Tales From Earthsea

Tales From Earthsea Directed by Goro Miyazaki

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was so excited when I found Goro Miyazaki’s “Tales from Earthsea” on Netflix streaming and I just finished watching it. What a highly unexpected movie. Now I kind of understand the mixed reviews that it got.

When I first heard that Studio Gibli was making a Tales of Earthsea movie, in 2006, (I can’t believe it was so long ago now) I was stoked. I am a HUGE fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies, yes I drove my mom crazy watching “Warriors of the Wind” as it was called back when Nausicaa was first cut by 30 mins and dubbed in English in 1984. When Princess Mononoke came out in 2002, I drug whom ever would go with me to see it I was so happy to see another Miyazaki movie actually being released in the theater. Now, of course, I own all his DVDs.

I’m also a big fan of Ursula K. Le Guin, author of the Earthsea series and other great science fiction and fantasy books. I read and listened to unabridged recordings of all of the Earthsea books when I was in high school. I loved them. Ged/Sparrow Hawk is the first Harry Potter in my opinion. Le Guin had created an imaginative magical world where people both loved and feared wizards and magic. I loved the concept of magic being part of knowing the “true names” of things and how people needed to take responsibility for their magical skills. Apparently Ged’s shadow is a more sophisticated enemy than Voldemort for Ged’s adventures never really took off like Harry’s did.

So you can imagine my excitement when “Tales from Earthsea” was going to be a Miyazaki film, even if it was going to be Hayao’s son. Since Princess Mononoke, it usually took about a year for any Studio Gibli film to come out in the states after being released in Japan. I eagerly waited for the opening of the film and was disappointed to find out that the earliest the movie could be released in the US was 2009 due to a contract with the Sci Fi Channel regarding Tales of Earthsea rights (this was all legal jargon I didn’t really understand, but whatever). In my wondering of the internet, I found a blogpost by Ursula K. Le Guin that disheartened me from rushing to purchase the movie when it finally came out on DVD. This was the first time I hesitated in my blind faith of the greatness of a Studio Gibli film.

Now, after all that background, I had a difficult time at the beginning of the movie because I spent more time trying to figure out if this was supposed to be a movie about Ged or a completely different story all together. Fortunately, I only remember the flavors of Earthsea and not details (it was over 15 year ago that I read those books), so once I realized this was supposed to be a story within the Earthsea setting I was able to relax and try to enjoy the movie for what it was. Unfortunately, I found there to be gaps in the story and character development. Though there were characters from Earthsea in the movie they were secondary to who the movie was about, which I found to be more typically Japanese rather than from Earthsea.

The animation itself was as stunning as I expected and many of the costume design and look of the movie is reminiscent of Nausicaa and Castle in the Sky.

I have to give Tales of Earth Sea a 3 out of 5 star rating over the usual 4-5 of other Studio Gibli films. I enjoyed the movie and I liked the ending, but it was too choppy and I feel the story could have been fleshed out more.

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The Looking Glass Wars

The Looking Glass Wars (The Looking Glass Wars, #1)The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a creative look on the Alice in Wonderland story. Alyss Heart is an imaginative princess who is put through extreme circumstances. The way that Beddor turns Lewis Carroll’s crazy, other-worldly characters into something tangible and realistic is ingenious. All of the characters of the story that we all know are repositioned in this story with lively, real, and unexpected personalities. Each character major and minor are well rounded with hopes and dreams. They all evolve into their own unique character that supports this new world of “white and black imagination.”

The young princess is impulsive and impatient just like most pre-teens. She has fun and enjoys the company of her friend Dodgson (Dodge), sometimes I think there may be something there for both of them, but we’ll see.

When her mother’s castle is attacked by the evil Queen Red, Alyss is forced to flee. As the heir to the thrown, she holds the key to the future of white imagination, but she gets trapped in Victorian England and lives an alternate life of Alice Little until many years later she if found by her bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, and Dodge.

Alyss is put through the test of her identity. Is she the true queen of Wonderland? First she is challenged to adapt to our world, where he is a nobody with no real identity and her powers of white imagination quickly fades into memory. Then the is challenged again when she is finally able to return to her world and face the ruthless Queen Red.

I found the progression of the story quite entertaining and unexpected.

I look forward to reading the next book of the Looking Glass Wars series.