animefringe august 2003 / reviews

Castle in the Sky Vol.1
Format: right-left manga
Production: Viz, LLC / Nibariki / Tokuma Shoten
Comments: A manga made up entirely of stills from a film? Despite a good release, it begs the question, whatís the point?
Animefringe Reviews:
Castle in the Sky Vol.1

Castle in the Sky, known in Japan as Laputa, is one of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki's best known and most loved films. The 1986 movie recently saw an R1 DVD release and in attempt, seemingly, to capitalize on it, Viz has released a manga version of the film. Though technically well done, I have to question the point of this release.

Nasuicaa, another major Ghibli film, started life as a manga series. However, Castle in the Sky was first introduced as the Ghibli film. The manga released by Viz (and back in 1986 by Tokuma Shoten, a publishing company closely allied with Ghibli) is made up of still pictures from the film with word bubbles and sound effects text added on top. In Japan, where manga is ubiquitous, the release of manga made up of movie stills would make a little more sense than it does here in the States. As I was reading through the manga, I had to wonder "What extra value does this manga hold?" Most manga with anime tie-ins tend to add something, like more plot exposition, different stories, or even different art styles. Castle in the Sky doesn't differ from or add to the film at all.

It is a shame, because this is another excellent release by Viz. As with most of Viz's releases, Castle in the Sky reads right to left. The Japanese sound effect text is left in the manga, with a great guide to the sound effects at the end of the book. The translation is pretty good, but it seems to avoid dialogue as much as possible. The images seem a little faded, though this is due at least in part to the age of the film.

For those unfamiliar with Castle in the Sky, the manga and film detail the adventures of Sheeta and Pazu, two young kids in a setting not unlike Northern Europe. Pazu meets Sheeta when she falls from the sky, and the two set off to find the fabled floating island of Laputa. Unfortunately, the duo is tailed by bumbling pirates, interested in getting riches from the island and more sinister army officials interested in the destructive power of Laputa.

While technically Castle in the Sky is an excellent manga release, I see little point in it. I've joked before that the manga, if flipped fast enough, would make a pretty good flipbook. The Viz release, one of four, simply isn't a good buy, except for the most obsessive Ghibli fans. One volume is priced at $9.95 - to complete the set, one would have to spend close to $40. For that price, one could probably find the DVD release of Castle in the Sky and one of the other Ghibli films.