Castle in the Sky (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Mark Thomas
Review Date: Thursday, April 29, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, March 02, 2010

An adventure full of wonder and flight.

What They Say
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.

The Review!
Audio:
For this release, I listened to the English dub, which is offered in 2.0. There are also Japanese and French tracks also in 2.0, and subtitle tracks for English and French. Though it is a 2.0 setup, the mix is pretty basic, as the sounds and dialogue stay mostly centered on the two channels. There is a bit of directionality when it comes to sounds, but it is minor. It's a bit of a shame considering that there's some good action in here; a bit more mixing might have increased the atmosphere. It's not a big deal, but still a disappointment.

It should be noted, however, that there have been some subtle alterations to the English audio track that was used in previous releases. Fans will note that there are some additions to the English script from the original Japanese in order to fill in 'gaps': i.e. areas where Miyazaki left silence for effect, at times the English dub filled them with conversation or sound effects. This edition has removed most of those additions, along with reverting to the original Japanese soundtrack. This edition is the closest the English version has ever been to the original Japanese version. Miyazaki might have approved all of the changes that Disney originally made, but purists should be happy with all of the reversions.

Video:
For the most part, the video is nice. It is free of technical problems, but as may be expected for a movie from the 1986, it is a bit old looking. There are some noticeable instances of dirt and scratches, and the colors are a little faded. In general, I did not find this to be a huge problem, but it is worth noting.

Packaging:
Pretty basic packaging here. The two discs come in a single size amaray case with a card slip sleeve that has all the same images and information as the cover sleeve. The front has an image of Pazu watching Sheeta descend from the sky. The back has a summary, some technical details and a few screen shots.

Menu:
This release has a really neat menu. In the background is a sketch of Pazu and Sheeta looking up in the sky, looking like a watercolor on parchment. Next to her are three 'windows' of animated footage showing parts of various scenes. Some of the soothing music from the feature plays in the background, looping at two minutes so it doesn't get old. The menu feels quiet, which matches the feel of the movie very well.

Extras:

There are some nice extras here, but nothing truly special. The first is a storyboard version of the feature with full audio. It is neat to watch, but gets old quickly. Then there are a series of short interviews with Miyazaki about various aspects of the creation and development of the movie. Finally, there is a feature called 'Enter the Lands.' Selecting this takes you to a visual representation of a world that has sections reserved for all of Miyazaki's movies. Clicking on the Castle in the Sky section gives you a quiz to see which character from the movie you are, while selecting any of the other sections gives you a trailer for that movie. It is a neat idea, but I was a little disappointed in it after hearing about it. It was not as deep as I might have liked it to be. There is also a lithograph provided inside of the cover image.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Castle in the Sky was Hayao Miyazaki's second movie for Studio Ghibli, following up the popular Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Like Nausicaa, Castle in the Sky is an adventure in the skies, but without Miyazaki's sometimes heavy-handed environmentalism, which makes Castle in the Sky a bit more accessible than its predecessor. This movie has been rereleased with My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service in conjunction with the home release of Ponyo on the Sea, though it does not quite fit in with the other three. It may not be my favorite Miyazaki movie'"in fact, it is my least favorite of the four being released at this time'"it is still very entertaining.

Sheeta is the prisoner of Colonel Muska aboard his airship, though he treats her like an honored guest. Muska needs Sheeta to help him find something and is convinced that her blue stone is the key to his search. However, before they can get far, the airship is attacked by Dola and her gang of pirates who want the stone for themselves. In the confusion of the attack, Sheeta manages to get the stone back from Muska, but in an attempt to run from the sky pirates, she falls off deck and into the clouds below.

Pazu is a young man living on his own in a mining village. One night while helping late in the mines, he sees a bright light descending slowly from the sky. When he goes to investigate, he finds that the source of the light is a blue stone tied around the neck of a young, unconscious girl. He takes the girl'"Sheeta'"back to his house so she can rest.

When she awakes the next morning, Pazu and Sheeta exchange stories that piece together how she ended up in his house. Pazu also reveals his life's goal to find the legendary floating land of Laputa, which his father had discovered years before though nobody had believed him. But further discussion is interrupted when the pirates arrive looking for Sheeta. In their haste to flee, they also come upon the military. With so many people after her, Pazu is determined to protect Sheeta from everybody at any cost. But when it is revealed that Sheeta's real name is Princess Lucita Toel-ul Laputa, they realize that Sheeta might also be holding the key to Pazu's dream too. But following that dream will bring the both of them right into opposition with Muska.

Castle in the Sky is an uplifting adventure movie, pun fully intended. From the moment Dola's pirates attack Muska's ship right to the closing credits, the pace never quits. Pazu and Sheeta get out of one situation, only to quickly find themselves in another one. But that's what makes it so fun to watch; at a little over two hours, it is one of the longer Ghibli titles, but it never feels that long.

Part of what makes the movie so much fun is its steampunk roots. The world is definitely old fashioned, but also has automobiles, advanced mining machinery, and plenty of airborne vehicles. As the 'least advanced' sub genre of Science Fiction, Steampunk often lends itself to a feeling of wonderment, because although there is plenty of advanced technology, especially for the time period depicted, that technology is relatively new enough that people have yet to take it for granted.

And much like Miyazaki's other movies, it is this sense of wonderment that makes his works so much fun to watch. In this particular case, we are given a sense of joy over flight. To the military, it is old hat, but the pirates seem to take a particular joy in it. And as Pazu explains to Sheeta, he likes to spend his free time building his own plane with which to fly to Laputa. And once Pazu and Sheeta do make it to the sky, their adventures just get all the more delightful.

But unlike some of Miyazaki's other titles aimed at younger audiences, there is a definitive external conflict in Castle in the Sky. Rather than having to figure out how to grow up or fit into a new environment, Pazu and Sheeta are instead pitted directly against Muska in a battle of good vs. evil. In this way, Castle in the Sky does not quite fit with the other movies that have been released (and rereleased) at this time, but it is no less accessible to younger audiences than Totoro, Kiki, or Ponyo.

In Summary:
While I would not rank Castle in the Sky as my favorite Miyazaki movie, it is still highly entertaining. Its fast pace, grand sense of adventure, and wonderful plot makes this a must see for pretty much anybody. Though it is not one of his children's movies, I would think that it is still pretty accessible for all ages. If you have yet to see this one, go see it now. Highly recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, French 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, World of Ghibli, Enter the Lands, Behind the Studio, Storyboard Presentation of the Movie, Introduction by John Lasseter

Review Equipment
Review Equipment: Magnavox 37MF337B 37' LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection upconverted to 1080p, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System



Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 3 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 90
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Castle in the Sky