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42 out of 58 people found the following review useful:
Ghibli Fantasy Lacks the Magic Touch, 31 July 2007

Although I am a fan of most Ghibli productions and Ursula Le Guinn's fantasy series, I could not help but feel disappointed at Ghibli's latest production.

Ghibli Studios has long been hailed as the Disney of the East, led by Miyazaki Hayao's leadership and captivating masterpieces (Totoro, Laputa, Nasuica, etc.). Even the more serious works by Takahata Isao had strong messages underlying every story (Pon Poko, Omoide Poro Poro, etc.). Miyazaki Goro's debut is a novice's work-in-progress and an apprentice's workshop exercise, at best.

The rearranging of Earthsea's storyline was interesting to figure out, but filled with flaws. The theme of Book 1 "A Wizard of Earthsea" was applied to a different character (Arren), whose prior mistake in life was not clarified well in terms of motive. Reference was made to Book 2 "The Tombs of Atuan" but without any hints that lend itself to proper character development (Tenar). Book 3 "The Farthest Shore" served as the drive for the main story but some major themes and fascinating western lands of the dragons were left out. Book 4 "Tehanu" serves a different purpose in the Earthsea series, especially for Ged, and so that theme was also not properly presented. In addition, the depiction and explanation of one of the main Book 4 characters, Therru, was lacking and so most audiences might be confused by the eventual ending of the Ghibli adaptation. However, Miyazaki Goro should be applauded at least for trying to adapt this legendary work into such a compact amalgamation.

Comparisons to the books aside, as an animated movie, the real problem with this production is that it fails to really capture the audience. Miyazaki Hayao had a sense of touch when it came to building mystery and creating curiosity among the audience regarding the storyline, while offering good pacing with action and character/story development. Even Takahata Isao's slower more serious stories had deep nostalgia built into his moralistic messages. Gedo Senki failed to capture the audience by building enough mystery, hence interest in the development of the story, or offering purposeful action scenes, or enriching the dialogue well enough to deliver a deep philosophical message behind the now already unoriginal existential questions for living. But, simply as a stand alone story, it falls flat. If these were done well, the story rearrangement from the original would add on to make Miyazaki Goro a genius.

Still, there is some value to this film. The music and song lyrics (Japanese version, at least) captured the essence of the original themes best. Fans of Earthsea and Ghibli, however, may get a kick from either trying to figure out the storyline rearrangement or identifying Ghibli icons that have shown up in past works. Other than that, it would seem like just a sub-par animated movie for TV.

1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Gory copout, 26 August 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie started out fine. The premise of the story was clear early on. The mood was tense and apprehensive. The setting was ideal for certain fears felt by the characters, and then by the audience. The characters were introduced early on, but I think I only remembered 2 or 3 names by the end of the story. The characters could have used some more depth.

The characters weren't the only flaw in the movie. Actually, things meant well for the first half, and then turned into an unnecessary gorefest in the latter half. I had some problem with this. The premise of the story turned on its head... there was no explanation or anything in the story to suggest the direction that the story took in the latter half. Not only was it stupid, it served no other function but to provide creepy crawlers to scare the characters (and the audience) until the end. That's all. The tension and fear in cave climbing took a backseat and suddenly we have an incredibly bloody night of the dead inside a cave. This deterioration, for me, was unforgivable. And that is why I rated this movie a 3. It reminded me too much of Freddie vs Michael, another mindless gorefest.

15 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
Kid Fantasy with a Good Message, 16 August 2006

This 2006 summer anime movie definitely had its moments, but remained naive at parts. I have heard, however, that those who have read the two-book fantasy novel appreciated the movie much more. Just for the record, I have not read the novel, but my wife tells me that the novel has more adult audiences while the movie seems to want to target kid audiences as well.

Visually, the art is nothing spectacular, albeit using soft pastel colors... fitting for this dream vision fantasy setting. There is one feel good pop theme song (Aquatimes?), as well as Wentz as one of the voice actors for the Japanese pretty boy fans (my wife and her mother).

The story takes a simple good-versus-evil formula and puts it in a surreal fantasy world representing two boys' personal struggles to cope with reality. I particularly like the adventure style that is lost in many fantasy pieces today (too busy showing off the visuals). I have the feeling the book is more detailed in this respect, and the anime seems to skip a few of the earlier adventures, I suspect, since there seems to be some holes in the story/character development. Despite that, my eyes were not entirely dry throughout the whole movie.

That said, there could have been more development in some areas... character development, relationship development, battle action, more use of creativity while in a fantasy realm (no doubt covered probably in the novel). For a more sophisticated audience, you might leave feeling somewhat unfulfilled.

As far as an anime for kids, it's got a good message and good enough characters to deliver that message. In the end, it is not bad at all, and if you are an anime fan, it's worth a look though it may be forgettable.