Prince Arren (Junichi Okada) murders his own father, the king of Enlad (Kaoru Kobayashi), and finds himself on the run. His life is saved by a stranger with mysterious powers by the name of Haitaka (Bunta Sugawara). The two decide to travel together and arrive at Hort Town, a place where everyone and everything is on the move. Haitaka explains to Arren that it's chaotic in Hort Town all year, and Arren is appalled to see that people are being sold as slaves. He also explains to Arren that the behavior on display in Hort Town is happening everywhere. The farmers crops are withering away, sheep and cattle are dying across the land, and it's as if the balance between life and death is at risk of being destroyed from all corners of Earthsea. While coming to the aid of a young girl by the name of Theru (Aoi Teshima), Arren is consumed by rage, as if something has taken over his spirit, making him disregard any concern for his life. He later finds himself at a disadvantage when the leader of the slave takers, Hare (Teruyuki Kagawa), and his men, overpower Arren and take him as a slave. Haitaka uses his magical abilities to find and rescue Arren, and upon doing so, takes Arren to an old friend's home where he can rest and heal his wounds. Tenar (Jun Fubuki) lives in a quiet country-side home with Theru, the girl Arren saved, whom she has cared for after taking her in five years ago.
The slave takers report to Lord Kumo (Yuko Tanaka) that the slaves had escaped, and the wizard with the scar was responsible. He instructs Hare to find Haitaka immediately. Arren and Haitaka have been staying with Tenar and Theru for awhile, and they work in the farms everyday. It doesn't take long for Hare and his men to find out where Haitaka is staying. Arren leaves the farm for fear that his uncontrollable rage will return and but the women in jeopardy. Now left alone, Tenar is abducted by Hare and his men. Hare leaves Theru so that she can inform Haitaka that Lord Kumo is waiting for him. After a run-in with his shadow of rage, Arren passes out in the marshes and is taken by Lord Kumo himself. Lord Kumo is obsessed with find ing eternal life, and he needs Arren in order to unlock the secret. Arren is brainwashed by Lord Kumo, and now Haitaka has to infiltrate Lord Kumo's castle in order to rescue Arren and Tenar. Once there, Haitaka's powers become useless and he is easily subdued. Meanwhile, Theru is on her way to Lord Kumo's castle, thanks to some guidance from a "friend". If she can find Arren, he just might have the strength inside to save himself and everyone else.
Tales from Earthsea is an excellent movie on a multitude of different levels. We're all aware that Studio Ghilbi puts out consistently good films, but this one was under the microscope more than others because it was the first time Hayao Miyazaki wouldn't be pulling the reigns. For the skeptics, you just have to be thankful that if it wasn't Hayao, who better to take over than his son Goro? I'm happy to say that the finished product is a film that gives you the same feeling previous Ghilbi movies have. You just know that you're watching something that people have put their blood, sweat and tears into. The animation is fantastic, as to be expected, with my only complaints being in the one or two occasions where they used CGI. However, in a time where animated films are done completely in CGI (at least in America), it's a minor nuisance and I'm just happy to be watching a "traditional" animated movie. The story is simple, but the underlying message is a powerful one: enjoy your life to the fullest, because it's the only one you've got. Without death, people wouldn't truly live, and we can't live our lives in fear, because we never know how much time we have left. Sure, it's a deep message, but it's absolutely correct and will ring true with everyone that watches. The soundtrack is also worth pointing out, as "Theru's Song", performed by Aoi Teshima (who also voices Theru), is really beautiful and adds to the already "epic" feel of the movie.
Even though Spirited Away still holds the number one spot for my all-time favorite Miyazaki film, Tales from Earthsea is a worthy addition to any Ghilbi fan's collection. (Lee)