Tales from Earthsea — Anime Story Review

Tales from Earthsea — Anime Story Review

Note:  My advance look at the DVD review can be found here.  That review focused on the DVD aspects whereas this review will be about the story.  As such, there will be SPOILERS! ^_^

Tales from Earthsea (ゲド戦記/Gedo Senki) is a movie who’s beautiful visuals and starting premise make it seem like it is going to be a very good tale.  Unfortunately, things fail to go where they are promised.

Tales from EarthseaThings get started when the (good) king’s son stabs him and steals his magic sword before fleeing.  OK, sounds interesting enough, eh?  However, Arren’s whole purpose in stabbing his father is never revealed beyond some “fear of dying” nonsense.  Yeah, fear of dying makes people kill each other all the time.  ^_^;;;  Arren is made to be some sort of dual personality person with his good personality being what we mostly see, but then his more sinister side emerging when he gets into a fight.  Even then, the sinister personality is not what I’d call evil, or at least wasn’t portrayed that way.  In one instance, the personality emerged to save the girl Therru, though she was clearly troubled by that side of Arren.  So assuming this was the side of Arren that stabbed his father, why do it and why steal the sword?  Why was there NOTHING said anywhere about the king being stabbed or Arren being missing (and one would think, wanted).

Tales from EarthseaFurther, just how in the world did Arren split into two people?  His other self was some sort of spirit form (or that was my conclusion) which contacted Therru toward the end and what Arren kept seeing as a threat, but that was just a muddled mess as far as I was concerned which was further mucked with by Arren’s weird visions. Except for his dragon vision, the others didn’t seem to be of any import to the actual story but simply placed there to show Arren’s troubled mind (I guessing). The dragon vision came with Therru and so that basically telegraphed what was to come regarding Therru (or at least it did to me).

The sword brings me to the next item of contention.  Arren can’t Tales from Earthseadraw it and the arch mage Sparrowhawk notes that it was forged with magic.  A big deal is made of this and Arren’s worthiness to draw the blade.  Luckily, everyone else is dumb as rocks about the sword because when Arren is separated from it at one point, the sword is presumed to be worthless and rusted because it can’t be drawn from the sheath.  Somehow, despite being discarded, a merchant ends up having it to sell to Sparrowhawk at a later time and the merchant doesn’t have a clue about it.  Then toward the end of the movie, the evil mage Cob acts fearful of the sword because it is a sword made with magic.  Ah, but even when Arren draws it, the sword is nothing but a sword, which in the hands of an inept swordsman is worthless.  That being the case, why make a big deal of the sword being forged with magic?

Tales from EarthseaI kinda liked Therru as a character.  The story tried to make her more sympathetic by giving her an abused background so that Tenar would become her foster mother. I had no problem with that, nor did I have a problem with her not trusting Arren.  Even after Arren saved her from the slavers, I didn’t have a problem with her not wanting anything to do with him since she was saved by his darker side.  Then after he’s worked the farm a bit and Cob is making his move, she starts trusting him. When he casually tells her that he killed his father, its like it is no big deal to her.  That didn’t make any sense to me at all.  I figured she would have been horrified or something.  After all, she had been leery of him from the start and to hear he’s murdered his father should add to that negative feeling in my opinion..

Tales from EarthseaThat Therru was a dragon didn’t bother me.  I’ve liked the notion of dragons having humanoid form going back to when I read the first Dragonlance trilogy. However, I failed to see why she needed to be a dragon in the story.  The object was to put an end to Cob and save Sparrowhawk and Tenar and had the whole magic sword element panned out as played up, we certainly wouldn’t have needed a dragon.  However, Therru turns into a dragon after supposedly dying and that’s how we defeat Cob.  After that, Arren and the dragon-human Therru can go on with their lives and possibly marry in the future…or something, assuming Arren isn’t executed or the like.

Tales from EarthseaAs to Cob, I’ve no idea why the anime has him as sexually ambiguous character.  He has female appearances and on the Japanese side, he was voiced by a female, which puts a completely different twist on the character from the English dub.  All this aside, Cob’s whole notion of wanting to live forever is so poorly played out as to not even be funny.  Even though there’s no evidence of Cob doing ANYTHING other than (1) running slaver trade for money and (2) studying tomes, I get the impression that the audience is supposed to put together that the dying crops, dragon fights, mages losing their powers, and other problems are the result of whatever Cob is doing.  Because we never see Cob experimenting and causing negative effects across the world, there’s never a correlation between him and the bad things that are just happening.  As far as I’m concerned, Cob wasn’t the cause (although I’ve researched and the novel he’s featured in is pretty explicit on the cause and effect).

Tales from EarthseaIf Sparrowhawk is doing an investigation on the dying crops and such, why stop to farm?  One of the other bad things that caused him concern were mages losing their magical abilities.  For an arch mage, this is very important stuff and to protect your fellow mages, you need to find the root cause of these problems as they are likely related.  Seriously, the arch mage does not have time to waste in farming, even if its for an old friend.  Yet despite this, we get a major slowdown of the movie so Sparrowhawk can farm and teach Arren to do the same and screw everything else.  *_*

Tales from EarthseaSo, in the end, we have a rather pointless movie.  An arch mage with the nickname “Sparrowhawk” is on an investigation to find out the cause of bad things happening around the kingdom.  He saves the king’s son Arren, who’s fleeing after murdering his father and steeling his magic sword, and gets him to just travel with him. Arren has lots of weird visions and thinks he’s being pursued by himself.  He saves a girl named Therru from slavers but decides to immediately take a nap and is made a slave so that Sparrowhawk has to save him.  Then he and Sparrowhawk stop by Tenar’s farm as Tenar happens to be an old acquaintance.  Luckily, Therru is her foster daughter and Sparrowhawk decides that he and Arren will farm the land for Tennar.

Tales from EarthseaSparrowhawk decides to do some local investigation and even gets Arren’s magic sword back before learning of the evil mage Cob being nearby.  Cob learns of Sparrowhawk and sends men to kidnap Tenar as Arren runs away.  Therru is left to give Sparrowhawk a message but she frees herself.  Cob finds Arren and gets him on his side while Sparrowhawk rides to save Tenar, only to be stripped of magic and held captive.  Therru finds Arren’s other self and uses the information to get Arren back on her side. She gives Arren his magic sword which he draws but doesn’t do anything.  Before Cob can slay Sparrowhawk and Tenar, Therru somehow turns into a dragon after apparently being murdered and in the end, Cob is slain, Therru and Arren have a moment before Arren goes to face the music for murdering his father.

Meh!  Taking random characters and situations from the original novels and throwing them together in a pot does not a movie make. Its really a shame too ’cause had this been as well written as it was visually to look upon, we would have had a real winner.

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41 Responses to “Tales from Earthsea — Anime Story Review”

  1. arimareiji says:

    I’ve got a new motto for the blog… “ANB. He watches it so you don’t have to. (^_~)”

    Never seen it, but I know that I’ve read reviews of yours that made sense of some pretty WTFfy plots. If you can’t make sense of it, there’s no point in me trying, y’know?

  2. junior says:

    Terru appears in the novel ‘Tehanu’, and the oddities you noted regarding her background are actually from there. Of course, it all works a lot better when you don’t have all of the other random nonsense that the scriptwriter seems to have added for no apparently reason.

    All I can do is encourage you to read ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ yourself. It’s the first Earthsea novel, and is quite short – particularly by modern standards – at less than 200 pages. So it won’t take you long to read. Further, from the sound of things it’s unlikely that anything in the movie spoiled the first novel for you (though I can’t make the same promise if you watch the Sci-Fi Channel movie from a few years back).

  3. Lan says:

    I understand this movie completely.
    I have also never read Tails of Earthsea.

    This seems to be the trend. those that have reads the books hate the film with a passion, and those that havent are pleasentally suprised by it.

    Goro Miyazaki had a bad time with critics regarding this film, and from his Dad, Hayao.

    To me, the storyline is NOT disjointed at all!

    The only part I didn’t really understand was why

    To me, the storyline has it that the girl didnt help defeat the evil sorcerer in the 1st place because she didn’t know that she was a dragon with magical powers until the very end once she became one.

    Also, to me, the evil sorcerer was changing the balance of life for everyone when he was becoming immortal, therefore changing nice people into evil beings.

    I do recommend this film, especially if you have never read the books, and is capable of reading between the lines.

  4. Lan says:

    damnit, i think my message was badly editied. erghhh Im always doing this >.<

  5. AstroNerdBoy says:

    If you can’t make sense of it, there’s no point in me trying, y’know?

    It isn’t that the movie is confusing but it is that the movie has a lot of things that are head scratchers.

    All I can do is encourage you to read ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ yourself.

    Yeah, I think I will. I’ll include it on my next manga order.

    I understand this movie completely.
    I have also never read Tails of Earthsea.

    Well, I understood the movie and have never read the novels either.

    Also, to me, the evil sorcerer was changing the balance of life for everyone when he was becoming immortal, therefore changing nice people into evil beings.

    That’s the assumption we are to supposed to make. However, no cause-and-effect is shown which was my complaint.

    I think the “show don’t tell” rule comes into play here. We were told “x,” “y,” and “z” about characters but often weren’t shown things. Showing Cob causing the problems would have been MUCH more effective than throwing out some problems and leaving it to the audience to just assume he is the cause of all the problems.

    damnit, i think my message was badly editied. erghhh Im always doing this >.<

    I think it was OK but that’s just me. ^_^

  6. O-chan says:

    Um…yeah. This is probably the only blatant example of Ghibli milking the cow. Of all their works I’ve seen this is the only one that came off as very sophomoric. Even the one’s where you could debate their qualities (Pom Poko, My Neighbors the Yamadas, pretty much anything not by Miyazaki, heck even some of his own newer movies) they had something redeeming and timeless about them. But this movie just overall came off as pedestrian and I feel sorry this was Miyazaki’s son first outing as a director. Oh well, if Disney could produce a few beautifully animated stinkers I guess it’s high time Ghibli did as well.

  7. junior says:

    ——————-
    I understand this movie completely.
    I have also never read Tails of Earthsea.
    ——————-

    Whether or not you’ve read Earthsea is irrelevant when figuring out how well you might be able to understand it. That’s because it’s only marginally more connected to Earthsea than it is to ‘See Spot Run’. From what has been written about it, it has even less in common with its “source” material than George Clooney’s “Ocean’s Eleven” remake had with the Rat Pack original (which is an amusing flick in its own right, but is completely different from the remake). Those two films at least had 11 guys and a casino robbery in common (and quite literally nothing else – the remake focuses on setting up the heist, while the original opens with the heist and focuses on the attempt to get the money out of Las Vegas). The Elder Miyazaki has a well-deserved reputation for modifying the stories that he adapts to the screen. But his son changes so much in this production that the only resemblance between what’s on the screen and what’s in the books are some character names and occupations. If the name ‘Earthsea’ hadn’t been in the title, it’s doubtful that anyone would have thought there was even the remotest possibility of a connection between the two.

    In short, familiarity with Earthsea isn’t going to help you understand the movie.

  8. AstroNerdBoy says:

    Um…yeah. This is probably the only blatant example of Ghibli milking the cow.

    My understanding is that Miyazaki-sensei wanted to do this for a long time but when Studio Ghibli finally scored the rights, he was busy and so just had his son do it. As you said, this was his son’s first outing as director and I think it shows. He still had the visual touch of his father but not the story touch.

    The Elder Miyazaki has a well-deserved reputation for modifying the stories that he adapts to the screen.

    Including his own manga, which I’m still trying to secure three volumes of Nausicca but since it is apparently out of print, I’m not having much success. I’m REALLY interested in seeing how he adapted his seven-volume manga for anime form (well, seven volumes is what Viz released it as in large format).

    In short, familiarity with Earthsea isn’t going to help you understand the movie.

    I’ve got the first novel in the basket to go in with an order of manga in April.

  9. emichii says:

    i didn’t really like this movie. a friend rec’d it to me, and i just didn’t like it.

    i feel like the pacing was terrible, the story kinda-made-sense-but-didn’t-quite-get-there. and they threw in all these things to make it into a typical fantasy adventure story, but it didn’t all tie together very well.

    so i figured, as a typical fantasy, adventure story with a travelling sword-carrying-kid, perhaps someone without high expectations- like kids- would enjoy it. but i watched it with my kid brother and he was not very impressed, so i felt bad since i persuaded him to watch it with me.

    the thing this movie has going for it is the animation and the art, which is gorgeous, of course. but the characters and the story- it really didn’t do it for me.

  10. AstroNerdBoy says:

    i feel like the pacing was terrible, the story kinda-made-sense-but-didn’t-quite-get-there. and they threw in all these things to make it into a typical fantasy adventure story, but it didn’t all tie together very well.

    Yep, that’s true.

    the thing this movie has going for it is the animation and the art, which is gorgeous, of course. but the characters and the story- it really didn’t do it for me.

    Which reminds me, I did buy the first novel but still haven’t taken time to read it. ^_^;

    • WMC says:

      I agree with the consenus above. Pretty disjointed story with absolutely gorgeous art. I’ve watched it several times just to see that great, nasty villian, Cobb, melt into atoms at the end.

      • WMC says:

        For some reason all the nonsequitors, starting with Arren’s murder of his father for no obvious reason to the audience, have never mattered to me. Strangely. Usually, my science-educated scepticism would revolt. It’s just another mysterious fantasy that glows off the screen because of the fabulous artwork. I’ve watched it more than once with the sound off just to savor it.

        • AstroNerdBoy says:

          As an aside, I’m stunned this article started trending. It is the first time I’ve seen it do so. I wonder why. Well, I took the time to fix all the images so…^_^

      • AstroNerdBoy says:

        I bought the first novel just to get the real story’s start, but I never have gotten around to reading it. ^_^;

        • WMC says:

          I’ve always assumed it’s an example of why it’s difficult to movie-fy a novel. There’s usually way too much story to get it all in. It would be good to know Miyazaki’s exact complaints to his son.

          • AstroNerdBoy says:

            In this case, it was more than a novel. I guess parts were taken from the first two or three novels. ^_^;

  11. WMC says:

    Ah. Now I get a lot more of your content on my Android cell phone! Black background, full color title page, etc. Excellent.

    • WMC says:

      Shoot. Must have a mistake by someone. I’m back to the streamlined version on my cell. White background, but a bare bones title page, etc. Nothing important missing, however.

      • WMC says:

        Now I get it. Transformation in progress. Sorry for the unnecessary, gratuitous grumps. Looks great now.

        • AstroNerdBoy says:

          No problem. Not having a smart device (well, I was just assigned a Blackberry from work), I’ve never seen my site on a mobile device, so it is interesting to hear how things look.

      • AstroNerdBoy says:

        I wonder if the mobile support plugin I have installed did that. I think it could make it white. ^_^;

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      I haven’t changed a thing. ^_^;;;

      Well, that’s not true. I took the opportunity to fix the images, which should have cleared the cache page.

      • WMC says:

        Pretty cool machines. Keyboard, from which this text is created, rotating and text-justifying screen, high density color pictures, built in hd camera, very fast net access, thousands of “apps,” very quick RAM and at least 32gb memory, a finger or stylus used as a mouse, and most importantly, portability. I use mine half of the time that I use my PC.

        Suddenly, the responder’s icons on this Android cell phone have all been Lego-ized! (Most of the 0-1 pixel-code erased), but all the rest remains unchanged. My icon, which was rhe grey “anonomous,” is now a bright red and black, blocky, almost unrecognizable Godizra. Curious. More curiouser is that transient appearance of your black background and color detail on this cell yesterday. This panel for creating the reader’s comments has the usual black bg, but all the rest of your blog appears with a white bg.

        • WMC says:

          Godzira. (Godzilla) I don’t know the hardware/software cocktail that Android/Motorola uses, but what they now put in a 5 by 2.5 inch cell phone is impressive. I bought it with the intention of using it as a computer, not as a phone, and it works great that way. A new PC with the right stuff would be faster with more memory, but not enough to make much differrence. I like the small memory chips that you can switch in and out.

          • AstroNerdBoy says:

            Personally, I could never replace my smoking PC and smoking laptop (with the power of a PC) by tablets or phones. ^_^;

        • AstroNerdBoy says:

          It has to be a combination of the plugin and the real site. 🙁 I did get a look-see on my newly issued Blackberry. I wasn’t too happy with things since it was mixed there. I’m betting anything that there’s some sort of conflict with caching and the mobile plugin. *_*

          • WMC says:

            On my personal computer now. All is good. Maybe I even like the red Godzira (or is that a pug dog face?), also now on my PC. I’m happy, even with the snickering I can hear all the way over here from my comments above about cell phones. Don’t care. I think they’re cool, and the stuff they can’t do that a PC can does not interest me. But I wish the virtual keyboard had a “delete-forward” key. The differences between PC and cell phone screen appearance of a site isn’t important to me either, really. As long as enough information appears somewhere.

            The cell phone alteration of sites appears to be random. I see some sites changed and some exact reproductions, and it’s not obvious to me which is better. But I do like your black beauty pages because the color pictures contrast so well with it.

            I’ve always loved Alan Turing’s remark that the best/only way to talk to a computer is with another computer. Essentially that means we must speak their language (zero-one code), understanding that a bleeping human somewhere wrote that bleeping code.

          • AstroNerdBoy says:

            On my personal computer now. All is good.

            Cool. ^_^

          • WMC says:

            Sorry I can’t help. And yeah, for fast text and fast switching nothing beats rockin and rollin on a physical keyboard.

          • WMC says:

            One more snivel: now on my Android cell phone the commentary text only uses the middle third of the screen! The body of the text becomes inconveniently loong and narrow. Hard to read. I thnk the PC generated text does that. New phenom.

            PC looks good.

  12. WMC says:

    Hah. On my mobile, and tapped your “View entire site” footnote. [Was that always there?] So now I get an apparently exact version with black background, dates in the right place, and bright personal icons. Excellent. I see no difference between my PC and Android mobile. I’ m curious to see if this Android cell phone generated text remains justified properly. That is, wide enough to fill the column and not elongated to almost one word per line! :o)

  13. WMC says:

    Jeez. I’m supposed to be a fast learner, but it took me until now to figure out that after four indents in your texts, my cell phone elongates it to fit the screen when the screen is vertical. Turning it horizontal “justifies” the text to fill out the wide screen! Not narrow as per my previous plaint. Happens so fast as to be apparently instantaneous, and I rarely use the screen horizontally. My apologies. I didn’t know all this before, so I spent your time learning it. Sorry. :o(

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Now that I’m on W3-Total-Cache, who knows how this will or will not jack up things. ^_^; It has improved performance though.

  14. WMC says:

    Your site works great on this end now. I perceive that your sublinks from my bookmarks update automatically when they’re tripped, like Weather Underground’s. Not so on some sites. Very convenient!

    Yes, I know that computers write a lot of code, but traced back far enough we find a diabolical homo sapiens at the keyboard. I’m really anticipating developments in parallel execution sequences. Should make AI more feasible, but unless MIT and Cat Tech have has gone dark, we still have a long way to go.

    Now that I look at it, “Godizra” is funnier than “Godzira.” :o)

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Good to know that things look good on your end. I’m still making tweaks, thanks to the new caching I have going on.

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