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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Laputa: Castle in the Sky (Tenkû no Shiro Rapyuta) (Studio Ghibli Collectn) (1986)

Laputa: Castle in the Sky (Tenkû no Shiro Rapyuta) (Studio Ghibli Collectn) (1986)

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Released 21-Oct-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Main Menu Audio & Animation
Credits-Textless Opening And Closing Credits
Storyboards-The History Of 'Castle In The Sky'
Storyboards-Alternative Angle Storyboards
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Princess Mononoke, Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away
Trailer-Grave Of The Fireflies
Reversible Cover
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 124:59
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (63:13) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Hayao Miyazaki

Madman Entertainment
Starring Mayumi Tanaka
James Van Der Beek
Keiko Yokozawa
Anna Paquin
Kotoe Hatsui
Cloris Leachman
Minori Terada
Mark Hamill
Fujio Tokita
Richard A. Dysart
Ichirô Nagai
Jim Cummings
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Jô Hisaishi

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Alternate Subtitles
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This is the third of the Miyazaki films being released together. It is also the oldest, which means that the animation is older, cel-based animation. That's not a bad thing — Studio Ghibli's cel animation is some of the best in the world.

    This film was inspired by one of the lesser-known sections of Gulliver's Travels. Most people have heard of Lilliput, where Gulliver seems a giant to the inhabitants. Many have heard of Brobdingnag, where the situation is reversed. But few have heard of Laputa, the city floating in the air. This film is not about the Laputa that Gulliver visited, but, oh, you'll see!

    The film begins with a shot of a pirate ship, complete with skull and cross-bones. One slight quirk: this is a pirate airship, looking something like a zeppelin. Their target is another, larger, airship. It turns out that they are after a young girl, Sheeta. She escapes their clutches only to fall from the ship. She falls, but her seemingly inevitable death is stopped by the pendant around her neck — it glows and slows her fall. A young boy, Pazu, sees her falling and catches her. The pirates come looking for her, and the boy and girl run for it. Just as the pirates are about to catch them the army shows up, but it appears that the army is also out to catch her, not help her. The reason is that the pendant she is wearing is a key to finding Laputa, the floating island, or castle in the sky. The army is interested in Laputa for their own reasons, but their actions are directed by Colonel Muska, a mysterious man with motives of his own.

    This film is set, like so many Miyazaki films, in a world that is not our own. He seems fond of airships (see Kiki's Delivery Service, for example), and craft that fly by non-conventional means (he is not alone among anime writers in that...). The general level of technology we see looks roughly first half of the 20th century (the guns, telephones, use of Morse code, the cars), but there are exceptions (the pirates' boarding craft).

    There's plenty of humour in the first half, but things get more serious in the second half.

    This is a rollicking adventure, and pretty much suitable for the whole family (it is G-rated, after all). The Disney dub is one of their better efforts, with more than a few well-known names providing the voices: Sheeta's voice is provided by Anna Paquin, while Pazu is voiced by James Van Der Beek. Cloris Leachman, Mark Hamill, Mandy Patinkin, and Richard Dysart all appear. It is irritating, though, to notice that the Japanese voices don't appear in the credits.

    This reminded me of Disney's Atlantis. No, I don't think that the Atlantis team deliberately copied this film — let's just say that they appear to have been influenced by it — watch them both and see if you agree.

    This is being released with two other Studio Ghibli films: Kiki's Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke. They have been released with a uniform gold stripe across the top of the front cover. The insert in the case says that there will be 12 films in the Studio Ghibli Collection, including these three, two others already released (Grave of the Fireflies and Spirited Away), and seven others: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbour Totoro, Only Yesterday, Porco Rosso, Pom Poko, Whisper of the Heart, My Neighbours the Yamadas, and The Cat Returns. Note that not all of these are Miyazaki films, in the sense of him writing and directing, but he was involved in most of them (he wrote Whisper of the Heart, for example, and produced The Cat Returns). With the exception of Howl's Moving Castle, his latest effort, and Castle of Cagliostro, his first film, this is a comprehensive collection. I certainly intend to collect them all. I very much doubt that I will be the only one.

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Transfer Quality


    The DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is 16x9 enhanced. That's the original aspect ratio.

    Sadly, the transfer on this disc (like the other two in the Studio Ghibli Collection) has been created using an NTSC to PAL conversion. Although this is a very good conversion, the conversion process inevitably introduces interleaving artefacts. These artefacts are not especially noticeable at normal playback speed, except during sequences that are supposed to represent a shaking effect (like an earthquake) — in those scenes the interleaving is noticeable and annoying, rather more than it was on the other two films. It is a real shame that we couldn't get a proper PAL transfer.

    The image is fairly clear and sharp, although things are softened a little by the video conversion. There is no visible film grain. There is no low-level noise.

    Colour is quite vivid and varied, although it's not quite as shockingly bright as on the Region 1 disc — the opening credit sequence (which is an important part of the story) is somewhat dull. There are no significant colour-related artefacts, other than the difference in colour. There is a slight variation in the colour in 96:1196:16 — I am unsure whether this is an artefact of the film, the transfer, or possibly the animation.

    There are some film artefacts, but they are, without exception, quite tiny.

    There is mild aliasing on every moving line, but it is not too irritating. The interleaving doesn't help, either. There is no moiré. There are no MPEG artefacts.

    There are two sets of subtitles. One set is a literal translation of the Japanese, and it is quite interesting to watch these while listening to the English dialogue — doing so points up the differences between the two dubs, including the difference in the name of the stone in Sheeta's pendant. The second set of subtitles match the English dialogue and are English for the Hearing Impaired, including sound cues; they are very accurate, omitting only a few words. I watched both sets of subtitles. They are easy to read and well-timed to the dialogue.

    The disc is single-sided, dual-layer, RSDL formatted. The layer change, at 63:13, is dreadful. It vibrates in the middle of a scene (how badly depends on your player). My guess is that the interleaving makes things worse. The R1 layer change is at 73:04, and is far better, being placed between scenes.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two soundtracks on this disc. Both the English and Japanese soundtracks are Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224kbps. Given the age of the film, I wouldn't be surprised if this was the original format.

    The English dialogue is clear and easy to understand. The Japanese dialogue sounds clear. The English script has changed things around a little, including things like the name of the stone (etherium vs volucite). There are additional lines in places that seem unnecessary, such as during the pirate attack at the very start.

    The Japanese dialogue is not perfectly matched to the mouth movements — this is not uncommon, because the Japanese dialogue is often recorded before the animation is complete.

    The English dialogue features a variety of actors well-known for their conventional acting, but not renowned as voice-actors (a couple of them comment on this in the featurette on the R1 disc) — for actors inexperienced at the craft, they do quite a good job, although Anna Paquin doesn't keep her accent straight (sometimes she sounds very English, sometimes mid-Atlantic).

    Joe Hisaishi provides us with a beautiful score, with a scope fitting to the story. It is mostly orchestral, but for some passages it uses a solo instrument. Excellent stuff.

    The two soundtracks are pure stereo, without surround encoding. As such, neither uses the surround speakers, nor the subwoofer..

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The main menu opens with a transition, and is animated with music. It's easy to use.

Reversible Cover

    The cover slick can be removed and reversed to show a different image, and the name of the film in Japanese. The inner image is quite lovely, and less busy. Only the front image is different — the spine and back are the same.


    There is a single page insert listing the chapter titles.

Textless Opening and Closing (4:57)

    Normally only anime TV series include the opening and closing without credits. It is appropriate for this movie, however, because the opening sequence shows an important part of the story: it tells how people abandoned their flying islands. The closing, although longer, is less interesting. Although this footage is shown widescreen, it is not 16x9 enhanced (pity).

History of the Castle in the Sky (2:25)

    This is a little disappointing: it is a short segment showing the storyboards and final art for the opening sequence, but without commentary or annotation: I guess we're supposed to understand it without.

Original Trailers (4:06)

    These are original Japanese promotional pieces, including TV spots and trailers.

Alternate Angle: Storyboards

    The complete set of storyboards for the entire film is provided as an alternate angle to the film, for the whole length of the film. If you are interested in storyboards, this is a big treat. If you find storyboards less fascinating, you'll probably stop watching fairly quickly. I sampled the storyboards here and there, but I rapidly tired of them.

    Unlike other films in this collection, the original Japanese credits are not provided at the end of the storyboard angle.

Trailers: Studio Ghibli

    There are four trailers here:

DVD Credits

    A single screen showing the credits for the Madman team responsible for this DVD.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title was released by Disney in 2000 in Region 1 as part of a similar collection of Studio Ghibli films. It uses the shortened title Castle in the Sky, reportedly because Laputa means something rude in Spanish.

    The Region 4 disc is missing:

    The Region 1 disc is missing:

    The Region 1 transfer is an original film transfer, so it doesn't show the interleaving of video conversion, but it has 3:2 pulldown, which is another way to introduce interleaving (we can't win!). Aliasing is still noticeable, possibly even worse, and it doesn't help that the image shows noticeable edge enhancement. Colour is even more vivid, which is sometimes a good thing, and sometimes not: colours look inaccurate at times — it looks as though someone over-emphasised the colour.

    The R1 has a much better layer change, at 73:04; it is placed between scenes. The appalling layer change on the R4 is distinctly offputting.

    The 5.1 English soundtrack on the R1 is pretty much a frontal effort, so it's barely different from the 2.0 soundtrack on the R4, although it does use the subwoofer at times.

    The storyboards (which are all that is on the second disc of the R1 — don't let one disc vs two discs confuse you) on the R1 release lack the subtitles, making the Japanese soundtrack less useful (unless you understand Japanese). If you are interested in the storyboards, I'd recommend the R4.

    This is a case of two imperfect choices. Maybe there's a better option in another region? Why can't we have a proper film transfer to PAL, with minimal aliasing, no edge enhancement, no interleaving, and all the extras? I'll call this one a draw between two versions, neither of them ideal.


    An entertaining adventure story, presented reasonably well on DVD.

    The video quality is fairly good, spoiled by an awful layer change and mild aliasing.

    The audio quality is very good. It may be only stereo, but it's good stereo.

    The extras include some minor pieces, plus a full-length alternate angle showing the complete storyboards of the film — if you are into storyboards, this is for you!

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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