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.
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
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
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
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.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
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.
by Gabriel Chong