“Tales from Earthsea” is the newest addition to the Studio Ghibli films, released in Japan on July 29, 2006. It has yet to be released on DVD in the US, but there are of course other, less honorable ways of getting your hands on it. The director of this film, Goro Miyazaki, is actually the son of the famous Ghibli director, Hayao Miyazaki, and definitely follows in his father’s footsteps as a promising animation director.
At the back story of the movie, dragons, not supposed to be visible to mankind, have begun to appear in Earthsea due to a disturbance in the Balance, a sort of force controlling all life in Earthsea. As a result of this disturbance, farmers’ crops are dying, the world is succumbing to greed and deception, wizards and witches are losing their powers (basically the earth is just dying).
The plot of the movie focuses on Arren, Prince of Earthsea, who murders his father, steals his father’s sword, and runs away from home. While running away, Arren is saved by Sparrowhawk, the Archmage of the House of Roke and one of the few wizards who still holds his magical power. As the Archmage, Sparrowhawk is searching for the causes behind the disturbance and weakening of the Balance. Throughout the film, Arren and Sparrowhawk develop a sort of King Arthur and Merlin relationship as Arren is now the rightful King of Earthsea and still requires a lot of guidance with no father figure. On a deeper level, Arren is haunted by a shadow that constantly follows him and one that he cannot control, which was the cause for Arren’s departure from home.
Along his travels, Arren saves a girl named Therru, but because of a complicated meeting, Arren and Therru have a rocky start for a relationship. Eventually, Arren ends up working with Therru on a farm owned by a woman named Tenar, a friend of Sparrowhawk. Arren definitely learns some lessons on the life and I think by starting sort of anew and doing some good old labor, he begins to get new perspective on life.
As the film pushes forward, the audience is introduced to another a dark wizard named Lord Cob with a power still equal to Sparrowhawk’s who seeks revenge against the Archmage for banishing him many years ago. In his search for Sparrowhawk, Lord Cob also becomes aware of Arren, Tenar, and Therru, and the situation easily becomes more complicated when the dark wizard realizes he can use the three to capture Sparrowhawk. At this point, the film really picks up pace, and I’ll leave you to find out what goes down, but I’ll say you won’t be disappointed.
Opinions – this film is based off the fourth volume of the “Earthsea” book series, and it really doesn’t disappoint. The beginning of the film is definitely slow, and you will want to say “woah, what in the world is going on?” But again, trust me, by the end of the film most of the confusion is cleared up. The movie gets pretty deep on the concept of death and immortality and the beauty of life (similar to “Princess Mononoke”), adding even more emotion and depth to the film. The animation is also really similar to “Princess Mononoke,” and there is a good amount of comedic relief (you will see what I mean when you watch the two ladies in the countryside). There isn’t an overuse of magic or a grip of fighting scenes. I think there are like too few action scenes, but I would say when there are action scenes it makes them all the more memorable and cool. I will also say that the relationship or the development of the relationship between Arren and Therru is ‘off.’ It is just weird and a little unrealistic. But, the film is great, so go see it (or download it, or buy a ripped copy, or just be patient and wait ’til the evil Disney company decides to release it in the US [which will be awesome cause Wilem Defoe is the voice of Lord Cob, and when you first see Lord Cob, you will think he is a woman too] whenever that is).