally Story by Hayao Miyazaki

Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Music by Joe Hisaishi

Art Director: Nizo Yamamoto, Toshiro Nozaki

Animation Director: Norihiko Sudo, Tetsu Kimura, Tsutomu Iida

Producer: Isao Takahata

Executive Producer: Yasuyoshi Tokuma

Anime Production by Studio Ghibli

Featuring the following voice talent:

Keiko Yokozawa/Anna Paquin as Sheeta

Mayumi Tanaka/James Van Der Beek as Pazu

Nou Terada/Mark Hamill as Muska

Sukekiyo Kameyama/Andy Dick as Henri (Anli)

Kotoe Hatsui/Cloris Leachman as Dola

Ichiro Nagai/Jim Cummings as General

Hiroshi Ito/John Hostetter as Boss (or Mentor)

Yoshito Yasuhara/Mandy Patinkin as Louie

Introduce your entire family to Castle In The Sky: Special Edition, featuring a timeless story of courage and friendship with stunning animation from acclaimed Academy-Award®-winning* director Hayao Miyazaki. Plus, this 2-Disc Special Edition DVD included never-before-seen bonus features that transport you deeper into the film’s amazing world! This high-flying adventure begins when Pazu, an engineer’s apprentice, finds a young girl, Sheeta, floating down from the sky, wearing a glowing pendant. Together, they discover both are searching for a legendary floating castle, Laputa, and vow to unravel the mystery of the luminous crystal around Sheeta’s neck. Their quest won’t be easy, however. There are greedy air pirates, secret government agents and astounding obstacles to keep them from the truth—and from each other. Add Castle In The Sky: Special Edition to your DVD library, and this magical and uplifting classic will thrill and amaze your family for years to come!

“Castle in the Sky”, the 1986 animated film which was the first from Studio Ghibli and the winner of the Animage Anime Grand Prix was written and directed by legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki.

The film known to many fans as “Laputa: Castle in the Sky” (and “Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta” in Japan) was the second Miyazaki film after his 1984 post-apocalyptic film “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” and was released on DVD in 2003. The film has been re-released as a special edition with more content in 2010 with the latest release of “Ponyo” on Blu-ray and DVD and also a re-release of “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service” on DVD.

“Castle in the Sky” revolves around a girl named Sheeha (voiced by Keiko Yokozawa/Anna Paquin) who is being taken somewhere by people in suits led by a Colonel Muska (voiced by Minori Terada/Mark Hamill).

Meanwhile, the airship that she is riding on has been hijacked by pirates led by an older woman named Dola (voiced by Kotoe Hatsui/Cloris Leachman) who seem to be after her.  With all the turmoil that is going on inside the airship, she escapes outside but loses her grip and falls.

As she falls off the aircraft and is unconscious, she looks to be falling to her death but then her necklace begins to glow blue and gently floats her down to a village.

Meanwhile, a boy named Pazu (voiced by Mayumi Tanaka/James Van Der Beek) is headed to the mine where he works but then sees Sheeta floating towards the ground.  He immediately goes to see her closely and saves her from her fall.

Pazu, takes her home and Sheeta learns about how Pazu has been looking for a floating island known as Laputa.  A place that his father had found long ago but no one believes in.  Meanwhile, the pirates begin looking for Sheeta and Pazu helps to hide her but during the escape, she trips and her disguise as a boy becomes unveiled.

During a train chase, both she and Pazu are chased down and nearly fall to their deaths but once again, Sheeta’s necklace saves the two from death.

As Pazu and Sheeta escape, they go into a hiding spot in a cave and learn from Pazu’s friend that the crystal was made by those who are from Laputa.  The reason why people want the necklace is for sheer power.  And now because the military has seen the power of the necklace, now the military and the pirates want to get a hold of the necklace.

How long can Pazu manage to keep their opposition away from them?


“Castle in the Sky” is presented in (1:85:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 televisions.  Because this is the first Studio Ghibli film from 1986, of course this is a classic animation that looks different from any Miyazaki film today or within the last decade.   But for the most part, detail in the artistic backgrounds are well done and are well-shaded. Character designs maintain that Miyazaki look that people are familiar with.

“Castle In the Sky” features a variety of scenery from the blue skies up high in the sky, to the lush green grassy areas to the earth toned village and detail for the mountainous areas.    Then there is the underground scene that resembles old Aztec art with vines covering the stone walls.  There is also a vibrant color pallet used for the film.  “Castle in the Sky” looks absolutely great for a film that is near 25-years-old.

Of course, for a film this old, it’s not pristine.  The film has its share of a little grain and dust and scratches can be seen (if you are focusing on it). But for the most part, having seen this film back in the early ’90s via VHS, it’s great to see a better looking version of the

As for the audio, audio is clear and understandable. The film is presented in remastered English Dolby Digital Surround Sound and also includes the Japanese and French language tracks. It’s important to note that there are some differences between the Japanese film and the American release when it comes to Joe Hisaishi’s musical score and the biggest difference is that the Japanese characters of Sheeta and Pazu sound much younger than the American counterpart (which the Disney release making the two main characters  in their mid-teens).

Subtitles are in English and French.


“Castle in the Sky” comes with the following special features on a second DVD disc. Included are:

  • Introduction by John Lasseter – (:49) An intro by PIXAR’s John Lasseter (note: This intro is on disc one).
  • Original Japanese Storyboards – Watch the entire film but this time with the video showcasing the original storyboards.
  • The World of Laputa – (2:19) Hayao Miyazaki talks about going to Wales for inspiration to make “Castle in the Sky” and wanting to recreate the world of John Ford’s “How Green was My Valley”.
  • Creating Castle in the Sky – (3:42) Hayao Miyazaki talks about wanting to create a sci-fi adventure that he dreamed about as a child and where the name “Laputa” came from and more.
  • Character Sketches – (2:41) Hayao Miyazaki talks about Sheeta and Pazu and how he came up with the characters and their names.
  • Producer’s Perspective: Meeting Miyazaki – (3:14) Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki talks about how he met Hayao Miyazaki.
  • Scoring Miyazaki – (7:17) A featurette about Joe Hisaishi’s scoring Miyazaki films and more.
  • Original Japanese Trailers – (1:50) Three original Japanese theatrical trailers.
  • Behind the Microphone – (4:12) Featuring the English dub voice talent talking about their role, their appreciation for Miyazaki and his films. Also, behind-the-scenes of the talent recording their voices.
  • Ponyo – Creating Ponyo – (3:56) Hayao Miyazaki talks about the creation of “Ponyo” and wanting to create a film for young children.
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service – Creating Kiki’s Delivery Service – (2:27) Hayao Miyazaki discussing the creation of “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and what inspired Miyazaki for the creation of the city in the film.
  • My Neighbor Totoro: Creating My Neighbor Totoro – (2:59) Miyazaki talks about how he came up with the idea to create “My Neighbor Totoro”.
  • Enter the Lands – Visit the land featuring various small animated Studio Ghibli characters (from all films). Click on a character from that film (note: only “Ponyo”, “My Neighbor Totoro”, “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and “Castle in the Sky” are available) to get a Q&A or a small video info. of that film and its characters.


Also, included is a postcard featuring  Sheeta and Pazu (the image used on the front cover).

I first watched “Castle in the Sky” back in 1993 and after watching “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”, at the time, I can easily remember how I was expecting another action-based film but with a serious message and how much I enjoyed the film and loved the musical score from Joe Hisaishi that it was one of the first Japanese import soundtracks I purchased as a teenager.

“Castle in the Sky” is definitely Miyazaki’s most accessible work.  It has elements of adventure, sci-fi, action, robot battles and also contains an important message when it comes to nature, greed and war.

Watching the film again, although Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli’s artistic work has greatly improved with the beautiful “Ponyo”, just to think that back in 1986 of how detailed the artwork was for “Castle in the Sky” and just the sheer enormity of the land, the sky and just how this world that Miyazaki created was used in this film.  It’s definitely one of his most epic animated films and for the most part, it has been a true classic that has stood the test of time.

With the 2010 release of “Ponyo”, “My Neighbor Totoro and “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, “Castle in the Sky” is the most serious of the four films and is also rated PG as there are people shooting guns and firing cannons at each other.  So, it has its share of violence that some parents may not want their children to see.

“Castle in the Sky” is Miyazaki’s sci-fi action film that continues to shine nearly 25 years later.  Definitely recommended!

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