When I heard the next Ghibli movie was going to be based on The Farthest Shore part of the Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin, I picked up the first book The Wizard of Earthsea after I got off work. Coincidently, this was around the same time my back gave out and I became bedridden for a couple of days. I was expecting nothing special in particular, but what I found was a beautifully crafted world built on history, languages, and culture.
There wasn't a theme of good vs evil or an overuse of "crazy magic" like in Harry Potter. The character Sparrowhawk/Ged has to literally face himself showing how human beings carry their own good and evil. Throughout the whole six books there is no one who is truly evil, just people with basic human yearning for power and control over death. Magic in fantasy is often a gift that can be used without regret. In Earthsea, magic is based on balance such as if a wizard creates rain for an area, it could cause a drought where the rain was destined to be. Magic is used when absolutely necessary. The power of word is more powerful than magic itself. Every element is governed by their originally name. Each character have different aliases to protect them.
I don't even think I accurately expressed the profound and beautiful affect this series has brought to my mind. I feel greatly ashamed I only found this series just because it was turning into a movie.
Gedo Senki came out at the end of July in Japan. Reviews have been mainly good. From what I hear people are most disappointed because it is quite different from the book, the style, and that the characters' mannerisms and skin color aren't the same. I believe I will enjoy the movie when it comes out in the US. This movie is darker than most Ghibli films and IT IS NOT a Hayao Miyazaki movie. I think Goro Miyazaki should get applause as a first time director. Adapting a book to a movie is a difficult process and I heard the movie was made quite quickly compared to other Ghibli films. I hope he makes more movies and understands that the movie is his own now and shouldn't feel terrible if the author didn't like the outcome.
I made this excrutiatingly long post because Le Guin finally saw the movie and posted her feelings on the web. I read forums and read some negative feedback toward her opinion. People need to understand this series has been always misrepresented which made her very protective of her work. Her characters have darker skin and are never represented in this way; on book covers, crappy Sci-fi mini series, and even Gedo Senki.
The makers of the American TV version, while boasting that they
were "color blind," reduced the colored population of Earthsea to one and a
half. I have blasted them for whitewashing Earthsea, and do not forgive them for
The issue is different in Japan. I cannot address the issue of race in
Japan because I know too little about it. But I know that an anime film runs
smack into the almost immutable conventions of its genre. Most of the people in
anime films look — to the American/European eye — white. I am told that the
Japanese audience perceives them differently. I am told that they may perceive
this Ged as darker than my eye does. I hope so. Most of the characters look
white to me, but there is at least a nice variation of tans and beiges. And
Tenar's fair hair and blue eyes are right, since she's a minority type from the
I'm glad Ms. Le Guin stated this. Japanese animation often has characters that are Japanese but have attributes of Europeans. This might have been because of World War II. It may also be the yearning to be white. I've heard of surgeries on Asians to make them look more European or normal. Whatever the reason, I do believe Ged is dark in the movie, but Arren is not(he has a bronze shade to his skin in the book). It is not completely obvious which might have been a major disappointment. The only main problem I could see from the character designs is Therru wasn't more scarred or mangled, but that might scare too many people.
I recommend anyone to read Le Guin's whole opinion on the movie.
And to also read Goro's journey through this film with the translated blog.
Sadly due to Scifi holdings on the rights, the movie won't come out until 2009.
Read Earthsea, Watch Gedo Senki and thank you for reading this incredibly long post.