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(Gedo Senki) (Japan)


Genre: Children/Animation
Starring: Junichi Okada, Aoi Teshima, Bunta Sugawara, Yûko Tanaka, Teruyuki Kagawa, Mitsuko Baisho, Yui Natsukawa, Kaoru Kobayashi
Director: Goro Miyazaki
Rating: G
Year Made: 2006




- Storyboards
- Trailers
- Behind the Microphone



Languages: English/Cantonese
Subtitles: English/Traditional Chinese/Japanese
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Letterbox
Sound: Dolby Digital 6.1 EX
Running Time: 1 hr 55 mins
Region Code: NTSC 3




Suddenly, the dragons that are resting at the westward end of Earthsea appear before the men of Archipelago. Crops wither and livestock falls ill as if in response to the phenomenon. The world is beginning to lose its balance. The Archmage Ged unites with Prince Arren and mysterious girl Therru departs on a journey in search of the source of evil and fights with it. A man by the name of Cob was once a great wizard defeated by the Archmage Ged. He who fears death above all is now behind the evil disturbances of Earthsea.


The son of highly respected Japanese animation auteur Hayao Miyazaki of Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away makes his directorial debut with Tales From Earthsea. And while this movie shows that Goro Miyazaki remains in his father’s shadow, his debut still makes for highly entertaining Studio Ghibli fare.

For the uninitiated, Studio Ghibli is to Japanese animation as Pixar is to American animation. Both are highly respected studios worldwide with one core difference- Studio Ghibli continues the tradition of hand drawn 2D animation, while Pixar has by and large stuck to computer 3D animation since its breakout hit Toy Story.

Released two years ago, critical reaction to Tales From Earthsea has been at best mixed. Detractors accuse its co-writer and director Goro Miyazaki of either diluting the richly textured Earthsea series of novels on which it is based, or lacking the playful comedy and visual fizz of his father that made Howl’s Moving Castle or Spirited Away so well loved.

Having not read any of Ursula K Le Guin’s five Earthsea novels, I cannot comment on the accuracy or faithfulness of the depictions in this movie. Suffice to say however that there is much source material for Miyazaki to work with, and distil into a two-hour feature film. The origins of Earthsea, for example, are only alluded to briefly at the start, as is the Creation of Ea, a 31-stanza poem that is the oldest part of Earthsea’s oral tradition.

Tales From Earthsea largely adapts the third novel in the series "The Farthest Shore". Bearing in mind the constraints of its running time, Miyazaki has chosen to gloss over the origins of Earthsea and instead focus the story on the destinies of its characters, the wizard Ged and the young prince Arren.

Unlike critics who have disliked it, this more intimate approach of telling the story does work for me. In Arren, we see the fear and guilt that we are confronted with and that we try to run away from whenever we commit a mistake. In Arren, we also see the choice that we face, of mustering the courage to admit our mistake or descending on the road to perdition. In Arren, Miyazaki has created a character that we can identify with his humanness.

Because of the nature of the story, Tales From Earthsea has less comedic elements in it, unlike Miyazaki Senior’s many works. As such, young tots may find themselves bored after a while. Many of the themes in Tales From Earthsea are also meant for a more mature audience (like its running central conceit of how Man has been pillaging Nature and upsetting its Balance) which makes the movie a less kid-friendly adventure.

Certainly, some of the characters in Tales From Earthsea could have been more interesting, and the animation at parts could have used more work so that it looks less flat. But Miyazaki Junior’s old-fashioned storytelling takes some patience and if you are willing to afford it, this movie is still entrancing and engaging.

Ultimately, much of the harsh criticism directed at this movie seems to be comparing Goro Miyazaki’s debut to his father’s acclaimed works. But hey, look at it this way, it’s a first feature for him, and from what I’ve seen of Tales From Earthsea, it definitely is a promising debut.


Bonus features are included in a second disc and for a good reason. The highlight here is the "Storyboards" of the entire movie which is certain to enthral fans. You can use the angle function on your remote to toggle between the storyboards and the respective scene in the final product. There is also a 47 minute featurette "Behind The Microphone" which is a series of interviews with the voice talents of the movie.


There are two audio tracks on this disc, Japanese (in Dolby 6.1 EX) and Cantonese (in Dolby 5.1), both of which are a treat especially for the action sequences. Visuals are pristine and do great justice to the some of the breathtaking landscape shots in the movie.



Review by Gabriel Chong


. Howl's Moving Castle (Movie Review)


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