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Anime / Tales from Earthsea

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Don't let this fool you. The movie is NOT about dragons.

Tales from Earthsea (Gedo senki, "Ged's War Chronicles") is a Studio Ghibli animated film based on the first, third, and fourth novels in the Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin, as well as Hayao Miyazaki's early storybook Shuna's Journey. The film was directed by Goro Miyazaki, the son of studio founder Hayao Miyazaki. The soundtrack was done by Tamiya Terashima who previously worked on Tweeny Witches.

While this film is covered under the Disney/Ghibli distribution deal, licensing issues with the SciFi Channel miniseries had prevented it from being released in North America. It finally hit US shores in August of 2010, with the dub cast featuring the likes of Willem Dafoe, Timothy Dalton, and Mariska Hargitay.

Tales from Earthsea provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Amalgamation: It's a mix of several of the books. Le Guin said what confused her most about the film was that she kept expecting it to follow one of the original plots. The storyline is taken mostly from The Farthest Shore with some elements of Tehanu and a little of A Wizard Of Earthsea. And a bit of Hayao Miyazaki's early storybook Shuna's Journey on top of that.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: A few things taken from the novels like the nature of Arren's shadow are not properly explained in the film.
  • Adapted Out: Orm Embar, Kalessin, the Children of the Sea and Therru's father.
  • An Aesop: Don't fear death, it's what gives life its meaning.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Tenar is disliked and distrusted for her magic by village women who still want free magic.
  • Bad Boss: Hare does not have it easy as Lord Cob's right-hand man. His boss nearly crushes his heart and tells him very bluntly that he's easily replaceable.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: While not quite as bloody as Princess Mononoke or Grave of the Fireflies, the film is quite surprisingly violent for a Studio Ghibli film. This went to the point of this film being the first animated film released under Disney to receive a PG-13 rating.
  • Burn Scars, Burning Powers: Therru has a large burn scar across the left side of her face she gained after her parents burned her. Near the end of the film, she becomes a dragon and uses her fire to kill Cob.
  • But Now I Must Go: Arren decides to return to Enlad to turn himself in for murdering his father, but he promises Therru that he will see her again.
  • Climbing Climax: Cob flees up a castle tower carrying Therru and Arren comes after him, even as Cob makes the masonry collapse.
  • Color-Coded Patrician: Arren's purple robe.
  • Cool Sword: Apparently, you need magic to draw it, so it gets one flashy action scene where the scabbard is enough, and another when it's not. Otherwise, it has one conspicuous failure in the opening sequence, and is understandably mistaken for junk.
  • Covers Always Lie: The poster above is supposed to make you think that the movie is about a boy who rides a dragon. Turns out the dragons in the film have a very minor role.
  • Deus ex Machina: Therru being able to turn into a dragon. This is given a very little foreshadowing: Root (the king's wizard/advisor from the beginning) mentions that humans and dragons used to be the same race, and when Sparrowhawk first sees Therru he remarks that there's something strange about her.
  • Disney Villain Death: Cob meets his end when he goes down with his castle as it collapses. And he burns alive the entire way down, thanks to Therru.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Lord Cob is indeed a man, though his long hair and makeup make him look quite feminine. He's even voiced by a woman in the Japanese version.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Cob is burned alive by Therru in dragon form.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: There is some in this film. For example:
    • In the opening, there are two dragons fighting each other, and the fight ends when one of the dragons tears the other's throat out (although no gore is shown, only a rather moderate amount of blood).
    • Later, when Arren's father, the king, is walking down a hall to his chambers, Arren sneaks up to him and plunges a knife into his stomach! The pool of blood leaking near him doesn't help either.
    • At the end of the film, once Arren finally unsheathes his sword, he charges at Cob and cuts his right hand off. The severed limb is laying in a pool of blood. However, Cob reattaches his hand.
  • Fantastic Drug: Hazia. It takes away pain and worries, but is highly addictive.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Arren rides what seems to resemble a fluffy, long-eared llama (which is still called a horse, for some reason). Riding beasts that resemble oxen also seem to be in use.
  • I Know Your True Name: The name is the thing, and the truename is the true thing. Know the truename, and you can control the thing.
  • I Lied: Cob, naturally. Hare also pulls this on two old ladies.
  • Immortality Immorality: The main bad guy dreams of being immortal. This is said to be against the balance of the world, as one having eternal life will make everyone else's life a living Hell as a side-effect.
  • Informed Deformity: Therru. In the original books she suffered from third-degree burns on her face. In the movie, the left side of it is somewhat redder than the rest of her skin, looking more like a port wine stain. Interestingly, slave-traders still call her ugly.
  • James Bondage: Played straight with Ged, not so straight with Arren at the same time.
  • Jerkass: Therru spends most of the film being very cruel and harsh to Arren. Even when he saves her from Hare and his henchmen, instead of thanking him, she coldly slaps him and runs off. Though it is justified considering that she witnessed him saying that life means nothing to him and dared Hare to stab her.
  • Karma Houdini: For all his repulsiveness, Hare gets away scot-free in the end. Subverted with Arren; he decides to turn himself in for killing his father.
  • Love Is a Weakness: Cob dismisses how Sparrowhawk comes into his stronghold to save Tenar as foolishness unbecoming of a mage.
  • Made a Slave: Arren is taken as a slave until Ged rescues him.
  • The Magic Goes Away: The film's main conflict is about the magic fading due to Lord Cob upsetting the balance of the world. Once Cob is destroyed and the balance is restored, the magic returns.
  • Mukokuseki: Le Guin, while acknowledging awareness that these characters look "stateless" to the Japanese, thought they looked too white. She was happy that there was variety to the tone and Tenar had Kargic/Nordic coloring.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The film opens with the same lines from “The Creation of Ea” that A Wizard of Earthsea does
    • Sparrowhawk’s boat the Lookfar appears in his first scene
    • Sparrowhawk has the facial scar from his encounter with the Shadow.
    • Sparrowhawk easily identifies a cloth claimed to be from Gont as a fake, nodding to the fact he hails from Gont in the books.
    • The Great House of Roke, the Wizard School of the books is mentioned.
    • Tenar mentions how Ged saved her from the Tombs of Atuan.
    • The confrontation between Cob and Sparrowhawk brings up the Dry Land and the Pelnish Lore, important elements from The Farthest Shore.
  • Noodle Incident: Cob and Sparrowhawk’s original confrontation over his abuse of the Pelnish Lore.
  • Not Himself: Arren's surprisingly violent attempt to dispatch the slavers without once drawing his sword.
  • One-Winged Angel: A heroic version. Towards the end of the film, Therru transforms into a dragon.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: They look like traditional Western dragons mostly, are creatures that chose "air and fire" when humans chose "earth and sea" and seeing two of them fighting and the beginning of the film is a sign that bad times are there.
  • Patricide: Committed by Arren in the beginning of the film, the reason for him running away.
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Therru and Arren. Therru's dress is a combination of pink and red, Arren has a blue tunic on for most of the movie.
  • Plucky Girl: Therru, after being brutally tied up by the soldiers, decides to go to the castle herself.
  • Portent of Doom: The sightings of dragons fighting is taken to be a sign that the balance of the world is greatly upset, perhaps irreparably.
  • Reused Character Design: Hare is the spitting image of Kurotowa from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and fulfills a similar role. His men resemble Torumekian soldiers. Arren's "horse" resembles Ashitaka's red elk Yakul.
  • Saharan Shipwreck: When we first see Ged he is walking among huge ships abandoned in a desert.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Arren murders his father for seemingly no reason at the start of the film.
  • Scenery Porn: It wouldn't be a Studio Ghibli movie without it!
  • Shadow Archetype: Inverted. Throughout the movie, Arren is pursued by a shadow in his form. As a matter of fact, the Arren we watch for most of the movie is actually Arren's shadow, and is fleeing in fear from the noble and courageous self he refuses to acknowledge, instead blaming it for all the violence and fear he's lived through.
  • Shrinking Violet: Both Arren and Therru show aspects of this.
  • Slave Market: The city to which Arren and Sparrowhawk arrive has a booming slave trade, and it's not long until the hero runs afoul of Hare and rescues Theru from the said slavers.
  • Slipknot Ponytail: Therru's hair-things come loose at the climax of the movie.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Both Yūko Tanaka (Japanese version) and Willem Dafoe (English dub) give Cob a very cold, whispery voice, and it really gets under your skin. Once he goes off the deep end, his voice becomes a lot more manic and loud.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Sparrowhawk lost his powers after his confrontation with Cob in the books, here he retains them thanks to not having to sacrifice his magic.
  • Tranquil Fury: Even as he's about to furiously take down Cob's men, Arren never raises his voice.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Cob gets a lot less sane—and less human—once Arren starts fighting back.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Arren's father, the king of Enlad, is only shown in the prologue before he is murdered by his own son.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Cob is...not a threatening name for a wizard.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Hare has no qualms in assaulting Arren when he's taking a nap.
    • Cob also applies, when he almost crushes Arren's heart with a spell. He even strangles Therru to death. She survives.
  • You Have Failed Me: Subverted as when Hare fails (by losing the slaves) he reveals an opportunity for something far more important to his boss (a chance to capture Arren) and is spared.