Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tales From Earthsea redux

I seem to be unable to stop thinking about "Tales From Earthsea" and move on to explore other Ghibli films yet. What has kept this film on my mind has been reading "The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga," a beautiful art book and history of Tezuka, a superstar of Japanese manga and animation. His output is one of the most amazing amounts of work I have ever encountered from any artist. The variety of work is astounding as well - from Unico, a cute little unicorn (which I have only heard about) to Ayako, a completely adult manga about a woman who has been locked up in a basement by her incredibly brutal family. The little guy on the cover here is of course Astro Boy, one of the first anime series to make it to the USA, maybe even the first. There is so much more.

One of Tezuka's major themes is the cycle of life - we are born, live, die - and then rebirth, perhaps. This is generally the core of Buddhism. Showing respect to all life is the hopeful theme that many of Tezuka's works center around. In fact, he has an eight volume series, Buddha, which I highly recommend - and I have only read the first two volumes so far. Comics at their finest. I particularly enjoy his cartoon style figures living in the most detailed worlds - a really beautiful style.

It was this major theme of Tezuka's that kept reminding me of "Tales From Earthsea" as I read the book about him. The cycle of life is the major theme of the film - and the reason, I wrote earlier, about why this film may not have been so well received in the States. In thinking about this, I was wondering if the director, Goro Miyazaki, had been influenced by Tezuka's work. I was also wondering if the reason he had the young prince in his film kill his father, the King, had anything to do with his relationship with his father, Hayao Miyazaki.

In searching for some insight into these questions, I found an excellent blog post at Manga UK: "Tales From Earthsea and Family Feuds." There is not much more to add as this covers it really well. From this and other sources, though Hayao was not the best father as far as being around - which both he and Goro acknowledge - they seem to get along to some degree now. They even worked together on Goro's next film, "From Up On Poppy Hill," which I would say was a great film.

And though the themes of "Earthsea" are similar to some of Tezuka's work, there does not actually appear to be any connection. Other than perhaps coming out of Japan! an interesting additional point for me is that, though there is some controversy over Miyazaki talking smack about Tezuka's work, this seems completely overblown. When I read Miyazaki's "Starting Point," it seemed to me he just wanted some freedom to create in his own direction - no disrespect to an older master, but the need to do what he wanted to do. As any artist would feel, I think.

And of course, I would suggest this is what Goro did when making "Earthsea."

A couple of links:

This is a weblog, translated, of Goro's while he worked on "Earthsea." From what I have read, very interesting.

And here is a link to the website Tezuka in English. Where you will get all the info you need to find what works of Tezuka's are available here. I suggest you read some. And if you want to help make more of his works available in English, well, they have a little campaign to print Tezuka's "Storm Fairy" on Kickstarter - $20 gets you the printed manga when its ready. Well worth it.

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