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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogTales from Earthsea and Other Underrated Ghibli Films

Tales from Earthsea and Other Underrated Ghibli Films

By Devon Lord-Moncrief
August 01, 2023
A landscape shot featuring a dragon from "Tales from Earthsea".

Founded in 1985, Studio Ghibli is one of the world’s most successful and iconic anime studios ever. Many of Studio Ghibli’s films, including Tales from Earthsea, debuted internationally and have become classics in their own right.

Titles such as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, and Princess Mononoke garnered critical acclaim upon release and featured AAA Hollywood talent in their localizations. Studio Ghibli has numerous successful anime films, but a few are hidden gems. These films are not of lower quality but have become less famous due to the studio’s long history.

When Marnie Was There

Released in 2014, When Marnie Was There (Omoide no Mānī) is a psychological drama directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. It is based on the 1967 novel of the same name by Joan G. Robinson. The story focuses on Anna Sasaki, a young girl who travels to stay with her relatives in Hokkaido.

The two main characters from "When Marnie Was There" standing back to back.
“When Marnie Was There” is a sweet story about friendship. Image via LIve Desktop Wallpapers

During her stay, Anna discovers a large, abandoned mansion. Inside she meets a mysterious girl named Marnie; as summer progresses, Anna learns more about who Marnie is, her family, and foster care. When Marnie Was There was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Only Yesterday

Released in 1991, Only Yesterday (Omoide Poro Poro) is a drama written and directed by Isao Takahata. It is based on the 1982 manga by Hotaru Okamoto and Yuko Tone. The story of Only Yesterday follows 27-year-old Taeko Okajima.

A shot from "Only Yesterday", which is a lesser-known film like "Tales from Earthsea.".
“Only Yesterday” takes place during the safflower harvest. Image via Opus Zine

A single woman from Tokyo, Taeko, travels to the countryside to assist her family with a safflower harvest. Afterward, her childhood memories resurface during her journey, and she reflects on her life. Taeko wonders if she has remained true to the dreams she had as a young girl.

Ocean Waves

Released in 1993, Ocean Waves (Umi ga Kikoeru) is a coming-of-age romantic drama directed by Tomomi Mochizuki and written by Keiko Niwa. The film is based on the 1990-1992 novel by Saeko Himuro and takes place in Kochi. It focuses on a love triangle among three high schoolers. Specifically, they are friends Taku Morisaki, Yutaka Matsuno, and the new transfer student Rikako Muto.

A shot from "Ocean Waves".
“Ocean Waves” is a coming-of-age romance story. Image via Black Girl Nerds

Ocean Waves marked a new approach by Studio Ghibli, allowing its younger animators to create a film on a cheaper budget. However, the film ended up exceeding both budget and time constraints. Interestingly, Disney had the distribution rights for a U.S. release. However, they never followed through, possibly due to the more mature subject matter depicted in the film.

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Tales From Earthsea

Released in 2006, Tales From Earthsea (Gedo Senki) is an epic fantasy co-written and directed by Goro Miyazaki. It is based on the Earthsea fantasy novels by Ursula K. LeGuin. Tales From Earthsea takes place in the fictional kingdom of Enlad. The story begins with Prince Arren killing his father, stealing his sword, and fleeing his castle.

A landscape from "Tales from Earthsea".
“Tales from Earthsea” is based on a famous fantasy series. Image via Alternate Ending

As Arren travels throughout Enlad alone, he meets an archmage called Sparrowhawk. The following story is rife with magic, mystery, and danger as Arren and Sparrowhawk learn the truths of Enlad and Arren’s fate. Tales From Earthsea was the first film directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s son, Goro Miyazaki.

Pom Poko

Released in 1994,  Pom Poko (Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko) is an environmentally-charged fantasy written and directed by Isao Takahata. In 1960s Japan, a group of tanuki (raccoon dogs) learn that their forest is being threatened by a suburban development project outside of Tokyo.

As a result, the tanuki rallied together to stop the development. The film is notable for having a powerful message regarding wildlife conservation and landed as the number one Japanese film on the domestic market in 1994.

A scene from Pom Poko using posing with a bunch of golden kingyo statues.
“Pom Poko” is a good story with a lot of tanuki! Image via Polygon

Embarking on a thrilling adventure into lesser-known Studio Ghibli films like Tales from Earthsea and Only Yesterday is like uncovering hidden treasures! These delightful gems introduce us to charming characters and captivating stories that enchant you.

With each film, you’ll immerse yourself in new worlds filled with magic and wonder. You’ll experience the studio’s artistic brilliance in a new way. So, buckle up for an exciting journey of discovery. Prepare to be amazed by the fantastic tales waiting for you in the lesser-explored corners of Studio Ghibli’s universe! Which of these films is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

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