Laputa: Castle in the Sky (Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta) (Blu-ray) (1986)
Featurette-Behind the Microphone
Credits-Textless Opening And Closing Credits
Storyboards-Picture in Picture
Featurette-Behind the Studio
Theatrical Trailer-Japanese Trailers
Trailer-Ponyo,Spirited Away,My Neighbours the Yamadas,
Trailer-Nausicaa, Howl's Moving Castle
|Year Of Production||1986|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Hayao Miyazaki|
James Van Der Beek
Richard A. Dysart
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Linear PCM 96/24 5.1 (4608Kb/s)
Japanese Linear PCM 96/24 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Laputa : Castle in the Sky has the distinction of being the first feature film from Studio Ghibli. Released in 1986 it was a huge success in Japan and a moderate success on dubbing and release in the West.
It is the third catalogue title of the work of Ghibli/Miyazaki after Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind and My Neighbours the Yamadas to recieve a High Definition makeover. Ponyo, the most recent Ghibli film to be released in cinemas in the West has also had a Blu-ray release, which was rapturously reviewed on this site.
Laputa was previously released on DVD several years ago. That release was comprehensively reviewed on this site . To that review I suggest the curious should turn to compare comments on the picture and sound quality as well as some further information about the plot of the film.
For those who can't bear the click of a mouse the plot of Laputa is pretty straightforward. A gang of pirates led by the tough Dola attack a zeppelin like passenger craft in search of a crystal. That crystal is in the possession of the mysterious Colonel Muska. In the invasion a distracted Muska is knocked out by a young girl, Sheeta, who puts it around her neck and falls from the craft to a presumed death. But no, for the crystal glows and she floats down to earth into the arms of a young boy, Pazu, who works at the local mines. Pazu shelters Sheeta and the two become friends. Meanwhile, two sinister forces come looking for Sheeta; Dola and her pirate cronies and the increasingly sinister Colonel Muska.
What is going on? It turns out that all want the crystal for its primary function - as a guide to the mythical floating city of Laputa, a haven of technology and wealth. Exactly why they want to find Laputa plays out during the course of the movie, which introduces mecha and aerial battle scenes, the latter preoccupation with flight which would become a touchstone of Miyazaki's work.
As a film Laputa is an excellent animated experience. In his book Starting Point 1979-1996 Miyazaki expressed his desire for the film to appeal primarily to the younger set:
In the midst of this it is important for us not to lose sight of the fact that animation should above all belong to children, and that truly honest works for children will also succeed with adults.
The skill of Miyazaki is to engage adults through the story and perhaps the recapturing of youth rather than by throwing in "adult references", as if the filmmakers are trying to say to the adults that they too know that animated films are "kiddie stuff".
Back to the Blu-ray. To lovers of the film or Miyazaki-san the question is simple - should you update to high definition?
In fact, true lovers of the Ghibli movies will probably have already added it to their collection.
For those who admire the film but are not a slave to it - is this worth purchasing?
As always that question comes down to a few simple questions: 1. Is the vision a significant improvement? 2. Is the sound a significant improvement? 3. Are there new and interesting extras?
The answers? See below...
Laputa was previously released on DVD in its original aspect ratio - 1.85:1.
It is no surprise that this ratio has been preserved for the Blu-ray release.
The film looks the best it has ever looked on this Blu-ray. The beauty of the hand drawn animation comes to the fore in some of the set-pieces including the opening shots of the zeppelin moving through the dark clouds.
Nothing should suggest to purchasers, however, that this film looks as good as the newly minted Ponyo. It looks wonderful for an animated feature from 1986.
The animation is simple, yet effective. The lines are cleanly drawn and the colours are stable. It doesn't look as sharp as a modern anime. That won't worry Studio Ghibli fans.
In the DVD review TonyR spoke of problems with the NTSC transfer causing interlacing artefacts. The Blu-ray release doesn't feature this problem.
There are subtitles in English. Comparing the English audio to the subtitles shows a considerable variation in the spoken and written word, although I couldn't say if it closely approximates the actual Japanese script.
Laputa features two soundtracks. English LPCM 5.1 running at 4608 Kb/s and Japanese LPCM 2.0 running at 1536 Kb/s.
Before the fans of the original Japanese soundtrack storm the cultural imperialism barricade, it is worth noting that the DVD release only had 2.0 tracks. Probably figuring that more people in Region B would want to watch the film with the English soundtrack they have decided to upgrade only that track to a surround sound experience. Having said that, apart from a little more ambience the tracks aren't all that much different. As with the visuals there is only so much that can be done to improve a track that, in the case of the Japanese version, dates back over 20 years.
Both tracks are the best that the film has sounded. The dialogue is clear on both and the music and sound effects are crisp, although there is not a great deal of power to the bass track. The invasion of the zeppelin at the beginning has a number of doors being smashed in which sound hollow and thin.
The two scores by Joe Hisaishi come over well. He was asked by Disney to come up with a lot of extra material for the English dub, using an orchestra rather than the synths of the original. It is a question of personal choice whether the expanded track is a little too busy or gives the film a more epic feel.
|Surround Channel Use|
Watch the film with these picture-in-picture storyboards of the animation. An interesting comparison.
This old promotional video, shown in 1.33:1 is worth a watch for an insight into the process leading up to the film and also for interview footage with a much younger Miyazaki, far away from the grey haired, bearded, father figure we see in the other feature below.
The English voice cast - James Van Der Beek, Cloris Leachman, Mandy Patinkin and Mark Hamill chat about their characters and the process of putting together the English dub.
This consists of four short featurettes dealing with aspects of the production. In the first three Miyazaki talks about his inspiration for the film and the research he did in Wales looking at decaying mining villages. In the final section the producer talks explains his unusual process for getting an interview with the Master and working on productions with him. The sections are:
Both this feature and the Trailers below were included on the DVD release. The only improvement is that they now come in 1080p. One for the fans.
A stack of short trailers.
As with the DVD edition there are a bundle of trailers included:
The eternal question - when will the rest be released on Blu-ray?
This is a Region B release.
A reader has pointed me to an All Region Blu-ray from Japan. Details on contents are sketchy as I cannot find a review. It is selling for $82.49 on Yes Asia and has a HD 2.0 Japanese soundtrack. I cannot see that there are any extras on it. The reader has referred to comments on-line about the picture quality being better than the Region B but I cannot find a reliable source of those comments.
So the big question - worth the purchase? Ghibli die hards will have it already. For those completists who just want the movie, and already have it on DVD, the upgrade in sound and vision may not of itself be enough to tip the scales towards forking out the extra money. It probably depends upon the place of the film in your heart. Coming to Ghibli late, through Spirited Away,there are a few Ghibli titles which I would race to upgrade from existing DVD's. Despite being an enjoyable experience from start to finishLaputa probably isn't one of them. I give it 3.5 stars overall as an upgrade. For those who want to collect Ghibli and don't have it on DVD add an extra half star to make it a four star purchase.
|DVD||Cambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output|
|Display||Sony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Pioneer SC-LX 81 7.1|
|Speakers||Aaron ATS-5 7.1|