Tales from Earthsea - Blu-ray Review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 2 Old 01-31-15, 05:55 PM Thread Starter
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Title: Tales From Earthsea


HTS Overall Score:84

We’re back at it again with yet ANOTHER trio of Studio Chibli releases for you to enjoy from Disney/Buena Vista. “Tales from Earthsea” was released back in 2011 in the U.S. market on DVD only. I always found that a little weird since the other Chibli movies being released right around the same time were coming out on Blu-ray. Being a Blu-ray nut I remembered thinking that I would get around to watching “Tales” soon enough, but time and tide wait for no man and things got swept along with the tide. Now, 4 years later, Chibli is putting it along with a couple of other more forgotten titles out on Blu-ray so I can experience it for the very first time.

“Tales from Earthsea” is based upon a series of novels by American author Ursula K. Le Guin, and more accurately takes information from the 3rd and 4th novels in the series. This gives a lot of backstory to fit into a two hour movie, and unfortunately there’s a few hiccups in the storytelling as a result of that. Our story revolves around the mystical world of Earthsea, where the magic of the realm is slowly being drained away for some mysterious reason. The balance is out of whack, even the powerful dragons are turning on each other in this time of confusion. The powerful arch mage, Sparrowhawk, who is trying to find the cause of the mysterious loss of magic, crosses paths with a young man who is fighting inner demons of his own. This young man, Arren, is running from a past where he inexplicably killed his domineering father and ran off into the wilderness to hide. There the Arch mage runs across the young boy in need and takes him under his wing.

Sparrowhawk narrows the source of the magic drain down to a lone mage who still has his powers, a Lord Cob by name. Ironically, Lord Cob has his sights set on the young boy, Arren, who he feel can help him gain eternal life. This sets off a series of events that will bring Arren and Sparrowhawk into meeting a young waif named Therru, a girl that may hold more answers to the secrets of Lord Cob’s obsession than anyone though possible.

For the first and second act of the film I was puzzled as to why “Tales of Earthsea” was considered one of the weaker of the Studio Chibli films. However, when the third act unfolded I started to understand more and more. The problems come from trying to adapt a series of novels into one movie, especially considering the fact that the movie is based off of information from part way through the series. Many of the plot devices early on in the film just aren’t answered as well as they could be. For example, why does Arren fear his “shadow” self so much? Why did he even kill his father? What are his motivations? Also, the reason for Cob’s power, the background on the conflicts etc. All of these seem to be unfolding at a decent pace, but in the third act you realize that these are all points that you’re supposed to just accept at face value rather than be told in the story. As a result the movie leaves you with some questions and a feeling of being incomplete.

On the other hand, even a poor Chibli movie is still a good movie. I had a great time watching the movie unfold, even if there were some storyline muddling that happens along the way. The characters themselves are fascinating, and while Goro is not as nuanced and whimsical as Hayao, he has the ability to make villains that truly creep you out. The androgynous villain Cob is both terrifying as a domineering mage, but once his true form his revealed he can creep out even the hardiest of us. Something that Goro has demonstrated time and time again in his animated films. The movie keeps well within the PG guidelines until the third act when the violence level jumps up to the labeled PG-13 rating. There are some impressively dark scenarios, including a lesson on the uses and misuses of power and drugs. Also the inner demons of Arren make a great counterbalance to the wisdom and temperance that Sparrowhawk so obviously demonstrates.


Rated PG-13 for some violent images

“Tales From Earthsea” comes to Blu-ray with simply fabulous looking 1.85:1 AVC encoded image. The movie came out in 2011 on DVD, but the Blu-ray was delayed for some reason, however the film’s beautiful hand drawn animation looks superb on both formats. Lines are crisp and full, no DNR or digital manipulation to mar the animation in any way. Film grain is evident, but never oppressive and the natural look of the way it was transferred is stunning. Colors lean a bit to the softer sides, with most colors being a bit pastel shaded, even the primaries. There are brief moments (think the end scene with Therru) where some brilliantly bright primary colors burst through the soft color palette, but the majority of the film is a bit more subdued. Black levels are incredibly strong and leave nothing to the imagination, even in the darkest scenes. Overall it hovers just shy of perfection. An excellent video presentation to be sure.

I was EXTREMELY pleased to find out that the film retained the 6.1 Japanese track in full DTS-HD MA lossless glory, as well as the remixed 5.1 American track as well. A/Bing the tracks I have to say that they both to an exceptional job (if you can stand American dubs for Japanese Animation films), but the Japanese track edges out of the English one by a small bit. The voice actors seem more comfortable with the material, and several characters obviously are better translated with the native speaking actors. Dynamic range is incredible, as the track can go from soft and subdues to blazing in your face with the pounding of horses hooves accompanied by deep wallops of LFE. The surround use is amazing as I swore several times that the crickets chirping in the background were ACTUALLY coming from behind me down the hall. Footsteps would echo down a hallway with pinpoint directional queues, and the sounds of water flowing down a cliff sounds eerily accurate no matter the direction.


• Japanese Storyboards
• TV Spots and Trailers
• The Birth Story of the Film Soundtrack
• Behind the Studio: Origins of Earthsea


I can see why “Tales From Earthsea” is considered one of the weaker of the Studio Chibli titles. It suffers from some storytelling faux pas that hamper the movie it could have been. It is still a GOOD movie, but not one that rises to the echelons of greatness like so many other Chibli films. I certainly had a good time, even with the storytelling complaints and certainly see no reason not to check it out if you’re a fan of the studio. The technical presentation on the disc is awe inspiring and VERY much worth the upgrade to Blu-ray, and the extras are a solid port of the DVD features, which were already quite impressive. I would definitely give it a watch.

Additional Information:

Starring: Jun'ichi Okada, Aoi Teshima, Bunta Sugawara
Directed By: Goro Miyazaki
Written By: Goro Miyazaki (Screenplay), Ursula K. Le Guin (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Japanese DTS-HD MA 6.1, French DD 5.1
Studio: Studio Chibli/Disney
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 116 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 3rd 2015

Buy Tales From Earthsea On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Watch It

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post #2 of 2 Old 02-01-15, 07:32 AM
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Re: Tales from Earthsea - Blu-ray Review

Thanks for the review. I have this movie on DVD. I will have to update my version to blu for this movie as well. I didn't realize the movie was based on a series of novels by American author Ursula K. Le Guin. I will have to check those novels out as well. Thanks.

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