Tales from Earthsea (ゲド戦記, Gedo Senki?, loosely Ged's War Chronicles) is a feature anime film by Studio Ghibli. The film is loosely based on a combination of plots and characters from the first, third, and fourth books of the Earthsea series: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Farthest Shore, and Tehanu, all written by Ursula K. LeGuin. It was released in Japan on July 29, 2006, and to the rest of the world soon afterwards. It was directed by first time director Goro Miyazaki, son of Hayao Miyazaki. The movie A manga adaption of the film has been published in Japan.
The movie begins with a war galley caught in a storm at sea. The ship's weatherworker is distressed to realize that he has lost the power to control the wind and waves, but is even more disturbed when he observes two dragons fighting above the clouds, one of which is eventually killed.
Shortly thereafter the King, already troubled by tales of drought and pestilence in the land, receives news both of the strange omen at sea and of the disappearance of his son, Prince Arren. The King's wizard tells the tale of how dragons and men were once one, until dragons chose freedom and men chose possessions, and of his fears of how the land's plight is due to a weakening of the Balance. The King has little time to ponder on this before he is set upon and killed in a dark corridor by a young lad, who turns out to be his son, Arren. The prince steals his father's sword and flees the palace.
The action now moves to a desert where Arren is pursued by wolves and is rescued (despite refusing to defend himself) by a wizard who turns out to be Sparrowhawk the Archmage. During a conversation between the two, Sparrowhawk notes the magical nature of Arren's sword and expresses his doubt that Arren can unsheathe such a weapon.
Arren, not having any direction in Life, accompanies Sparrowhawk to the town of Hort. When he's left to explore the town alone, he suddenly becomes scared as if something is following him. As Arren runs away, he sees a girl fleeing from slave hunters. He intervenes and saves her, though his "bravey" is but a reflection of his death-wish and not truly an heroic act. The girl recognizes this at once and runs away from him and towards a woman's voice calling her name, Therru.
That evening, Arren is captured by the same slave hunter but loses his sword as the hunter believes it to be worthless junk. Arren is rescued by Sparrowhawk from the slavers by wizardry and Sparrowhawk apologizes for leaving Arren alone. They travel to a farm which, Arren learns, is run by a friend of Sparrowhawk - a woman named Tenar, whom Sparrowhawk rescued from the Tombs of Atuan (the second book in the Earthsea trilogy which is unexplored in the film). Arren also learns that Therru lives with Tenar, as her ward.
Hare, the head slaver, reports back to Lord Cob and almost pays with his life for the loss of Cob's slaves, until he tells Cob that Sparrowhawk freed them. Lord Cob orders him to bring Sparrowhawk to the castle. At the farm, Sparrowhawk reveals that he is investigating the cause of the Balance being upset and returns to Hort where he discovers Arren's lost sword in a shop. Sparrowhawk disguises his face when Hare is near and, thereby, avoids capture. When the slave hunter leaves, he buys the sword.
Arren continues to have unsettling dreams and visions of an evil presence following him and reveals to Therru that he killed his father. Later, fearful that his presence will bring harm to Tenar and Therru, he leaves in secret. Hare and his lackeys capture Tenar who is held hostage in order to lure Sparrowhawk into the castle, leaving Therru behind tied to a post as a messenger. Arren is again pursued by the unknown presence and runs away, falling into a lake. Lord Cob scribes this via magic, and saves him only to manipulate him by telling him that Sparrowhawk is using Arren to discover the secret of eternal life. Cob persuades Arren to reveal his true name, Lebannen, which Cob uses to keep Arren subservient to his wishes.
Sparrowhawk finds Therru and gives her Arren's sword, telling her to give it to Arren if he returns. He then goes to the castle to save Tenar but finds Arren there who tries to kill him, but fails. Sparrowhawk is captured and imprisoned with Tenar, his wizard powers weakened within the stronghold of Cob's castle.
Therru encounters Arren's doppelganger and follows him to the castle, where he reveals to her that he is the light of Arren. He tells Therru his true name, but says he cannot go into the castle with her. Inside the castle, Therru finds Arren and tells him her true name, Tehanu. Both go to rescue Sparrowhawk and Tenar from Lord Cob who is about to throw them off a high tower. Having come to understand the nature and true purpose of wizardry, Arren is able to unsheathe the magical sward and with it, cuts off Lord Cob's hand, which flies away still holding his staff, rendering him unable to use magic. Cob becomes withered and disfigured but has enough strength to capture Therru and flee. Arren follows and Cob kills the girl in front of him. She doesn't die but, instead, transmutes into a winged dragon that kills Cob and rescues Arren from the collapsing tower that Cob destroyed in order to prevent Arren advancing. Tenar and Sparrowhawk are saved, too.
Therru and Arren fly away and finally land in a field, where Therru returns to human form. Arren says he will go back home to face his crime, but will come back to see Therru in the future.
This feature film from Studio Ghibli is the first anime film adaptation of any part of the Earthsea series. In the past, numerous directors have attempted to adapt the Earthsea cycle for film only to be refused by the author herself. Hayao Miyazaki had desired to create an anime version of the cycle, before he made Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. In 2003, after winning an Oscar for his film Spirited Away, he received approval but was busy directing Howl's Moving Castle. On behalf of Studio Ghibli, his son Gorō Miyazaki took charge of this film adaptation.
- Producer: Toshio Suzuki
- Assistant Producer: Tomohiko Ishii
- Original Story: The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Screenplay: Goro Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa
- Storyboard: Goro Miyazaki
- Music: Tamiya Terashima
- Art director: Youji Takeshige
- Animation director: Takeshi Inamura
- Assistant director: Akihiko Yamashita
- Color Design: Michiyo Yasuda
- Image Director: Atsushi Okui
- Theme Song Composition: Akino Arai and Hisaaki Hogari
- Theme Song Lyrics: Akino Arai and Goro Miyazaki
- Theme Song Performance: Aoi Teshima
- Animation Production: Studio Ghibli
- Director: Goro Miyazaki
- Distribution: Toho
- Produced in cooperation with Tokuma Shoten, Studio Ghibli, NTV, Disney, Hakuhodo, Dentsu, d-rights and Toho
- Ged: Bunta Sugawara
- Prince Arren: Okada Junichi
- Therru/Tehanu: Aoi Teshima
- Tenar: Jun Fubuki
- King: Kaoru Kobayashi
- Queen: Yui Natsukawa
- Cob: Yuko Tanaka
- Hare: Teruyuki Kagawa
- Vendor: Mitsuko Baisho
English Voice Cast
- Ged/Sparrowhawk - Timothy Dalton
- Cob - Willem Dafoe
- Arren - Matt Levin
- Hare - Cheech Marin
- Tenar - Mariska Hargitay
- Therru - Blaire Restaneo
- Jeff Bennett - Root, Advisor #1
- Suzanne Blakeslee - The Queen
- Kat Cressida - Greek Gypsy
- Pat Fraley - Weapon Salesman, Advisor #2
- Brian George - The King
- Jess Harnell - Hazi Dealer
- Tress MacNeille - Old Woman
- Kevin Michael Richardson - Ship Captain, Slave Trader #2
- Mark Silverman
- Russi Taylor
- Grant George - Slave Trader #1, Soldier
- Jessica Gee-George
- Steve Kramer - Slave Transport Driver
- David Lodge - Slave Trader #3
- Liam O'Brien - King's Guardman
- Tara Platt
- Terrence Stone
- Karen Strassman - Castle Maid
- The three-minute Japanese trailer was first shown in Japanese cinemas starting Saturday 24 February 2006. It was aired on NTV on 23 February 2006 (the day the trailer was completed.)
- The trailers were made by Keiichi Itagaki, who has been responsible for trailers for all the other Ghibli films up to now.
- Theo Le Guin, Ursula K. Le Guin's son, viewed the Japanese trailer and said about it "The images are really beautiful. The song too, it's not like something from Hollywood, but felt really like Ghibli."
Studio Ghibli released the First Trailer and Second Trailer on their official web site.
The Earthsea soundtrack was overseen by Tamiya Terashima and was released by Tokuma Japan Communications and Studio Ghibli Records as a multichannel hybrid SACD-CD on 12 July 2006. Its release code was TKGA-503 and ASIN was B000FNNOTG. Carlos Núñez was a key collaborator, contributing his ocarina, whistle and Galician gaita (bagpipe) to 11 out of 22 tracks. Newcomer Aoi Teshima sang in 2 of the tracks. A followup album, "Melodies from Ged Senki", was released in 17 January 2007 and included unreleased Ged Senki OST tracks as well as new tunes by Núñez. Its release code was SICP-1151 and its ASIN was B000HT1ZLW.
Reaction and box office
The film reached No.1 at the Japanese Box Office on its opening week with a gross of over 900 million yen, or approximately 7.7 million USD, pushing Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest to second place and became the number one movie in the country for five weeks, until it was pushed out of the top spot when X-Men: The Last Stand was released. This number is a large opening gross by Japanese moviegoing standards due to Japan having some of the highest admission prices in the world, which makes people shy away from theater trips. The movie went on to be the #4 top grossing movie for the year in Japan.
Ursula K. LeGuin, the author of the Earthsea Series, gave a mixed response to the film in her review on her website. LeGuin commended the visual animation in the film but complained that the plot and the content had been changed drastically. She also praised certain depictions of nature in the film, but felt that the production values of the film were not as high as previous works directed by Hayao Miyazaki, and that the film's excitement was focused too much around scenes of violence. Her initial response to Goro Miyazaki was, "It is not my book. It is your movie. It is a good movie."However, she was unhappy that the comment was disclosed on the movie's public blog.
LeGuin's mixed opinion of the film is indicative of overall reception of the film, particularly in Japan. In Japan, the film found both strong proponents and detractors. Many of the opinions can best be summed up in a response to LeGuin's comments on her website, that the weak points of the film were the result of "when too much responsibility was shouldered by someone not equipped for it."In the UK, the film was not released as widely as previous Ghibli movies, playing to 23 venues across the nation and making an unremarkable £23,300. Reviews were generally mixed. Radio Times suggested that it "lacks the technical sheen and warm sentimentality of some of Ghibli's earlier films"., while the Daily Mirror called it "ploddy, excruciatingly slow" and not in the same league as the work of Hayao Miyazaki. However Empire magazine said it was "well worth watching" whilst The Guardian called it "An engaging piece of work" The movie at year's end in Japan was awarded "Worst Movie" in Bunshun's Raspberry Awards, which presided over by a panel of 32 movie critics. Goro Miyazaki also won the "Worst Director" award.
Licensing problems are in the way of a North American release of Ged Senki, with the Sci-Fi Channel, which released the miniseries Legend of Earthsea in 2004, currently holding the rights to the property. Under the current situation, the film cannot be released earlier than 2009, when the miniseries is called off, in which case Sci-Fi's rights expire.
The film was released in selected UK cinemas on August 3, 2007, in both subtitled and English dubbed versions. DVD distributor Optimum Releasing released an English dubbed and subtitled, region 2 DVD for the UK market on January 28, 2008. To mark the release, HMV ran frequent sponsor credits for the DVD, as well as a prize competition, on the AnimeCentral channel.
In Australia, Tales from Earthsea premiered in Brisbane on April 15, 2007. The film began a single print tour of major cities on April 25, 2007, currently scheduled to play at locations in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth over the coming months. A 2 disc DVD was released on September 12, 2007 by Madman Entertainment.
In Spain, Tales from Earthsea (Cuentos de Terramar) premiered only in Madrid and Barcelona in 2 small theatres on December 28, 2007, only in Japanese version with subtitles (An odd Theatrical release compared to previous Ghibli movies). A Single DVD and a Special 2 disc DVD are to be released on March 12, 2008 by Aurum, this time with Spanish track included.