Tales of Earthsea (Gedo Senki)

When a strange impulse compels Prince Arren to kill his father, he finds himself fleeing for his life, unable to trust even himself. Through a chance meeting with the wizard Ged, however, Arren finds himself drawn into a whole new series of events- one that must inevitably end in a confrontation with the ambitious mage known as Cob.

With the directorial reins of this Ghibli film having been handed from the legendary Hayao Miyazaki to his son Goro, Tales of Earthsea was always going to be a film that attracted much comment and scrutiny, but for me it was something I could never really be bothered to watch- until the day family members unexpectedly came home with the DVD. By this late stage in the game, I was already aware of the mixed reviews the film had accrued elsewhere, but how would it fare on the Azure Flame “400 anime” scale?

Unfortunately, for all the hype that the creators and distributors might whip up, Earthsea is something of a disappointment- a film that will please casual anime viewers, but not one that will do much for committed fans. The framework of the story is the usual one of pure-hearted good versus ambitious evil, and whilst we can forgive the film for going down such a well-travelled route, there is still much to complain about. The reason why Prince Arren killed his father and the alternate personality he seems to possess are never properly explained, and in fact make less sense at the end of the film that they did at the beginning. Revelations involving other characters are equally sloppy, whilst throughout the film entire outlooks and ideologies are easily swayed by a few paragraphs of clichéd rhetoric. Even the customary final boss battle is something of a disappointment- quite a hard feat for such an overused gimmick.

Visually, Earthsea is up there with the other Ghibli films, offering impressive settings and well-choreographed action scenes alongside the usual simple but technically competent character designs. Background music is solid but largely unremarkable; however, overall the presentation does help to improve the viewing experience, offering a well-polished sheen that ensures some scenes are more enjoyable than their basic content would suggest.

Final Thoughts
Earthsea is one of those films that you watch more to say you’ve seen it than to derive a great deal of enjoyment from it, for whilst it isn’t particularly awful, nor does it really make it past mediocre. It’ll please family and friends who want to pick up a readily available DVD that’ll let them say they’ve watched some anime, but for the more discerning connoisseur, there are many other series, films and OVAs that your time could be better spent on.

5 thoughts on “Tales of Earthsea (Gedo Senki)

  1. I enjoyed this movie actually. Though i have to admit the first time around i hated it because i’m a die hard fan of the original books, and sadly this movie only uses the characters and throws the books out the window.

    That said, once i got past my disgust i really got into and enjoyed it a lot. Though as you say it dosen’t really have a lot going for it, except for one thing. It has a totaly awesome sound track, the music is just mind blowing and i really got into it.

    I think it would of been better though if they’d made a proper anime of the books, rather than just using the characters.

  2. >> When a strange impulse compels Prince Arren to kill his father,

    Umm, wait; it’s been a while, but I don’t think I remember that ever happening in the books.

    This is why I can rarely bring myself to watch films based off books, even when the changes aren’t quite so flagrant.

  3. @Neriya,

    Other than using the characters, the rest is a total fabrication. Which as i said is a shame, since it’s an awesome series.

    The only thing that was even close to being true is Theru, and they even changed a bit. Urula La Quin actually wanted a miniseries made of the books, then got well and truely shafted when the company making it broke their contract and made the series without her input, and changed things because they didn’t want to deal with the issues of racism the books raise. She swore after that never to do, or allow another mini series or movie based on the series.

  4. I haven’t read the books (a scandalous oversight), but it sounds like a shame that there won’t be a decent adaptation.

  5. >> Other than using the characters, the rest is a total fabrication. Which as i said is a shame, since it’s an awesome series.

    Yeah, I thought I’d remember it if that’s how Arren was introduced in book 3. It’s a ridiculous idea, taking just the characters and throwing everything else away entirely. Why on earth not just write something completely new if that’s the sort of film they want to make, or stick to an arranged version of the plot if they saw something they liked in the books enough to want to pick it up for adaptation. Not at all surprised at Le Guin’s reaction.

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