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Castle in the Sky Blu-ray Review

Posted May 11th, 2012 by Brandon A. DuHamel

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  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit), French Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: PG
  • Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
  • Run Time: 119 Mins.
  • Studio: Studio Ghibli/Walt Disney Studios
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 22, 2012
  • List Price: $39.99

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Overall
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The Film
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Video Quality
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Audio Quality
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Supplemental Materials
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Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

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The Film

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For Westerners, the best way to describe writer/director Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away; Princess Mononoke) and Studio Ghibli is to say they are the Walt Disney of the East. Some might even say that Miyazaki is a greater animator than Disney, crafting fantastical stories that are magically animated and with powerful stories appealing to children and adults alike.

Laputa: Castle in the Sky (天空の城ラピュタ,Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta) first released in 1986 before being given an English dub in 2003 and being renamed simply Castle in the Sky, with a star-studded cast featuring Mark Hamil (Muska), James van Der Beek (Pozu) and Anna Paquin (Sheeta) for international release, is a typical, ecologically inclined, aerially set fantasy from Studio Ghibli that is cute, energetic, and wholly enjoyable.

Sheeta is a young girl with a mysterious crystal pendant that has been handed down to her from her mother before she died. But this has put her in danger. Being chased from an airship by pirates and the military, Sheeta ends up falling from the sky where the young Pozu sees her slowly drifting down, pendant aglow. He saves her and takes her home, but she has no memory of what has happened to her. Their investigation into the matter soon takes them on a fantastical journey that involves a mythical land in the sky named Laputa, a place that Pozu’s father once photographed, but everyone believed was only myth. Airships, pirates, magical spells, robots, and dangerous journeys lead the two youngsters to places they never imagined as their friendship grows.

Castle in the Sky is a beautifully animated, marvelous story that is perfect for the entire family.

(Editor’s Note: A version of the above review on the film was previously published as our Laputa: Castle in the Sky [UK Release] Blu-ray Review. All screen captures are taken from their respective releases.)

Video Quality

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Disney’s release of Castle in Sky offers up a far more film-like interpretation of this animated classic than the UK release, previously reviewed here, from StudioCanal. This new edition offers more natural grain and less applied DNR, resulting in a more textured and natural looking image, but perhaps a more subdued color palette. Some may prefer the the slicker look of the DNR’d StudioCanal release, which I still maintain looks stellar, especially if one is unfamiliar with anything else, but for my personal tastes, nothing beats the natural dimensionality and filmic quality of this Disney AVC/MPEG-4 1080p transfer and, if anyone is wondering, the Japanese Studio Ghibli releases of these, which, as I pointed out in the recent review of Whisper of the Heart, are exceptional as well.

Audio Quality

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Normally I stick with the original Japanese language track for these anime releases and use the English subtitles, but in the case of this release, it’s basically pointless, unless you speak Japanese natively or just prefer the sound of the Japanese voice actors, because the English subtitles are not the literal translations, but, rather, are straight translations of the English dub. So, since that is the case, I decided to go ahead and enjoy the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) track versus the Japanese track, which is available only in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo (48kHz/24-bit). Even so, the 5.1 mix is nothing exceptional, really. Apart from some elevated ambience in the surround channels and a bit of boosted low frequency extension, it doesn’t offer much over the stereo track and, personally, I don’t find the voice acting to be so great either. James van Der Beek really does nothing for me here.

Supplemental Materials

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Much of the same supplements from the StudioCanal release are on here, minus the promotional video and textless opening and closing credits. This edition also adds in an introduction from Pixar’s John Lasseter.

The supplements:

  • Introduction by John Lasseter
  • Original Japanese Storyboards (1.85:1; 1080p/24; 02:04:41) – Watch the entire film in storyboard form.
  • Behind the Studio (1.33:1; SD) Miyazaki discusses his inspirations for the film and the various stages of its production.:
    • The World of Laputa
    • Creating Castle in the Sky
    • Character Sketches
    • Producer’s Perspective: Meeting Miyazaki
    • Scoring Miyazaki
  • Behind the Microphone – The English voice cast discusses their roles in the film.
  • Original Japanese Trailers (1.85:1; 00:04:07)

The Definitive Word

Overall:

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A brilliantly animated, endearing classic from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, Laputa: Castle in the Sky finally gets a top-notch Blu-ray release in the U.S. From a studio that has had a major influence on the animation industry the world over, Disney. Highly recommended.

Additional Screen Captures

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Overall
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The Film
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Video Quality
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Audio Quality
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Supplemental Materials
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Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

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Tags: Anna Paquin, Castle in the Sky, James van Der Beek, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Studio Ghibli, Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta, 天空の城ラピュタ