Studio Ghibli Production
On Friday I managed to wangle myself into a first showing of Studio Ghibli’s newest venture; Tales From Earthsea, (originally a fantasy novel of wizards and witches by novelist legend, Ursula K. Le Guin). It was apparently made in around half the time of ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’, (two of the more popular Ghibli productions). And possibly because of this the film resembles some of the earlier Miyazaki works, ‘Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind’ and ‘The Castle of Cagliostro’.
Like the older Ghibli films there is excellent use of light and shadow, simplistic and natural like animation instead of the intricate detailed animation of more recent films.
The character designs are simple yet very effective, the evil wizard Cob was especially haunting and sinister, perfectly voiced by Willem Dafoe. Timothy Dalton’s gentle yet powerful vocals also don’t disappoint, providing a sort of gravity to his character Sparrowhawk.
The film appears to have been taken from one episode of the series of tales (there are four), where Sparrowhawk is the central character. Where Sparrowhawk encounters and befriends a seventeen-year old prince, called Arren, who then rescues a mysterious girl, named Therru.
The story begins within a civilised society men seem to live in peace with each other. However soon dragons (who don’t co-exist with humans and are seen as threatening) are spotted. After a meeting between the King and his ministers about the dragons and state of the city, Arren, the King’s son, kills his father and steals his sword.
At this point, Sparrowhawk saves Arren from a pack of wolves, but Arren appears to be possessed.
Together Sparrowhawk and Arren visit a city, where Arren meets Therru as she is trying to escape from a scrap; she shuns Arren though, leaving him confused. Therru is probably one of the best characters in the story, gentle but strong willed, mysterious yet loving. They meet later coincidentally and she slowly becomes friendlier towards him. It takes her a while to let him talk to her but when she finally does, she grows to be powerfully loyal to him, eventually coming to his aid in a massive and slightly disturbing climax.
The story develops quietly and fluidly, its not as fast paced, as some of Ghibli’s other films, and it’s not a bloodbath action anime for those who might be expecting another ‘Princess Mononoke’. Tales from Earthsea is gentle and poignant, and like all the other Ghibli productions there is a moral at the end, but it’s so beautifully done, and so well written, you feel warm, impressed and your faith in brilliant storytelling is restored.