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Something bizarre has come over the land. The kingdom is deteriorating. People are beginning to act strange... What's even more strange is that people are beginning to see dragons, which shouldn't enter the world of humans. Due to all these bizarre events, Ged, a wandering wizard, is investigating the cause. During his journey, he meets Prince Arren, a young distraught teenage boy. While Arren may look like a shy young teen, he has a severe dark side, which grants him strength, hatred, ruthlessness and has no mercy, especially when it comes to protecting Teru. For the witch Kumo this is a perfect opportunity. She can use the boy's "fears" against the very one who would help him, Ged. Written by
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Now listen to me, Aaren: No man nor any living thing in this world preserves their life forever. But only to men is it given to know that we must die, and that is a precious gift. This life that is both our torment and our treasure was never meant to endure for eternity. Life is a wave on the sea. Would you force the sea to grow still to save one wave? To save yourself?
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This is a surprisingly good film--and I'm not making the expected follow-on disclaimer, "...for a beginning director." This was a good film by anybody's standard.
Gedo Senki, or Tales from Earthsea, seems to be one episode of a series of tales where Ged (Gedo) is the central character. This 'episode,' then, would be about his encounters with a seventeen-year old prince, named Arren, and a mysterious young girl, named Therru. It's based on Ursula K LeGuin's Earthsea series which I must admit I have not read. I hope the film kept to the spirit of the original story and the author is pleased with the Ghibli presentation.
As the story breaks out, there are strange things happening. People seem to be lost in their purpose and dragon sightings are being reported. After a meeting between the King and his ministers on the topic, Arren, the King's son, assassinates his father and steals his sword. The first thing that hit my mind when watching the opening sequence was the somewhat low resolution background--most uncharacteristic for Ghibli films, which tend to be spectacular in color and detail. The color was there, but the detail looked like a watercolor in some images and paint by numbers in others. The foreground characters were slightly less detailed than what Hayao Miyazaki might have done, but they were not as distracting as the background.
At this point, Ged, who travels under the name Haitaka (the Japanese spelling of the name) encounters Arren in a battle with wolves. Arren seems possessed, and it takes a little time for Ged to calm him down. The voice actor for Ged is Bunta Sugawara, the gravelly-sounding voice of Kamajii in Spirited Away. The voice gives him the air of experience, age, and wisdom. While acted well, Bunta's voice seems a little on the old side for the character on the screen, who appears to be around forty.
The pair goes to a city where Arren chances across Therru as she is trying to escape some nasty soldiers. Therru is a completely fascinating character--and easily the best in the story. She is gentle, but very strong willed. When Arren saves her, she turns on him. They meet later coincidentally and she resumes her hostility toward him. It takes a while for her to warm up to him. When she finally does so, she becomes fiercely loyal to him.
The story develops nicely from there, though I can see it might not be fast enough for those who like lots of action all the time. Tales from Earthsea has some irretrievably evil characters, so the director's father, the great Hayao Miyazaki, would have rewritten the story and likely would have faced the ire of the original author.
Take a bow, Goro; you did good. I give this a nine out of ten rating.
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