Tales from Earthsea

As much as I enjoyed many things about Tales From Earthsea when I first saw it, it’s taken about six years for me to watch it again. I put it off a few times. Even though I remember enjoying the beautiful Ghibli colours, especially in Hort Town, which is wonderful, I didn’t rush back.

tales-from-earthsea1I also loved Cob, both the way he was animated (in each stage of his character development) and the fantastic performance by Willem Dafoe. Almost as much as this, I enjoyed Sparrowhawk’s calm manner and the scenes at the farm, but in the end, this was a film that never quite came together for me.

cobAnd that reason was one of the protagonists, Arren.

Unfortunately, the film introduces him in a manner which ensures he is a completely unsympathetic character. From that point on (and this is very early in the film) I didn’t care about him as I should have – mostly because any motivation for his actions were not addressed until late in the film, and by then it was almost a moot point. I’d already made up my mind about him.

Which is a shame, because I understand that the direction of the film was fraught with tension, which doubtless contributed in some way to the issues as I see them. And it’s heartbreaking that Goro’s first film directing for Ghibli, wasn’t as strong as his follow up From Up on Poppy Hill (which I loved), and because it was sad to see a son strive and perhaps fail to meet his father’s expectations.

And for those curious about how the author of the Earthsea books, Ursula K. Le Guin, felt upon seeing the film – here is an interesting read. I feel like an author responding to criticism/adaptation of their own work is often risky, but she is both eloquent and respectful.

So, to sum up – an almost tragically flawed film with some wonderful elements.

From Up On Poppy Hill (update)

UPDATE: Finally got my hands on the latest Ghibli release!

It’s been nearly a year since I saw it and was keen to discover if it was as good as I remember, and in a word, yes! Really enjoyed it the second time around, though I wondered if the English voice cast didn’t sound slightly ‘older’ than the ages I imagined the characters to be. But, a minor quibble!

A couple of months ago I saw the new Studio Ghibli film From Up on Poppy Hill at the Reel Anime Festival in the wonderful Cinema Nova, Melbourne.

This isn’t a review exactly, so much as me mentioning that I really liked it, and cobbling together a few links. Due for an English-speaking release around March next year, it’ll be a bit of a wait to see it again.


From Up on Poppy Hill is a coming of age film set in post war Japan (in the Port of Yokohama). The animation is top notch with the colouring beautiful as ever and as is fairly often the case with Ghibli releases, the film is an adaptation of an existing manga.

It’s probably quite faithful to the source, but I can’t tell – though if it’s of the quality that Howl’s Moving Castle was, then it’s probably a great adaptation. In any event, you won’t need to know the original to enjoy this if you like the genre. It features an almost typical romantic plot and a good deal of humour, along with what is perhaps its strongest feature: a keen sense of nostalgia (which is aesthetic for me of course).

Being a period piece, it has a focus on the cultural details and day to day living that reveals the wonderful attention to detail that I love about Ghibli films. Part of this is the use of pop songs from the time, one from 1963, which I hadn’t realised was also a number single in the US at the time – is used to great effect in the movie. By Japanese crooner Kyu Sakamoto, it’s known as ‘Sukiyaki’ and you can read about it here and hear it here. (Sakamoto has a tiny cameo in the film too).


And finally, here’s a link to a preview. In short, this is another success from Studio Ghibli, and a much better outing for (relatively) new director Goro, certainly than his last adaptation, Tales of Earthsea. Really looking forward to seeing Poppy Hill again.

If you’ve had a chance to see the film let me know what you thought, or for that matter, any ghibli film you might have enjoyed!

Stay tuned for a review in September, of a film which I hope will be the highlight of the 2013 Reel Anime Festival in Melbourne, A Letter to Momo!

From Up On Poppy Hill

A couple of months ago I saw the new Studio Ghibli film From Up on Poppy Hill at the Reel Anime Festival in the wonderful Cinema Nova, Melbourne. This isn’t a review exactly, so much as me mentioning that I really liked it and cobbling together a few links. Due for an English-speaking release around March next year, it’ll be a bit of a wait to see it again.


From Up on Poppy Hill is a coming of age film set in post war Japan (in the Port of Yokohama). The animation is top notch with the colouring beautiful as ever and as is fairly often the case with Ghibli releases, the film is an adaptation of an existing manga. It’s probably quite faithful, but I can’t tell – though if it’s of the quality that Howl’s Moving Castle was, then it’s probably a great adaptation. In any event, you won’t need to know the original to enjoy this if you like the genre. It features an almost typical romantic plot and a good deal of humour, along with what is perhaps its strongest feature: a keen sense of nostalgia (which is aesthetic for me of course).

Being a period piece, it has a focus on the cultural details and day to day living that reveals the wonderful attention to detail that I love about Ghibli films. Part of this is the use of pop songs from the time, one from 1963, which I hadn’t realised was also a number single in the US at the time – is used to great effect in the movie. By Japanese crooner Kyu Sakamoto, it’s known as ‘Sukiyaki’ and you can read about it here and hear it here.


And finally, here’s a link to a preview. In short, this is another success from Studio Ghibli, and a better outing for (relatively) new director Goro than his last adaptation Tales of Earthsea. Really looking forward to seeing it again.

If you’ve had a chance to see the film let me know what you thought, or for that matter, any ghibli film you might have enjoyed!