Region 2 (UK) Edition  -  Reviewed by Andy Davidson

Director:  Hayao Miyazaki

Starring the voices of:  James Van Der Beek, Anna Paquin, Cloris Leachman


Laputa - Castle in the Sky was the film that laid the foundations for the creation of the world-famous Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki’s 1986 film follows the adventures of a young boy, Pazu and his mysterious friend, Sheeta, a girl who quite literally falls out of the sky and into his arms. Pursued by government agents and a gang of wonderfully over-the-top sky pirates, Sheeta is the owner of a mysterious gemstone, one which possesses magical powers and may well be the key to unlocking the secret of the legendary castle in the sky, Laputa.

Laputa is a tale of greed; both the government agents and the pirates are searching for the mythical castle, fuelled by their own fantasies of what they can exploit from it; both military supremacy and fabulous riches. Only Pazu and Sheeta have pure motives and as such it is they who ultimately discover the castle and have a say in its ultimate fate.

Of all Miyazaki’s films, Laputa stands apart as the most lavishly realised. Set largely around an unnamed mining town, Miyazaki visited several such places in Wales while researching the film. That research, coupled with Miyazaki’s own unique view of the world, led to the creation of a staggeringly beautiful and intricate landscape, one with towering cliffs, caves of glittering jewels and communities living in seemingly impossible circumstances. Laputa, itself, is a similarly beautiful achievement – the castle and those who inhabit it are the work of a unique talent.

While it’s true that Laputa lacks the emotional depth of Miyazaki’s later films and that the story itself is fairly simplistic, the film has a spectacle like no other. The locations are gorgeous, the action is breathtaking and the slow realisation of the power of Laputa and its defenders is deeply unsettling. Those more familiar with recent Ghibli output may be surprised at the somewhat light characterisations and simple story, but there’re more than enough here to captivate audiences for the 2 hours’ running time.


Sticking to their established format, Laputa - Castle in the Sky is presented on a single disc along with a number of extras culled from the various editions of the film that have been released around the world.

The film is presented in windowboxed format, with an aspect ratio of 1.77:1 This closely replicates its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This appears to be the same print as used on the recent US edition; as such while the colour palette is rich and well realised, there is slight edge-enhancement visible throughout the film.

The film can be viewed in its original Japanese, with English subtitles and optional captions for the hard of hearing. The Disney-produced English dub of the film, starring James Van Der Beek, Anna Paquin and Cloris Leachman is also included and stands as one of the better Ghibli dubs so far available. Both audio tracks are in Dolby Digital 2.0 format (at 224kbps).

As with Optimum’s other Ghibli releases, the English subtitles and captions appear in garish yellow over the picture itself and can prove quite distracting.

The opening menu screens feature are somewhat downplayed, with just a night sky, a few clouds and a shot of Laputa flying across the screen. It’s an odd choice, given the countless other beautiful images Optimum could have chosen from the film.
Menu screens for the disc can be found here.


Textless Opening & Closing (4m 52)
The viewer has the option to see the opening and closing credits from Laputa, minus credits. While at first glance this may seem something of a waste of time, the artwork evident at the start of the film certainly deserves a closer look.

History of the Castle in the Sky (2m 25s)
This appears to be the opening sequence from the film told in a mix of original storyboard and final animation. It’s inclusion is superfluous given that both are already available elsewhere on the disc. Pure filler.

Storyboards (125m)
The entire film can be viewed in storyboard form. Originally presented for the Japanese DVD release, the “Angle” button on your remote allows the viewer to alternate between the original storyboard art for the film and the finished product.

Original Trailers (4m 26s)
Four original cinematic trailers are included from the film’s original release. These are in the original Japanese with removable English subtitles.

Studio Ghibli Collection Trailer (10m 45s)
Optimum are, of course, releasing the entire series of Studio Ghibli films. To promote the other films, we are presented with a ten-minute compilation of trailers from Ghibli’s other work.


Laputa - Castle in the Sky is an essential purchase for fans of anime, as well as die-hard Miyazaki followers. The attention to detail throughout the film is simply staggering and while the story is relatively simple, compared to later offerings, the characters are fun and engaging and there’s enough action throughout the film to keep the viewer fully engaged.

Related reviews:

The Studio Ghibli Collection

Laputa - Castle in the Sky

Kiki's Delivery Service

My Neighbour Totoro

Pom Poko

Porco Rosso

DVD reviewed February 2006




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