Click here to return to the main site.

DVD Review

Tales From Eathsea
(aka Gedo Senki)
2 Disc Special Edition


Starring (voice): Timothy Dalton, Willem Dafoe, Matt Levin, Cheech Marin, Mariska Hargitay and Blaire Restaneo
Optimum Asia
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: PG
Available 28 January 2008

The crew of a ship, which is being ravaged by a raging sea, witness the appearance of two dragons from the storm clouds, which then devour each other. This is seen to be a terrible omen that the very balance of the world is collapsing and sets Sparrowhawk, a wizard, on his quest to find the source of the evil forces that are shaking the world...

Based on the series of books by author Ursula Le Guin, Tales From Earthsea (known as Gedo Senki in it's country of origin, Japan) takes place in a fantasy world of dragons and wizards.

Before I get down to reviewing this release I thought it best to briefly examine the history to the making of this movie, some of which is touched upon in the extra content on this DVD.

Originally, around 20 years ago, master anime director Hayao Miyazaki got in touch with Le Guin in order to try and secure the movie making rights. According to Le Guin (who details the history on her official website:, the only animation she was familiar with was Disney-like, which she disliked. Therefore, she turned down Hayao's offer to make a movie. Ironically enough, when the movie finally gets released in the US (not before 2009) it will be distributed by Disney.

A few years ago Le Guin saw Hayao's My Neighbour Totoro and instantly became a fan of his work. And, when she discovered that the Japanese translator of the later Earthsea books knew Hayao, Le Guin asked her to tell him that if he was still interested in Earthsea, she would love to talk about the possibilities of making a film.

When Le Guin and Hayao finally met he told her that if she'd agreed 20 years ago he would have jumped at the chance, but he felt he was too old to accomplish what he's always dreamed of - that and the fact he was aware that he'd already heavily borrowed elements from Le Guin's work.

However, when Studio Ghibli announced that Hayao's son, Goro, was to be given the movie to direct, Hayao was against it - to the point where he tried to have him taken off the project. Both Hayao and Le Guin have publicly stated their dislike for the movie (although the DVD has an interview with Goro, who claimed that his father did like the finished film).

The movie revolves around Arren, the son of a King, who kills his father in an unprovoked attack, steals his sword and runs away from their family home. When he is surrounded in the desert by wild wolves, Arren is saved from certain death by a wizard known as Sparrowhawk the Archmage.

The two travel to the town of Hort. While exploring the town alone, Arren rescues a young girl from a group of slave hunters. Later Arren himself is captured by hunters, but is soon rescued by Sparrowhawk. The two then make their way to a farm that is owned by a friend of Sparrowhawk - a farm that is also home to the young girl Arren rescued earlier.

The movie's underlying message about life and death could have been handled a little better. Goro does tend to beat the viewer over the head with it a little. Not only that but the revelation as to why Arren killed his father is not very clear. In the movie it's unprovoked, with Arren unable to offer an explanation, which seems very odd. While there is an attempt to explain it later in the movie, it doesn't work that well.

In all honesty, if you are a fan of Le Guin's series, then you'll probably have a difficult time recognising the characters in this film - hence the reason so many hardcore fans of the books are up in arms about the movie. However, if you are not familiar with the books, or appreciate the fact that this Goro has taken the Earthsea universe and moulded it into his own movie separate from the books, then you'll probably enjoy this film.

Another aspect I wanted to comment on was the soundtrack by Tamiya Terashima. A lot of the tracks raise the scenes up a notch - providing some much need emotion for certain sections of the film.

Audio options include English 5.1/2.0 or Japanese 5.1/2.0 (with optional subtitles) and the picture quality, not surprisingly, is nice and crisp.

Oddly enough, I think this is the first time I've ever preferred the English dub of a foreign film to the original. Timothy Dalton heads up the cast of some impressive voice actors and, listening to both soundtracks, I really did think that the English dub sounded a little more diverse in range.

Disc one includes the movie and Alternative Angle Storyboards (optional animatics for the entire movie).

Disc two contains the extras: NTV Special (44 min behind the scenes which examines how Studio Ghibli got the rights to make the movie; interviews with Junichi Okada (Japanese voice of Arren) and Aoi Teshima (Japanese voice of Therru) both of whom make their voice acting debut; a look at the Goro/Hayao relationship; and the retelling of the surprise appearance of Hayao at the premier screening); Behind the Microphone (48 min interviews and recording segments with the main Japanese voice actors); Original Japanese Trailer (3 min); and Studio Ghibli Collection Trailer (11 min look at various movie trailers).

I'm not entirely sure why this DVD was issued as a two-disc release (other than to give the appearance of value for money). The content would have easily fitted onto a single disc.

While this movie might not be how either Le Guin or Hayao envisaged it, this is Goro's take on the franchise. And, to be perfectly honest, he's turned out a pretty engaging movie. Le Guin shouldn't moan so much, it'll probably be responsible for providing her with a whole new audience that had never been aware of her books previously.


Darren Rea

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£10.98 (
£10.99 ( - Exclusive
Includes Exclusive Poster
£11.99 (
£11.99 ( - Exclusive
Exclusive DVD Sleeve Art Work
£16.99 (
£12.93 (
£12.93 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.