Gedo senki (Tales from Earthsea)
This animated film from Japanese Studio Ghibli (Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro are among their titles that have made it to the US) is based on a popular fantasy series of the same name. The studio summary follows:
A tale of redemption and self-discovery, the story follows the journey of Lord Archmage Sparrowhawk, the master wizard, as he searches for the force behind a mysterious disturbance that has caused an imbalance in the land of Earthsea – suddenly crops and livestock are dwindling, dragons have reappeared and humanity is giving way to chaos.
Without explaining the plot in detail, it is hard to draw out the reasons that make the film entirely inappropriate for a Dove audience. As far as content, the violence is the stand-out factor that would make the film not appropriate for children under 12. However, it is the eastern moral and religious worldview which underlie and interact with the plot that are most objectionable.
While the story unfolds a bit like Star Wars: A New Hope and features some of the same mythical metaphors and heroic themes, the Buddhist influence is clear. The “balance of the universe,” a concept introduced early on, is similar to the “force” of the Star Wars series, which is said to bind the universe together in balance and peace. In the case of this film, the “balance” is disturbed by one character, the evil Lord Cob, seeking eternal life. Another powerful wizard, he has escaped death by casting spells and performing magic that has turned him into a bizarre cross between post-plastic surgery Michael Jackson and 1980s Prince. He seeks a young wizard who truly holds the key to the door of eternal life, and thinks he has found that wizard in Arren, an angry young boy taken in under Sparrowhawk. In contrast, Sparrowhawk tells Arren that only death can restore the balance in the universe and create the constant cycle of death-and-rebirth that keeps the universe in balance; therefore, everyone must die. As one character puts it, “If you deny death, you deny life.” Meanwhile, Arren himself says that his life means nothing to him. After murdering his father for a reason even he can’t explain, he feels like a failure and does not know what meaning life can possible have. One other character, his female contemporary, tells him that the value of life is to give life to others. She says that one’s life has value specifically because it is temporal and fragile.
Even if these philosophical life-views did not compete directly with a Christian worldview, they would still be too complex for an audience of children to understand and are better suited to discussion among adults.