For their production of a new dub for "Laputa: The Castle In The Sky", Disney commissioned composer Joe Hisaishi to re-record his much loved score for the film with the Seattle Music Orchestra. This caused a bit of controversy among some anime purists, but Hisaishi - no stranger to the Hollywood style of film scoring - complied. The new score was released on CD in October 2002 in celebration of the film's DVD premiere in Japan.
Even to this day, there are naysayers who attack this ambitious reworking, claiming that it tarnishes the film. However Miyazaki has personally applauded Hisaishi's new reworking, and there are many who have echoed him in agreement. I am one such enthusiast. While nothing will ever be able to capture the magic of the original score, this rearranged version doesn't necessarily have to in order to provide a powerful, magical experience in its own right. The experience of hearing the original, electronically generated music converted to symphony is nothing less than visceral.
The orchestral pieces follow their original compositions closely and are performed with beauty and power by the orchestra. "The Girl Who Fell From the Sky", in particular, sounds amazing in its new dress, as do "Memories of Gondoa", and "Confessions on the Moonlight". The action cues are equally thrilling, especially "The Chase" and the robot attack sequence. Added to the mix are piano solos and synthesizer sounds (some from the original score) tucked in more than one track by Joe Hisaishi. Admittedly, the recording acoustics don't sound as vibrant as Hisaishi's more recent work for Miyazaki ("Princess Mononoke", "Spirited Away", and "Howl's Moving Castle" come to mind), but there is no denying that this score is nothing short of breathtaking.
There are some minor embellishments to several tracks. The trumpet fanfare for Pazu, for example, is no longer trumpet only, but accompanied by a lyre. The tear-jerking choral hymn for the apocalypse of Laputa starts out a cappella, then is accompanied by the orchestra. Some of these minor alterations may be too jarring for long-time fans of the original score to appreciate, but in many ways they really enhance the score, particularly the aforementioned "Collapse of Laputa" track. There are even a couple of new cues. Some of these replace previous selections on the original ("Stones Glowing in the Darkness", "The Dragon's Nest", and "The Forgotten Robot Soldier"), while others are created especially for the newer edition.
This album release consists of a good selection of the new score - a total of 61 minutes in all. Yet I still found myself wondering if Tokuma Japan could have afforded to squeeze in just a little bit more. The remix of the film's heavenly closing theme "Carrying You" is sorely missed, as is the full version of the fortress fight sequence, which is cut down to three minutes and omits many of its exciting passages.
While some will argue over whether Laputa USA Version Soundtrack does justice to the movie or not, it remains brilliant and an enjoyable listen in its own right, especially in album form. I personally recommend acquiring both versions; each puts its own stamp on Miyazaki's masterpiece and offers a special kind of magic of its own.