Tales from Earthsea (film)

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Tales from Earthsea
Japanese theatrical release poster
Directed by Gorō Miyazaki
Produced by Toshio Suzuki
Tomohiko Ishii
Screenplay by Gorō Miyazaki
Keiko Niwa
Story by Gorō Miyazaki
Based on Earthsea 
by Ursula K. Le Guin
Starring Bunta Sugawara
Junichi Okada
Aoi Teshima
Yuko Tanaka
Music by Tamiya Terashima
Edited by Takeshi Seyama
Distributed by Toho (Japan)
Walt Disney Pictures (International)
Madman Entertainment (Australia)
Release dates
  • July 29, 2006 (2006-07-29)
Running time
115 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese
Budget $22 million
Box office $68,673,565[1]

Tales from Earthsea (Japanese: ゲド戦記 Hepburn: Gedo Senki?, literally Ged's War Chronicles) is a 2006 Japanese animated fantasy film directed by Gorō Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli. The film is based on a combination of plots and characters from the first four books of Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea series: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, and Tehanu; however, the film's title is named from the collection of short stories, Tales from Earthsea, made in 2001. The plot was "entirely different" according to the author Ursula K. Le Guin, who told director Gorō Miyazaki, "It is not my book. It is your movie. It is a good movie", although she later expressed her disappointment with the end result.[2]


A war galley is caught in a storm at sea. The ship's weatherworker is distressed to realize he has lost the power to control the wind and waves, but is more so when he sees two dragons fighting above the clouds, during which one is killed by the other—an unprecedented and impossible occurrence.

The King of Enlad, already troubled by tales of drought and pestilence in the land, as well as the news about people going insane, receives news both of the strange omen at sea and of the disappearance of his son, Prince Arren. The King's wizard Root tells the tale of how dragons and men were once "one", until people who cherished freedom became dragons, and men chose possessions; and of his fears of how the land's plight is because of the weakening of the world's "Balance". The King has little time to ponder on this before he is killed in a dark corridor by a young boy who is revealed to be his son Arren. The young prince steals his father's sword and flees the palace.

Later, the Archmage Sparrowhawk (Ged) arrives at the desert, where he witnesses Arren being pursued by wolves. He rescues Arren, who later agrees to accompany Sparrowhawk on his journey and travels to the city of Hort Town, where vendors scam people and slavers sell and trade slaves. Arren, after earning a cloak from Sparrowhawk, who buys it at a cloak vendor's stand, almost eats some Hazia from a Hazia dealer. Sparrowhawk stops him and tells him that Hazia is a drug that makes people hallucinate and then eventually die if they continue to eat it. Sparrowhawk returns to the inn while Arren goes to explore the town alone. Arren suddenly becomes scared, as if something is following him. While fleeing in fright, Arren sees a young girl with a burn scar on her face named Therru, fleeing from slavers and their leader, Hare. Although Arren saves her by fighting off the slavers, he also shocks her with his indifference to the life of any person, even his own, causing Therru to not trust him.

Later in the evening Arren falls asleep by the port and is captured by Hare and the slavers. Hare thinks Arren's sword is worthless junk and tosses it in the sea. Arren is rescued from the slavers caravan by Sparrowhawk. Together they travel to a farm where Therru is looked after by a woman named Tenar, an old friend of Sparrowhawk. Despite Therru's distrust towards Arren, Tenar welcomes the young prince with open arms.

Hare reports back to his master Lord Cob about the slaves' escape, and almost pays with his life for the loss, until he tells Cob that it was Cob's rival Sparrowhawk who freed the slaves. Cob orders him to bring Sparrowhawk to him at the castle. Back at the farm, Arren learns more about Sparrowhawk, Tenar and Therru's lives. Sparrowhawk tells Arren that he is looking into the cause of the upset of the Balance. He soon leaves the farm to return to Hort Town and investigate further. While there he discovers Arren's sword has been recovered and is on sale at a merchant's stall. Sparrowhawk is then confronted by Hare, but transforms his face to disguise himself. When the slavers leave, he changes back and buys the sword.

Arren finds Therru singing on a hill top and reveals to her that he killed his father and that he is scared of the unknown presence following him. Seeing that Arren is more gentle then she has previously thought she begins to warm up to him. Later, afraid of the evil he could attract to the ladies' farm, Arren leaves in secret. Tenar is captured by Hare and the slavers as bait to lure Sparrowhawk into the castle and leaves Therru behind tied to a post as a messenger. Arren is again pursued by the unknown presence, which is an exact copy of him, and runs away, stumbling into a marsh lake and falling unconscious underwater. Cob, who has been seeking Arren, saves him and brings him to the castle, where he manipulates him, saying Sparrowhawk wants to use Arren to discover the secret of eternal life. Cob blackmails Arren to reveal his "true name", Lebannen, to control him. Sparrowhawk, on the way back to the farm, encounters Therru, who freed herself, and gives her Arren's sword, telling her to stay home and give it to Arren if he returns. He goes to the castle to save Tenar but instead finds Cob, whom he confronts after evading Hare and the slavers. Sparrowhawk learns that Cob is causing the world's balance to collapse by opening the door between life and death to try and gain eternal life. After Sparrowhawk tries to warn Cob of the dangers of upsetting the Balance, Cob tells him he is "above nature." Cob then sends Arren out to kill Sparrowhawk, but Sparrowhawk stops him. As Sparrowhawk frees Arren from Cob's control, he tells Arren that death is natural and that no one can live forever causing Arren to realize what he almost did. Sparrowhawk is then captured by Hare and the slavers, as his power is weakened within the stronghold of Cob's castle. Sparrowhawk is then thrown into the same dungeon cell Tenar is locked in.

Meanwhile, Therru sees a copy of Arren and follows him to the castle, where he reveals he is the light within Arren. The reason Arren is afraid of his double is due of his fear of death and that Arren is going insane due to the darkness in his heart and due to the world's Balance collapsing. He tells Therru his true name and says while he cannot go into the castle, he will be with her at all moments. Inside the castle, Therru learns of Sparrowhawk and Tenar's sunrise execution by eavesdropping on Hare and the slaver's conversation. Therru then finds Arren, full of guilt and hopelessness, and brings hope back to him by telling him that life is beautiful and that death is part of the circle of life. She then tells Arren his true name and confides in him her own true name, Tehanu. They both rush to rescue Sparrowhawk and Tenar from Cob, Hare and the slavers, who are about to execute them by throwing them off a high tower. After fighting and scaring off Hare and the slavers, Arren confronts Cob, but Cob tries to kill him with a "Summoning Spell," but he fights back and then finally unsheathes his sword, revealing its magical nature. Arren then cuts off Cob's hand. With his hand and staff now gone, Cob can no longer use his magic powers. With his magic almost gone Cob begins to age rapidly and turns into a grotesque old man. He reattaches his severed hand and reveals that he wants eternal life because he doesn't want to die and that he wants revenge on the wizards of Earthsea and Roke for banishing him for trying to control the dead and become Archmage himself. Cob then captures Therru and flees to the highest tower on the castle, with Arren in hot pursuit. Cornering Cob, Arren tries to explain what he learned about life and death from Therru and Sparrowhawk to Cob, but Cob refuses to listen and using the last of his magic, strangles Therru to death. However, she does not die as she has eternal life, and instead becomes a dragon. Therru kills Cob and rescues Arren from the collapsing castle tower that Cob destroyed on trying to prevent Arren from advancing.

Sparrowhawk and Tenar leave the castle. Tenar wonders where Arren and Therru have gone. Sparrowhawk reassures her that they have Therru's dragon wings to guide them. Therru and Arren meanwhile land at a field where Therru changes back into a human. Arren tells Therru he will leave for home to repent for his crime, but will come back to see her some day.

In the epilogue, after Arren and Therru reunite with Sparrowhawk and Tenar, Arren and Sparrowhawk reconcile for fighting earlier. All four of them then pitch in to finish the farm chores and spend some time together like a family. Eventually, Arren and Sparrowhawk depart for Enlad, bidding Therru and Tenar goodbye. Therru then looks up to see dragons peacefully flying in the sky, indicating that the world's balance is back to normal as the Japanese writing meaning "The end" appears before fading to black and the end credits.



This feature film from Studio Ghibli is the first anime film adaptation of any part of the Earthsea series. In the past, many directors, including Hayao Miyazaki,[3] had tried to adapt the Earthsea cycle for film, but were disapproved by the author herself.[4] When Le Guin first heard of Miyazaki's interest in adapting her work, she had not seen any of his films and associated animation with the output of Disney; as such, she turned down his request. In 2003, after winning an Oscar for his film Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki received Le Guin's approval but was busy directing Howl's Moving Castle. Studio Ghibli head Toshio Suzuki decided that Hayao's son Gorō Miyazaki, who was advising on the film, should be given his first directing job for the adaptation. Hayao was dissatisfied with the decision, thinking that Gorō lacked the necessary experience. They reportedly did not speak to one another during production of the film, however Hayao later acknowledged his son's work upon its first preview."[5]


Studio Ghibli released the first and second trailers on its official web site. A 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.[6]) Theo Le Guin, Ursula K. Le Guin's son, viewed the Japanese trailer and said this of it: "The images are really beautiful. The song too, it's not like something from Hollywood, but felt really like Ghibli."[7] The trailers were made by Keiichi Itagaki, who had been responsible for trailers for all of the other Ghibli films up until then.


The soundtrack for Tales from Earthsea was composed and managed 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 is TKGA-503 and ASIN is B000FNNOTG. Carlos Núñez was a key collaborator on the soundtrack, contributing his ocarina, whistle and Galician gaita (bagpipe) to 11 of the 21 tracks. Newcomer singer, Aoi Teshima, sang in 2 of the tracks. A follow-up album, "Melodies from Gedo Senki", was released on 17 January 2007 and included unreleased Gedo Senki OST tracks and new tracks by Núñez. Its release code is SICP-1151 and its ASIN is B000HT1ZLW.[8][9]


The film reached No. 1 at the Japanese Box Office on its opening week with a gross of over 900 million yen, or 7.7 million USD,[10] pushing Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest to second place and became the number one movie in the country for five weeks,[11] until it was pushed out of the top spot when X-Men: The Last Stand was released.[12] The movie went on to be the #4 top grossing movie for the year in Japan.

Ursula K. Le Guin, the author of the Earthsea Series, gave a mixed response to the film in her review on her website. Le Guin commended the visual animation in the film but stated that the plot departed so greatly from her story that she was "watching an entirely different story, confusingly enacted by people with the same names as in my story." 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".[13] However, she stated that the comment disclosed on the movie's public blog did not portray her true feelings about the film's vast departure from original stories; "taking bits and pieces out of context, and replacing the storylines with an entirely different plot..."[13]

Le Guin's mixed opinion of the film is indicative of the 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 Le Guin'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".[14]

The critical reception in Japan was positive, but received mixed reviews when comparing it to the other Ghibli movies. Miyazaki was presented Japan's Bunshun Raspberry Award for "Worst Director", with Tales from Earthsea receiving the award for "Worst Movie", at the end of 2006.[15] The film was nominated in 2007 for the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year (losing to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time)[16] and was selected in the Out of Competition section at the 63rd Venice Film Festival.[17]

Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer shows a rating of 41%.[18]

International releases[edit]

Tales from Earthsea was released in a limited theatrical release on August 13, 2010, in North America by Walt Disney Pictures. In its American release, the film was rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for some violent images, making it the first and only animated film distributed by Disney to receive a PG-13 rating. It is also the second Studio Ghibli film to receive this rating after Princess Mononoke. The DVD release date was March 8, 2011. The film was released in selected UK cinemas on August 3, 2007, in both subtitled and English dubbed versions. The film was not released as widely as previous Ghibli movies, playing to 23 venues across the nation and making an unremarkable £23,300.[19] Reviews were generally positive, but received mixed reviews when it was compared to the past Ghibli films. Radio Times suggested that it "lacks the technical sheen and warm sentimentality of some of Ghibli's earlier films",[20] while the Daily Mirror called it "ploddy, excruciatingly slow" and not in the same league as the work of Hayao Miyazaki.[21] However, Empire magazine said it was "well worth watching"[22] while The Guardian called it "An engaging piece of work"[23] DVD distributor Optimum Releasing released an English dubbed and subtitled, region 2 DVD for the UK market on January 28, 2008.[24] To mark the release, HMV ran frequent sponsor credits for the DVD, as well as a prize competition, on the AnimeCentral channel.[25] 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 and ended up playing at locations in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth over the following months. It was notable that unlike previous Studio Ghibli releases, only a subtitled version was seen in cinemas. A 2-disc DVD was released on September 12, 2007 by Madman Entertainment, this time featuring both the English and Japanese versions.[26] In Spain, Tales from Earthsea (Cuentos de Terramar) premiered only in Madrid and Barcelona in two small theaters on December 28, 2007, only in a Japanese version with subtitles (an odd theatrical release compared to previous Ghibli movies). A single DVD and a special 2-disc DVD were released on March 12, 2008 by Aurum, this time with a Spanish soundtrack included.


A manga adaptation of the film has been published in Japan.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  2. ^ Le Guin, Ursula K. (2006). "Gedo Senki, A First Response". UrsulaKLeGuin.com. Retrieved September 4, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Article about the anime by Shuffle Alliance, a Taiwan anime club". Retrieved 2006-06-18. 
  4. ^ Sankei Sports (14 December 2005). "ジブリ新作は「ゲド戦記」!宮崎駿氏の長男・吾朗氏が初監督 (The Next Film from Ghibli is "Ged's War Chronicles": Son of Hayao Miyazaki, Gorō to Direct for the First Time)" (in Japanese). goo Anime. Retrieved 2006-10-08. [dead link]
  5. ^ See Nausicaa.net Goro Miyazaki's Blog.
  6. ^ "Translation of Gorō Miyazaki's Blog (page 23)". Retrieved 2006-05-30. 
  7. ^ "Translation of Gorō Miyazaki's Blog (page 32)". Retrieved 2006-05-30. 
  8. ^ Ghibliworld, MEMORIES FROM GEDO SENKI WITH CARLOS NUNEZ, 19 December 2006
  9. ^ (Japanese) Studio Ghibli, カルロス・ヌニェスのニューアルバムの発売決定!, 11 December 2006
  10. ^ "Tales from Earthsea tops Japanese box office". Madman Entertainment. Archived from the original on April 25, 2009. Retrieved November 17, 2015. 
  11. ^ Ranking at Eiga.com from 2006-08-15 (Japanese)
  12. ^ Box Office Japan's Weekly Statistics
  13. ^ a b Ursula K. Le Guin. "Gedo Senki, a First Response". UrsulaKLeguin.com. Retrieved 2006-08-15. 
  14. ^ Ursula K. Le Guin (2006-08-19). "Gedo Senki: Responses from Correspondents". UrsulaKLeguin.com. 
  15. ^ Earthsea Wins "Raspberry Award" - Anime News Network
  16. ^ Official website of the award. Archived.
  17. ^ Official website of the festival. Archived.
  18. ^ Gedo senki (Tales from Earthsea). Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on 2014-05-12.
  19. ^ "United Kingdom Box Office, August 3–5, 2007". Box Office Mojo. August 3, 2007. Retrieved December 30, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Radio Times Film Review: Tales from Earthsea". Retrieved 2007-09-11. 
  21. ^ "Daily Mirror: Tales from Earthsea". Retrieved 2007-09-11. 
  22. ^ Helen O'Hara. "Tales From Earthsea Empire Review". Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  23. ^ Peter Bradshaw (2007-08-03). "Tales from Earthsea - guardian review". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  24. ^ Play.com (UK) : Tales From Earthsea (Studio Ghibli Collection) (2 Discs) : DVD - Free Delivery
  25. ^ HMV Sponsorship
  26. ^ Madman Release Schedule

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]