Released on July 29th, 2006, Tales from Earthsea is a loose adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea series of books. it is also Goro Miyazaki's first foray into Ghibli directing. as such, the film caused a large rift for a period of time between Hayao Miyazaki and his son, due to Miyazaki senior thinking Goro was not ready. eventually, though, the two reconciled after the elder Miyazaki saw the film.
|Son, I am not disappoint.|
Tales from Earthsea follows the young prince Arren as he journeys across the continent while running from his problems. over the course of the journey, he comes to terms with both his life and himself while saving his friends. he also learns a lot about how the world works, things that as a sheltered prince he would not normally see, helping him grow as a person worthy of being a king.
|By coming to terms with both the darkness and light within him, Arren finds the strength to stand up to evil for what he believes in.|
While this sounds all well and good, the movie covers a lot of topics not normally discussed in lighthearted Ghibli films. besides Grave of the Fireflies, this stands as the darkest Ghibli film i've ever laid eyes on. the callousness of the population and the downtrodden plight of the slaves is sort of disconcerting, considering when you fire up a Ghibli film, you expect something....nice. something to take you away from the cold grips of reality that we all have to live with every day. but this was just depressing for the most part. the female lead was nearly killed by her parents, for fuck's sake. the visual style was slightly different from your standard Ghibli film, and while this was interesting, given the context it didn't really endear me any more to it (in fact, it actually put me off at times, with the weirdly articulated teeth and the odd jelly-looking tears they cry).
|Seriously, they cry jelly.|
Further faulting this movie is the lack of a coherent plot. it starts off with a dramatic bang, but never really goes anywhere with it; in fact, after Arren's father dies, we never hear any talk of his kingdom again (save for a brief, "poor me" mention here and there). the opening sequence involves a dragon, but the significance of dragons in the movie is never fully explained. in fact, they're only seen once more in the whole movie, and in a very confusing way. there's an overarching narrative and goal, yes, but the story holds together much in the way that a 100-year-old rope ladder holds together: loosely, barely hanging on, frayed at the edges.
|Really, this is barely explored.|
the visuals were actually pretty dazzling. if nothing else, this movie has going for it that it's pretty. very pretty. the care and detail put into the backgrounds makes them alone works of art. the character designs were unique as well, with each one being separate and distinct, even the background characters. sadly, they are compromised by the poor voice acting choices of the dub (perhaps I should have watched the sub, but that's neither here nor there). they don't project enough or add enough emotion at the proper points, making the scenes fall flat when they should be sparkling. it was hard to hear unless they were damn near shouting. somewhere in the middle of this lay the soundtrack. it was beautiful, but honestly rather weird, given that while the wide range of instruments lends the film a faraway feel, it's too wide at times. hearing both pipe instruments from Asia and fiddles from Ireland is too confusing a setting to be effective. pretty as it is, it would have been nicer if they could have picked one direction or the other.
I don't regret watching Tales of Earthsea. but all the same, I wouldn't call it the greatest Ghibli movie out there (far from it). I'd like to think that if it had a sequel, it'd feel a lot better, as there were a lot of things left unexplored and unresolved. perhaps it's good to also think of this as Goro's test run. it wasn't a great movie, but for a first timer with little experience, it was a masterpiece. but given the darker tone, I wouldn't recommend this for everyone.
Tales from Earthsea is distributed by Disney Internationally and Madman Entertainment in Australia specifically. torrents are easy to find through your favourite search engine.
|This movie Yaois itself.|