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Ongoing Investigations: Case #096

August 27, 2010

Tales from Earthsea only just hit U.S. shores for general release this August due to conflicts over the name rights. But that isn’t the only reason you may not have heard of this movie, Goro Miyazaki makes his directorial debut and it is a poor showing to say the least. As the film opens we see dragons battling and are introduced to the concept that the balance of the world is off, it is further revealed much of this is being caused by the dangerous Lord Cob. That is about all the explanation you get for the plot of this movie. It is a world of magic (though it is dying out), castles, royalty, dragons, and wanderers. We meet Arren, Sparrowhawk, Therru, and Tenar in quick succession as troubling happenings seem to plague Arren’s journey with Sparrowhawk. But all of this, from characters to the pacing of the film to the dub, is flat, flat, flat. Arren is unsympathetic because there is never any moments where you really come to understand his point of view and his relationship with Therru develops unevenly at best never really making you believe the eventual bond between them. Most of the history of characters is just thrown out to you through poorly planned exposition, such as when we learn how Therru came to stay with Tenar. Though Tenar and Sparrowhawk fare a little better but only because they have an established, though minorly told, history together. The ending battle scenes and dialogue unfortunately elicited snickers and out loud laughter from not just myself but others in the audience. I think the only scene that had any real magic is when Arren tells Therru his “true name” which was rich, atmospheric, and tender. I really wanted to like this movie, and I want to believe Goro Miyazaki can develop as a director, but it was hard to keep the faith by the end of the film.

hisuicon Sadly Tales from Earthsea was the train wreck that it has been made out to be. Part of me was hoping that people were unfairly trying judge Goro Miyazaki first efforts as a director in comparison to his father’s work. But the reason that this move gets panned so much is it is just riddled with major flaws. The plot is poorly paced, will often make inscrutable twists, and is often just uninteresting. Most of the characters were either banal or annoying. The dialog is clunky so that at points characters will drop a line that seems to come completely out of nowhere. Sparrowhawk and Tenar were fine for the most part but they never came close to being able to prop up the plot. The worst part in my opinion is Arren is an unsympathetic character. When you actively dislike the main character you should have an idea that the show is going nowhere very quickly. The dub did not help the film at all but you can tell that the source was terrible so the dub had little to work with. Tales from Earthsea certainly looked like a Studio Ghibli film but it had none of the heart or artistry of a proper Studio Ghibli film. The only really positive thing I can say is it made me interested in reading the original books just to see what his mess was based on.

Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated episode 7 was a riot! The series was already playing very tongue-in-cheek with its characters’ personalities but as Fred starts to realize his feelings for Daphne the humor gets turned up a notch. Culminating for me when Fred is talking to himself, “Be a man! You’re dead inside, you’re dead inside.” The mystery itself has much humor from the rhyming phantom to Daphne’s transformation into a rock star. This episode was also a throwback to The Witch’s Ghost movie where we met the Hex Girls band, but I also felt it was referencing The Disco Demon TV episode in ways as well (and the fact that I can recognize that is a bit frightening). There was also a great chase scene, a classic for Scooby and Shaggy, of them going in and out of doors and bunks with the villain, though it takes a more sinister twist by its end. No new clues from Mr. E this episode but really a memorable and fun installment nonetheless.

hisuiconI finally got around to watching Bamboo Blade after some subtle pressure from OGT of Anime wa Bakuhatsu da! fame. I had really enjoy what I had seen of it in Yen Plus and so I deiced that I would watch the series on Hulu. The anime ended just as strong as the manga started and I was pleased as punch with the series overall. The cast is extremely enjoyable and hooks you rather quickly into being enchanted with their stories. Kirino won me over right out of the gate. At first I thought that Tama was sort of dry and boring but once you get to know her you see there is a lot more going on with her and she becomes infinitely more interesting. Miyako hooks people as she is a good source of humor as her and Dan are hysterical. Her little side car bike for Dan makes the whole series worth the price of admission. Sayako is really amusing once you get up to her and she really plays well off of Kirino. I have no proof but I have to assume that the yuri fanboys ship Kirino and Sayako like there is no tomorrow because that is a no brainer. Satori show up pretty late in the series but rounds out the team nicely. One of the best things about the anime is they knew exactly where to end every episodes so you really wanted to watch the next episode. They rarely ended them on nail-biting cliff hangers but they always ended on some point where you were emotionally hooked a need to know what was going to happen next. It is just a good sports show that know how much to build up the characters and the opponents so that you care about what happens when they go to matches. It’s a great show that goes far beyond whatever moe hooks you might assume the show is initially about. Also they drop some great Macross: Do You Remember Love references so it can’t be bad.

I read a couple more chapters (9-10) of Kingyo Used Books thanks to the IKKI website. The 9th chapter is a funny romp about a guy who only collects manga in order to sell it for a profit. The story starts with him saying there are only two types of manga, manga that sell and manga that don’t sell. Through some rather hilarious encounters he realizes the value of manga beyond monetary value. Chapter 10 is less fun, but has one of the best endnotes yet about Miyazawa Kenji: Mangakan a collection of short and original stories that housed the most prolific manga-ka of the times. This series continues to be unique and true to the author’s love of manga.

hisuiconAfter all the drama at Saint Paul’s Academy Candy starts her nursing arc in Candy Candy 51-73. Candy decides to follow Terry back to America but since she does not have any money she spends several episodes trying to get overseas. After several misadventures she eventually gets back to Pony’s home but quickly find that she needs to find something to do. She eventually find her calling and goes to nursing school. With Sister Pony’s helps Candy gets into the Merry Jane Nursing school. I found it interesting that during this arc we don’t have any villains. This of course means that Eliza is nowhere to be found during this arc. Merry Jane is super strict but kind and nurturing towards Candy. Candy’s roommate Franny is an ice queen but she is never evil. She just has a big old stick up her bum for the rules. While Candy faces some hardship and has to learn to deal with the possible death of the people under her care she does well at school. But eventually the World War I catches up to them and Candy and her class are sent to Chicago to learn to be surgical nurses for the war effort. This was an interesting arc as it gave Candy some real focus in her life and really has transitioned her character into being a young adult. There is very little time for romance and Terry is often mentioned but only in passing. Candy Candy is still staying strong in having a strong continuing narrative but keeping the story fresh every arc.

Well, at least the visually were fairly good. So the pic of the week is from Tales from Earthsea:

4 comments

  1. Check out Ursula K. Le Guin’s response to the movie:

    http://www.ursulakleguin.com/GedoSenkiResponse.html


    • I remember her reaction making the rounds when the movie first came out. Sometimes artists can be overprotective of their works and not understand why an adaption need to change and still good. In this case she is utterly spot on in her comments.

      – Hisui


  2. I was actually looking forward to seeing this film in a theater quite a bit, and was really let down when it turned out to not be playing anywhere near me at all. Fortunately, I feel a little less disappointed after reading this review. Maybe I’ll catch it on DVD someday.


    • If you can watch it through Netflix streaming it would be fine or just as a rental when you have nothing in your queue. IMHO the lower your expectation the better.

      – Hisui



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