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Tales from Earthsea


Japanese release poster

Directed by Gorō Miyazaki
Produced by Toshio Suzuki

Tomohiko Ishii

Screenplay by Gorō Miyazaki

Keiko Niwa

Story by Hayao Miyazaki (concept)
Based on Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
Starring Bunta Sugawara

Junichi Okada Aoi Teshima Yuko Tanaka

Music by Tamiya Terashima
Editing by Takeshi Seyama
Studio Studio Ghibli
Distributed by Toho (Japan)Walt Disney Pictures (International)
Release date(s) *July 29, 2006
Running time 115 minutes
Language Japanese
Budget $22 million
Box office $68,673,565[1]

Tales from Earthsea (ゲド戦記 Gedo Senki?, lit. 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, published in 2001. The plot is "entirely different" according to the author Ursula K. Le Guin who told director Gorō Miyazaki, "It is not my book. It is your movie."[2] The film is inspired by Hayao Miyazaki's manga The Journey of Shuna.



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, one of which is killed by the other.

The King of Enlad, already troubled by tales of drought and pestilence in the land, 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 "balance". The King has little time to ponder on this before he is fatally stabbed 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 while his father dies from the wound inflicted on him.

The action now moves to the desert where Arren is pursued by wolves, and rescued by a wizard who turns out to be Sparrowhawk (Ged) the Archmage. Arren accompanies Sparrowhawk and travels to the city of Hort Town. Arren goes to explore the town alone, suddenly becoming scared as if something is following him. While running, Arren sees a young girl, Tehanu, fleeing from slavers from whom he saves, although he also shocks her with his indifference to the life of any person, even his own.

Later in the evening Arren is captured by the slavers but loses his sword as the head slaver believes it to be worthless junk. Arren is rescued by Sparrowhawk from the slavers, and they travel to a farm where Therru is looked after by a woman, Tenar, whom Sparrowhawk has known.

The head slaver ("Hare") reports back into a castle to Lord Cob, a powerful wizard and the ruler of Hort Town, and almost pays with his life for the loss, until he tells Cob that Sparrowhawk freed the slaves. Cob orders him to bring Sparrowhawk to the castle. At the farm, Sparrowhawk reveals that he is investigating the cause of the Balance being upset and leaves for Hort Town, where he discovers that the sword Arren had is in a merchant shop. Sparrowhawk is then confronted by Hare, but transforms his face to disguise himself. When the slavers leave, he buys the sword.

Arren, at the retreat, reveals to Therru, who gradually accepted him, that he killed his father and that he is scared of the unknown presence following him. Later he leaves in secret. Tenar is captured by 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, who is a copy of himself, and runs away, falling into a lake and falling unconscious underwater. Cob, who sees this, 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 the sword, telling her to stay and give it to Arren if he returns. He goes to the castle to save Tenar but instead finds Arren, who tries to kill him, but fails. Sparrowhawk tells Arren that death is natural and that no one can live forever causing Arren to realize what he almost did, before being captured as his power is weakened within the stronghold of Cob's castle.

Therru sees the copy of Arren and follows him to the castle, where he reveals he is the light within Arren. He tells Therru his true name and says while he cannot go into the castle, he will be with her at all moments. Inside of the castle, Therru finds Arren, guilty and full of hopelessness, and brings hope back to him by saying his true name, breaking Cob's control over him. She also tells him her true name, Tehanu. Both go to rescue Sparrowhawk and Tenar from Cob who is about to throw them off a high tower. After fighting and scaring off Hare and the slave traders, the sword that Arren possesses finally unsheathes, revealing that this is due to its magical nature, and he cuts off Cob's hand, which flies away still holding his staff, rendering him unable to use magic. Cob turns into a grotesque old man, due to the loss of his magic. Cob, after reattaching his severed hand, captures Therru and flees to the highest tower on the castle, with Arren in hot pursuit. Cornered, Cob strangles Therru to death. However, she does not die as she has eternal life, and instead becomes a dragon, thus killing Cob by burning him alive and rescuing Arren from the collapsing tower that Cob destroyed to prevent Arren from advancing.

Therru and Arren land at a field where Therru reforms as a human. Arren tells Therru he will leave for home to repent for his crime, but will come back to see her sometime.


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 LeGuin 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 LeGuin'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.

Voice cast[]


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.[5]) 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."[6] 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 followup album, "Melodies from Gedo Senki", was released in 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.[7][8]

Reaction and box office[]

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,[9] pushing Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest to second place and became the number one movie in the country for five weeks,[10] until it was pushed out of the top spot when X-Men: The Last Stand was released.[11] 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".[12] 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..."[12]

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".[13]

The critical reception in Japan was also very mixed. By the end of the year of its release, Tales from Earthsea was awarded "Worst Movie" in the Bunshun Raspberry Awards, with director Goro Miyazaki being given the "Worst Director" award.[14][15]

As of September 2011, Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer shows a rating of 42% and recieved mixed reviews from critics.[16]

International releases[]

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 MPAA for some violent images, making it the first animated film distributed by Disney to receive a PG-13 rating, as well as the fifth of nine films, released by Walt Disney Pictures to be rated PG-13. 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.[17] Reviews were generally mixed. Radio Times suggested that it "lacks the technical sheen and warm sentimentality of some of Ghibli's earlier films",[18] while the Daily Mirror called it "ploddy, excruciatingly slow" and not in the same league as the work of Hayao Miyazaki.[19] However, Empire magazine said it was "well worth watching"[20] while The Guardian called it "An engaging piece of work"[21] DVD distributor Optimum Releasing released an English dubbed and subtitled, region 2 DVD for the UK market on January 28, 2008.[22] To mark the release, HMV ran frequent sponsor credits for the DVD, as well as a prize competition, on the AnimeCentral channel.[23]

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.[24]

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.


  1. ^ "Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  2. ^ Le Guin, Ursula K. (2006). "Gedo Senki, A First Response". Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  3. ^ "Article about the anime by Shuffle Alliance, a Taiwan anime club". Retrieved 2006-06-18.
  4. ^ Sankei Sports (14). " 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. ^ "Translation of Gorō Miyazaki's Blog (page 23)". Retrieved 2006-05-30.
  6. ^ "Translation of Gorō Miyazaki's Blog (page 32)". Retrieved 2006-05-30.
  7. ^ Ghibliworld, MEMORIES FROM GEDO SENKI WITH CARLOS NUNEZ, 19 December 2006
  8. ^ (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
  9. ^ Tales from Earthsea Tops Japanese Box Office[dead link]
  10. ^ Ranking at from 2006-08-15 (Japanese)
  11. ^ Box Office Japan's Weekly Statistics
  12. ^ a b Ursula K. Le Guin. "Gedo Senki, a First Response". Retrieved 2006-08-15.
  13. ^ Ursula K. Le Guin (2006-08-19). "Gedo Senki: Responses from Correspondents".
  14. ^ Earthsea Wins "Raspberry Award" - Anime News Network
  15. ^ IGN: 2007 Year in Review: Anime
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ "United Kingdom Box Office, August 3–5, 2007". Box Office Mojo. August 3, 2007. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  18. ^ "Radio Times Film Review: Tales from Earthsea". Retrieved 2007-09-11.
  19. ^ "Daily Mirror: Tales from Earthsea". Retrieved 2007-09-11.
  20. ^ Helen O'Hara. "Tales From Earthsea Empire Review". Retrieved 2008-02-15.
  21. ^ Peter Bradshaw (2007-08-03). "Tales from Earthsea - guardian review". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2008-02-15.
  22. ^ (UK) : Tales From Earthsea (Studio Ghibli Collection) (2 Discs) : DVD - Free Delivery
  23. ^ HMV Sponsorship
  24. ^ Madman Release Schedule

External links[]