Tales from Earthsea: Limited Edition (Gedo senki) (Studio Ghibli Collectn) (2006)

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Released 12-Sep-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Storyboards-Feature Length (Alternate Angle)
Featurette-Making Of-NTV Special (43:53)
Featurette-Making Of-Behind the Microphone (47:33)
Theatrical Trailer-Japanese (2:51)
Trailer-Studio Ghibli Collection
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 110:40 (Case: 115)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Goro Miyazaki
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Junichi Okada
Aoi Teshima
Bunta Sugawara
Yűko Tanaka
Teruyuki Kagawa
Jun Fubuki
Takashi Naitô
Mitsuko Baisho
Yui Natsukawa
Kaoru Kobayashi
Case Gatefold
RPI $34.95 Music Tamiya Terajima
Yôji Takeshige
Naoya Fujimaki


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    "Long ago, dragons and men were one. But men who coveted possessions chose the land and the sea. Dragons, who wanted freedom, chose wind and fire. Since then, Dragons and men remained apart. The twilight that threatens us is ever deepening."

    The population of Earthsea are a jittery, superstitious lot. It's not all that surprising, given that their world was once a haven where man and Dragon lived in harmony. Recent times have been different though, with sickness, famine and social uncertainty abounding, all while the youth indulge in drugs and live like zombies in the alleys. Farmer's crops mysteriously fail while the kingdom of Enlad boasts a gorgeous green landscape. There's more going on here than meets the eye, and those in power suspect someone is attempting to unbind Earthsea's finely tuned natural balance.

    We're soon introduced to Arren, the Prince of Enlad, just as he stabs his father, the King, and flees justice - taking his father's magic sword with him. Destitute and on the run, Arren crosses paths with Sparrowhawk, a grand wizard who is also on the road searching for the source of the land's unnatural disturbance. The two strike up a friendship and find themselves in Hort Town, a picturesque seaside township rife with drugs and forced slavery. Could this village be the source of the disturbance? The pair befriend Therru, a young girl who was being targeted by slave merchants, and take respite at the farm where she lives. Sparrowhawk learns that a rival wizard in a nearby castle wishes to open a gateway between the living and the dead, a move that could tear the very fabric of existence as they know it.

    We follow Arren's plight as he wrestles with inner demons that threaten to make his life misery. Ultimately, the future of their world will hinge on Arren's relationship with Therru and the young Prince's vital redemption from a gaping pit of self loathing.

    Tales From Earthsea is an epic fantasy tale of wizards, magic, folklore and destiny. There are a great deal of messages contained here for a contemporary audience, particularly regarding drugs and the environment. It's not really an animated film for the little-ones, unfortunately. There is some violence, severed limbs and rape innuendo that would certainly not be ideal viewing for young kids.

     I'm not really familiar with the Earthsea series of novels by Ursula K. Le Guin, so I can't comment on how faithful this adaptation manages to be. A TV miniseries was made several years ago, but was openly criticized by the author. This Ghibli film, however is said to be based on the third novel in the Earthsea series. As far as Ghibli films are concerned, this is an impressive effort considering this marks the Director's debut. The animation style is undeniably Ghibli, with superb characterisations and fantastic, mythical creatures. I found the emotional aspect of the work a little awkward in comparison to other Ghibli films, so this may be one area where the director needs to develop a bit more confidence in the material.

    A considerable amount of the extras on this disc are dedicated to the introduction of Director Goro Miyazaki and a dissection of his relationship with his dad. Not surprisingly, Goro grew up to be a great illustrator, but tried to avoid his calling by working in the construction industry for many years. He was later hired to manage the Ghibli museum without a shred of experience in the field and it became a roaring success. It was inevitable that he would fall into the animation side of the business, and the person most opposed to his appointment as Director of this film was his own father. This seems to have caused great friction between the two men, as Goro admits that the two didn't exchange a single word throughout the production, nor did they cross paths, even though they were employed at the same studio. You'll have to watch the Nippon TV special to see how things turned out between father and son.

    An impressive English voice cast has been assembled for our dub, with Timothy Dalton, Willem Dafoe and Cheech Marin rounding out an ensemble of formidable talent. The Japanese dub differs considerably, being comprised of many first-timers and amateurs. One of the key male roles is in fact voiced by a woman in the Japanese dub, which is a fantastically eerie creative decision in my opinion.

    Tales From Earthsea is an enjoyable fantasy tale, with obvious parallels that permeate the entire fantasy genre. The series has been around for decades, and its influence on everything from Star Wars, to Harry Potter, to most of the Ghibli catalogue can be readily seen. This adaptation is a worthy addition to the Ghibli canon, one that marks the debut of a director to watch.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer preserves the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement. Past Ghibli DVD titles were cursed with considerable windowboxing - thick black bars on all sides of the frame. There are no such shortfalls in this transfer, the left and right sides of the image are tight to the frame, while thin black bars are present top and bottom to maintain the 1.85:1 aspect.

    While the image is pretty good by anyone's standards, there are a number of issues present that prevent this transfer from being magnificent big-screen viewing. The most prevalent artefact throughout the transfer is unsightly jagged edges, defacing what should be smoothly drawn lines of animation. These are visible in every scene, but one of the most obvious examples can be seen on the ship's open sail at 6:52.

    Both the feature and an alternate angle of storyboard artwork (some would call it a storybored) are authored on disc one, which would undoubtedly limit the encoding space available for the feature bitstream. This has resulted in compression artefacts, appearing as grain around detailed objects and the occasional moment of MPEG blocking, such as the detailed view of the ocean waves at 101:51. Compression noise can also be seen in expanses of a single colour, particularly on character's cloaks and uniforms.

    Black levels are deep and inky when appropriate, without any obvious noise in the darker moments.

    This film sports some of the most gorgeous painted backgrounds I have had the pleasure of seeing in animation, and their vivid colours are transferred very nicely here. MPEG compression issues aside, there are no rendering inconsistencies or bleeding colours to be seen.

    An optional English subtitle stream is available and is comprised of a yellow font with a black outline. The text is a bit too large and it differs slightly to the English language dub, so I would guess it must be a translation of the Japanese soundtrack.There are Americanisms present in the text, and the first few opening lines give credit to Buena Vista, so we can safely assume where these subtitles were derived from.

    This disc is dual layered (DVD9), however I was unable to locate the position of the layer break.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two soundtracks accompanying this film on DVD. The default soundtrack is English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), while the film's original Japanese dub (also Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s) can be accessed on the fly or via the setup menu. I listened to the Japanese audio in its entirety and sampled the English in a few key scenes for comparison.

    This film was screened theatrically with dts-es and Dolby Digital EX audio, but the soundtracks we have on disc are not flagged as such. I found that when I forced EX processing via my amp, quite a bit of activity could be heard in the rear center effects channel, particularly surround effects such as wind and creaking ship noises during the opening scenes. I noted that the Japanese audio seemed to direct a more weighty signal to the rear center, slightly fuller and more enveloping than the English.

    This is the first disc I have reviewed with the Pioneer Phase Control logo on the box. The blurb states that "the technology enables high-grade 5.1ch with no delay in the bass area". The logo is situated on the lower spine of the box next to the specs for the Japanese language soundtrack, so I'm not sure if this gizmo has been applied to the English audio as well. This may in fact be be the case, because I noted an overall superior depth and immersion within the Japanese audio.

    The dialogue in both soundtracks is first rate, with highly distinctive characterisations. As is often the case, the Japanese audio is synced slightly better to the animated mouth movements, but neither is absolutely perfect.

    The surround channels are utilised for weather effects, passing animals and all manner of street/city noises. Voices are generally confined to the front centre channel and rarely stray to the surrounds.

    In comparing the two audio tracks, I instantly noticed that the Japanese is louder, with slightly greater depth when you compensate for the difference in volume. It's a matter of opinion, but I also found the Japanese had superior characterisations that highlighted the drama without striving to be sensational.

    The score by Tamiya Terashima is emotional and uplifting when appropriate, with a focus on drama. I've only viewed the film a few times, but I can't say there are any themes that ring in my mind afterward. The songs are performed by young vocalist Aoi Teshima, who is covered in some length throughout the extras.

    LFE activity is superb, yet tasteful. The subwoofer makes itself known during sequences of extreme weather and is applied to effects such as slamming doors and the like. Dragons in flight make particularly good use of the LFE channel.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu pages are silent and static. A brief animated intro greets the viewer, and all of the pages are 16x9 enhanced.

Disc One

Alternate Angle- Storyboard Art

    As much as I love the art of animation and Ghibli films in particular, these feature-length storyboards are a real task to sit through. In my opinion, we don't need an additional two hours of video eating into the bitrate of the feature just so we can see a rudimentary pencil-drawing version of the film. Considering the blood, sweat and tears that goes into the final product, I can't believe the animators let this stuff out of the vault. Just a few highlights will do, please!

    The entire feature film is presented in simple pencil drawings, with slight splashes of colour here and there. These are very close to the finished product, which I found surprising.

Disc Two

Featurette- NTV Special (43:53)

    This Making Of documentary was made by Nippon Television and was screened to coincide with the film's opening day in Japan. Yellow English subtitles are included. The show covers the source novels and their American author, detailing how she and Hayao Miyazaki came to meet and agree on the project. They then shift to the recording of the Japanese voice talent, including the discovery of eighteen year old singer Aoi Teshima.

Featurette- Behind the Microphone (47:33)

    A standard feature on Ghibli DVDs, but this one is much longer than normal. Each of the Japanese cast take to the now familiar soundstage one at a time to voice their lines, shown here in split screen with the corresponding excerpt from the film. They are also interviewed, offering their opinions on the film and the challenges of voice acting. Some large portions of this piece are repeated from the Nippon special. English subtitles are included.

Theatrical Trailer (2:51)

    The Japanese trailer for the film, presented without 16x9 enhancement.

Madman Trailer (11:46)

    A string of promo pieces (non-16x9) for Madman's Studio Ghibli Collection.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There doesn't appear to be any DVD release of this film scheduled for Regions 1 (North America) or 2 (UK) for the moment.

    A Region 3 IVL release exists, and is a 2-disc special edition. None of the extras are subtitled for English speakers.

    A very expensive 4-disc set is available in Region 2 (Japan, NTSC) and would obviously be the most ideal purchase for Japanese speakers or Ghibli aficionados.

    Ours is an excellent package, and being released ahead of other regions is something Madman should be applauded for. The actual foldout  packaging boasts some very nice artwork indeed. Buy local on this one, I think - unless you'd prefer to wait for the inevitable HD format release overseas (this film would be especially magic in HD).

Summary

    Tales From Earthsea is an enjoyable fantasy tale that should please the loyal Ghibli audience. I suspect those viewing anime for the first time may find this a bit intense, but it is certainly worth your time.

    The video transfer is vivid, but contains a few flaws that prevent it from being great big-screen viewing.

    The audio transfer is excellent, the Japanese dub in particular.

    The extras give great insight into the production, though I'm not too enthused about the storyboard art. The disc space would be better utilised strengthening the MPEG bitrate of the legitimate feature, in my opinion.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Monday, October 08, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using HDMI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3806 (7.1 Channels)
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III floor-standing Mains and Surrounds. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Center. Mirage 10 inch powered sub.

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
There is a UK release - Anonymous