Studio Ghibli films is famously directed by Hayao Miyazaki. And for good reason, I mean, he’s amazing in almost every piece of animation he touches. However, in this case, Gedo Senki ,which can be roughly translated to “Tales From Earthsea”, was directed by Hayao’s son: Gorou Miyazaki. For sure, I would say it is as bad as a lot of its viewers make it out but, first of all, I’d like to applaud Gorou’s efforts in his attempt to direct in a way fitting for a Ghibli title. I don’t think he should be put down for not quite reaching his Father’s standard but should be celebrated as someone who probably did a better job at directing than most veteran directors in his first try. And yes, this was his first official work as director.
But as bad as Gedo Senki could be, the one thing I felt was preserved, albeit not really built upon as it should’ve been, was the fictitious world that you can obviously tell has a lot going on yet nothing at all. For whatever reason, Gedo Senki is, conceptually, an anecdotal story inside a world of many happenings. This was the crux that should’ve been the selling factor for this entire series but, oddly enough, it hardly felt like they built upon any sort of history. The one thing we got was that humans and dragons lived in harmony as “one”, whatever that means.
I should mention that this was the opening cinematic to the film. Two dragons appear in the middle of the sea; fighting it out and one gets wounded and then the king of Elad gets word that dragons were sighted by a crewship. So, he takes a walk and chats about it with his “Wizard Root”..? Which, I think it is just another way to say “Court Wizard”. We should probably just call him the court wizard. Anyways, that’s the last mention of dragons until, like, almost the very end of the movie. Thankfully or maybe unfortunately, you kind of forget it very quickly because right after this conversation; where they even bring up the fact that the king’s son is missing. His son turns up right behind him and just gives his Daddy a good ol’ shank! They later confirm that the king died from his wound but nobody cares anyways. The son’s name is Arren, except, it isn’t and we’ll get to that.
We’re not really given a thorough explanation of why Arren killed his Father. The whole idea is that he has this split personality but it isn’t very clear if it is a split personality. He just kind of gets really angry randomly and super aggressive. For whatever reason, this doesn’t present itself as a huge problem later on. In fact, the uh… “Ghost” of said personality almost finds solace for some odd reason. It doesn’t exactly explain that either. I am guessing because the “real” Arren started to “care about life” thanks to Therru (Teru, in case you’re wondering how it is pronounced). Except, her name isn’t Therru but we’ll get to that.
Ged, the bloody archmage; the strongest wizard in all the lands runs right into Cob’s trap and finds himself held captive along with his lover, Tenar. They make it pretty clear they have storied history. To shed more light upon the “Arren finds enlightment through Therru” part, they do this sudden cinematic where they’re standing atop a hill near the house Therru and Tenar lives in and as the waves crash against the rocky shore; a dragon, that we later find out is actually Therru, flies above their heads. This is where you’re supposed to remember that this movie opened with hinting at Dragons being a huge story element of some kind; which left me kind of confused for the rest of the movie. Well, more confused than I already was. Cob chokes Therru to death while Arren is hanging from his sword that got stuck inside stone. Except, she doesn’t get choked to death. This is the scene where she slowly stands up, reveals she has a sharingan and also reveals that she’s a dragon. And that’s really all you need to know about that. Granted, I think this was an effective way of giving Therru’s backstory some leverage. We only had words to define what happened between Therru and her Mother but what we didn’t know was that Therru was the dragon in the start of the film and the dragon she was likely battling against was her Mother.
Therru gives Arren a ride back home on her back and completely forgets about Ged and Tenar who end up walking the entire way. Mind you, Tenar had to have Ged lean on her shoulder because Ged was injured. You can probably tell I am super pissed at Therru; the little bitch! Although, somehow, Ged and Tenar get there not long after Therru and Arren do. Which is kind of immersion breaking; I’d imagine a fucking dragon flying is much faster than a middle-aged woman partly carrying a middle-aged man. Yet, they get there almost on par with the speed of a flying dragon. I feel the need to dwell on this more than I should but… eh, fuck it.
That’s really it. They wave goodbye as Ged and Arren set out to travel once again. Tenar and Therru continue to work on the farm and they have no real discourse over the fact that Therru’s a FUCKING dragon bro! Not even a sheer mention of how metal that shit is! But that wraps things up. Thanks for your time… Oh the names! Right. So, like, Arren and Therru have “true names”. Arren’s true name is “Lebannen“ and Therru is “Tehanu“. As you can imagine, it isn’t clear why this is even a thing. Apparently Cob needed him to confess his true name to gain immortality bla bla… Actually, I wanna talk about that scene for a moment. Cob, a random stranger who’s probably gay, let’s be honest, stands bedside to Arren; gives him a drink and tells him “don’t worry it’s not poison”. Arren drinks it. What? Bro… What kind of stupid mental fuckwit do you have to be to actually be that stupid.
Ah, the names! Ok, so… I thought about it for a little while and I conceived it was some sort of ancient law or unspoken rule that dictates that you need to hide your true name and use a replacement name in your regular day-to-day lives. Then, I realized maybe that’s too much of a stretch. But for the life of me, I do not understand this. Ged’s also called “Sparrowhawk” but I think that’s just a nickname. I don’t wanna assume there’s a Mother ,even in fiction, that would name their son “Sparrowhawk”. It is unthinkable. It seems to me that’s a nickname. So, are these the only two people with “true names”? There’s no indication that other beings we’ve seen have true names.
We can safely say that there’s much to be desired in the writing department but it still left me wondering. Right in the corner of my mind; a phrase so devilishly apparent popped in: “I bet it’s better in the manga”. Except, this didn’t feel like anything a Japanese person would make. Gedo Senki had major fantasy western vibes, just by looking at it anyone could tell. I clashed my fingertips against the keys on my keyboard to find that it is a series of American novels written by Ursula K. Le Guin and Gedo Senki was an attempt at adapting parts of the 4 books while, strangely, also including some of The Journey of Shuna, a manga written by Gorou’s Father, Hayao Miyazaki which was published back in 1983. To be clear, it’s mainly mentioning a lot of the story elements, not necessarily a retelling of a story that you might find inside of Le Guin’s series of books. This was to the extent that Ursula felt the need to clarify to Gorou that because the plot is “entirely” different that it is “his” movie and not “her” book. She goes more in-depth in her critique of the film in her blog. An insightful read, might I add.
As proud as I am of Gorou Miyazaki’s direction and neat depictions of the creatures and landscape of Earthsea; I would’ve liked to see him do smaller, less challenging films for Studio Ghibli before Hayao let him take this up. The context, of course, was that Hayao was thinking about retirement at the time. But given that Gorou doesn’t seem interested in following in his Father’s footsteps in the animation world, I wonder if this was an attempt by Hayao to motivate his son.
Nonetheless, I’ve said all that’s on my mind. I wanted to end this year strong so I hope you enjoyed this. This Anime Prince wishing you a Happy New Year! Except, my name isn’t Anime Prince… But we’ll get to that.