Castle in the Sky (lost alternate ending of Hayao Miyazaki animated fantasy-adventure film; existence unconfirmed; 1986)

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One of the four images posted to mixi showing the possible alternate ending to Castle in the Sky.

Status: Existence Unconfirmed

Castle in the Sky (天空の城ラピュタ in Japanese, also known as Laputa: Castle in the Sky in some Countries) is a 1986 Japanese animated film directed by Hayao Miyazaki, and is one of Studio Ghibli’s first theatrical films. Castle in the Sky airs annually in Japan, going as far back as to 1988. Although some years have been skipped due to unknown reasons, it’s general tradition that the film airs once a year on Japanese TV. These annual airings are so popular, that in some instances world records have been broken from Japanese twitter users flooding the site to tweet the ‘Spell of Destruction’ from the film.[1] Sometime in 2007, images were posted on the Japanese social networking site mixi that seemed to be from one of these airings.[2] The images were in very poor quality; however, one could tell that they differed from the final film, and there seemed to be credits imposed onto the film itself, leading some to believe it was from an “alternate ending.” Many fans of the film have put in much effort to see if this “phantom ending” exists. So much so, that a twitter user by the name of video_vhs is offering a 50,000 Yen reward for anyone who can find the ending, and a 70,000 yen reward for anyone who can find the original broadcast intact with the commercials included.[3]

Another image from mixi. Note the credits that seem to be superimposed into the film.

What We Know

As stated previously, there has been quite a search effort involved for not only those trying to find the supposed alternate ending of the film, but also for the other lost Castle in the Sky broadcasts. According to the twitter account video_vhs, the third broadcast from 1991 has been found, as well as the seventh broadcast from 1998, and the eighth one from 2001. The first (1988), second (1989), fourth (1993), fifth (1995), and sixth (1997) have not been found.[4] They believe that one of these broadcasts could contain the alternate ending. Leading more credence to the theory is the amount of people who have claimed to see a different ending to the film. It’s become somewhat of an urban legend, even warranting a section on the Japanese Wikipedia page on the film.[5] It’s become so widespread, that Studio Ghibli themselves had to debunk these claims.[6] With the possibility of a true alternate ending being debunked by those involved with production, it’s highly unlikely that the true “alternate ending” was as complex as many fans described.


A post from the website uso8oo was able to find many high quality versions of the images posted on mixi.[7] The writer of the article proposes that the TV Station that aired this version of the film simply didn’t have enough time to air the full ending, and instead showed a shorter version instead. The post then went on the show that many of the images shown in the mixi post were from earlier scenes in the film, or used pieces of concept art. This seems to be the simplest explanation as to why an alternate ending exists, and why so many people have claimed to see it. Some may claim that this could also be a possible work print, however, it is doubtful that this type of media would be in the hands of TV Stations. Nevertheless, we still don’t know for sure where these images originated from, and until the remaining Castle in the Sky broadcasts are found, we may never know if there truly is an alternate ending to the film or not.

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