Review of 'Princess Arete (Arîte hime)'

princess_arete.jpg Arete is a young princess living in the top of a tower of a castle looking out at the roofs of the town below wondering about the thoughts of the people under them as they go about their lives. She is restless with her life in the castle reading books so frequently escapes to the village to experience the real world. Her father, the king, has sent knights out to seek magical treasures for the castle coffers with the prize being the hand of his daughter in marriage. When the knights return and attempt to sneak into the princess' room Arete is frightened and disgusted with their one-sided viewpoint on the wonders of the world - that it is there for them to exploit. A wizard, who were long thought to be gone, “Boax”, visits the castle with a promise of magic in exchange of a marriage to Arete who he transforms into a mature and compliant beauty. Returning to his far away castle Arete is confined in the basement while the wizard is revealed to be a lazy and hated repressing figure in the local community. She spends her time staring at the wall of her cell…will she snap out of it to discover herself and her place in the world?

This is certainly a film that is not afraid to take it's time to tell the story with long contemplative looks at the countryside and concentrating on the moment. The animation is not terribly fancy but certainly reminiscent of the style of Studio Ghibli (home of the masters of Japanese Animation including Hayao Miyazaki) which is created with obvious love of the art. The story is sad but ultimately uplifting and rewarding though it keeps you guessing right up to the end with twists and turns the whole way. Humour here is little and far between so I can't say it is something that young children would really appreciate (that and the slow pacing).

This has been reported as an “underappreciated” film so I can see why it flew under my radar for so many years. I am glad I was able to see it, particularly in a proper screening room where there were no distractions. I was not really expecting to enjoy this film but I was pleasantly surprised. A refreshing change of pace and interesting. Worth spending some time to appreciate - Don't give up on it quickly but let it slowly flow over you to fully appreciate.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2016-07-30

Directed by: Sunao Katabuchi

Studio: Studio 4°C

Year: 2001

Length: 105 minutes

Genre: Japanese Animation