daniel thomas Categories: blu-ray, castle in the sky
Huzzah! My copy of Studio Ghibli's newly-released Castle in the Sky Blu-Ray arrived in the mail yesterday. I ordered from Amazon.jp, which not only had the lowest prices, but the fastest delivery times. My package arrived in just three days...nice!
This is a sterling package. The cover design is made of thick, durable cardboard, and folds open in the middle. It resembles a book instead of a plastic DVD case, and I am greatly impressed. Small magnets are hidden inside, and this enables the cover to "snap" shut with ease. The disc is held tightly by a front panel, which is now slightly larger than the panel for the Nausicaa Blu-Ray (there were complaints about discs falling out).
The cover is sleek, bold in its sunset reddish tone, with minimal graphics and no clutter anywhere. All the technial (cough, legal) fine print is contained on the back of the plastic bag that comes wrapped around the case, which is a very savvy move. I can't say enough good things about this design. It's economical, it's stylized, it's cool. The cardboard is quick thick and sturdy, and it is designed to last on your library shelf for years. I'm highly enthusiastic about Ghibli's choice of packaging; I just want to carry this thing around and show people just how cool a Blu-Ray box can look. This is what the movie industry should be using, not that hideous plastic.
A small booklet is contained inside, and includes notes from Hayao Miyazaki and one of the film's producers, copies of the movie posters, and a description of the extras on the disc. To my surprise, there really aren't any new extras on this BD. It's the exact same material from the Japanese DVD; of these, the half-hour behind-the-scenes promo video is the best. A younger Miyazaki, clean-shaven and with jet black hair, looks so serious, do intense in his work. Isao Takahata appears ageless. Either he's never grown old or he was old from the start; I can never tell which. Of the Ghibli staff, Michiyo Yasuda, the master of color, is a joy to see, as she shows off the tools of the studio's Ink and Paint department.
If you're concerned about the lack of BD extras, keep in mind that the movie itself takes up over 40GB, a stunning 6K transfer that looks absolutely astonishing. Digital compression, artifacts, edge enhancement: all have been banished forever. Now we finally see the sterling, bold colors of Ghibli's flagship movie. You'll want to sit with your nose next to the HDTV, just to soak in all the clear details and every brushstroke.
Consumers in Japan have been complaining loudly about the Ghibli BDs, that the packages are flimsy, that the picture quality is ruined by film grain. Frankly, they're a bunch of damn crybabies. They need to grow up. The packaging is sterling, and unless your idea of a movie night involves throwing the cover around like a hacky sack, your disc will be safe. And the film grain is never an issue. I'll bet most Westerners won't even notice that it exists until someone informs them. These movies were shot and displayed on 35mm film. This is what film looks like. My verdict: Castle in the Sky looks spectacular. No need for concern.
Castle in the Sky and My Neighbors the Yamadas (which I haven't bought yet) were released in Japan in December, so I would expect them to remain region-exclusive for the next six to nine months. I am confident these movies will be available in the West in time for Christmas, on the same schedule as Nausicaa. But no official word has been made, and we probably won't hear anything until summer at the earliest. Keep that in mind as you consider whether to pull out the debit cards and import these BDs. Expensive, yes. But you'll have bragging rights for a long time.