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Princess Arete Review

by: sothis
October 3, 2004

story 8/10

Princess Arete screenshot This beautiful tale was created by Studio 4C, the makers of Comedy, End of the World, and other titles. The important thing to note is that Princess Arete is not a story based heavily on plot, but rather, heavy (but subtle) character development, beautiful imagery, and most importantly: ideas and concepts about our roles in life, life itself, and sacrifices we each make. Arete is a princess who has been imprisoned in a tower her entire life, not able to learn or experience life as she wishes. Occasionally she sneaks out of the tower and goes to the village below, where she is able to blend as a commoner, and be happy. Unfortunately, Dad has other plans in mind for Arete, and sends all the knights in the kingdom to treasure hunt, to compete for her hand in marriage. Though, this is all a pretense for the kingdom to accumulate wealth, and grow in power. Princess Arete takes place in a time of knights, kingdoms and castles, and the long gone sorcerers who were revered and feared. It should be no surprise, then, that the kingdom bowed to its knees when one of these sorcerers arrived in his flying machine, taking the princess away after a trick of magic. And this is where the story begins, and the point where you shouldn’t read anything else about the plot. Needless to say, there are quite a few things that will surprise you, and don’t necessarily fit in the idea of a princess/castle story. Truly, this is NOT just a film about those kinds of things; so don’t expect it to be a 100% fairy tale that sticks to the classics.

Princess Arete is heavy on thoughts and feelings, and opts for a slower pace instead of an action packed roller coaster. Instead of lengthy dialogues, we have thoughtful monologues. Instead of a plot that shoves things in our face, we are shown subtleties and ideas that force you to think about what the true purpose of the film is. For some, this pacing would probably be a turnoff, and would be considered too slow and boring to watch. I, on the other hand, ended up really enjoying it. You have to turn on the film with the understanding that it will be slow and sentimental, and not heavily based on plot or action, and I think you’d enjoy it too. Those who appreciate such slow features as Haibane Renmei or Kino no Tabi, would probably appreciate the sort of anime this turned out to be as well.

My one complaint, even though I did think the pacing was tolerable, was that there might have been a bit too many unnecessarily slow parts. The movie easily could have been condensed by one third, if not more, perhaps just by removing many of the gazing scenes.

animation 8.5/10

There is no doubt that the imagery in Princess Arete was stunning. Those who love Studio 4C will recognize the simple character designs which have virtually no shading or lines for the face and body. Although some people dislike Studio 4C’s animation for this reason, I’ve always thought it was unique and fit well with whatever new thing they came up with. If you are a newcomer to Studio 4C, the best I can explain it is that the character designs remind you of watching an old family movie in the vein of Ghibli. Backgrounds were definitely the best feature. Each was exquisitely detailed, looking like something you’d see out of an RPG (like Legend of Mana). One of the focal points of the film was to draw you into its world through the use of imagery, both to make you understand why Arete wants to leave her tower so much, and also just to amaze you. This succeeded on both counts, showing us a beautiful eye-candy world that we’d surely want to visit if possible. We are shown a flying machine that looks like something out of Myst soaring over cloud covered mountains and a desolate valley, the sunset over a rocky ridge, castles perched above bustling towns, and goats pleasantly eating nearby grass in a field bordered by a lake. These images were usually accompanied by ballads of medieval times, giving them a mystical feel.

Computer graphics aided the visuals at times as well, giving them a very realistic looking feel. Nothing fancy like, say, an all CG masterpiece designed to look real, but subtle things such as panning out over a great valley, or going to a bird’s eye view from the previous angle of looking at someone straight on.

I general, I think anyone will agree (even those who didn’t like the movie as a whole) that Princess Arete is a visual treat to watch. Although the character designs might appear lacking, the painstakingly detailed backgrounds and expansive feel make up for it by far, leaving you with a sense of wonder at the world you’ve been shown. High marks in this category by all means.

sound 9/10

Easily the best facet of the movie by far. The setting was medieval times, as previously mentioned, and the music fit like a glove. All melodies were played by a flute, lute or harp, reminding me a great deal of old school Ultima games. It makes you think of sitting in an inn, listening to a bard strum ballads while you drink ale. Well, maybe not that extreme, but it still fit perfectly! All of the music was very light and set in the background in an non-intrusive way, enhancing the visuals and mood at every turn.The voice acting was also wonderfully chosen, and fit the character types very well.

characters 9/10

Now, some people might disagree with me on this one, but I felt the character development was pivotal to the series, and though subtle, it really ended up succeeding. Arete is easily the most prominent of the characters, and the strongest in spirit as well. She wants to learn, to experience wonder and live as a commoner, but she isn’t given the chance. In addition to trying to reach that goal, she finds herself literally trapped inside her mind, unable to remember who she is or where her convictions lie. Her transformation, though not blatantly extreme, was still very inspiring and moving. The other main character to note is Boax, the sorcerer from another land. It’s difficult to explain why he developed in the way he did since it would spoil, but let’s just say that he is a man of many layers. These layers are slowly stripped away throughout the movie, until we see who he really is, and who he has become through his actions. Though his development might be a bit different than Arete, it still is just as important in the long run. Other secondary characters, like the cook, also transform in some way throughout the movie.

I think a good way of measuring a characters score, when character development is present, is to think about the anime again and decide if you cared about the characters’ transformations and outcomes. In this case, the answer was yes, so that is a good way of measuring my score. At the end, I felt happy for some characters, sad for others, and in general, walked away with a happy feeling about the people that had been introduced to my life for that short period of time.

overall 8.5/10

Princess Arete is a beautiful watching experience in both the audio and visual realms. The story is definitely subtle and slower paced, but as long as you can handle such a thing, this will be a treat for you to see. For those looking for an action flick, deep plot, or anything in between, check out something else instead. Viewers of slower, sentimental or intelligent anime would be ideal, as well as those who like anything from Studio 4C. I enjoyed Princess Arete, and you might too, so check it out.

Anime Info

  • Movie (1 ep x 105 min)
  • 2001

Innocent, naive, and locked in the castle tower since birth, Princess Arete wants nothing more than to escape the royal life and live as the commoners live, and to see things that she has only dreamed about in her books. One day, her wish is granted -- though under less than ideal circumstances -- by the sorcerer Boax, who charms her into becoming his wife. On his flying machine from the days of magic, Arete embarks on a mystical journey full of discovery, enlightenment, and wonder beyond belief...


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About the Author

sothis's avatar

sothis

My fav genres include sci fi and horror, but you'll find a lot of obscure reviews from me too, given I watch a ton to add to the database. My new reviews are written a lot better than my old ones, so when in doubt, sort by date! ^_^ Enjoy, and I welcome any and all feedback.

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comments

SadisticTendencies avatar SadisticTendencies
Sep 12, 2011

Oh, how I'm glad I stumbled upon this review! This movie was absolutely wonderful, and it kind of saddens me that it's not available on DVD, and that so few have seen it. Arete is easily one of the best female characters I've seen portrayed in Anime along with Kino and the girls from Haibane Renmei. The movie itself can definitely compete with many of the big names in the industry; Miyazaki, Satoshi Kon and Makoto Shinkai. This is the 7th Anime ever that I rate 4.5 stars or higher. And all because this review. Once again, thanks! My faith in Anime is restored once again^^

Now I'll pray for a DVD release that will never come.

maaii avatar maaii
Jul 8, 2010

Absolutely agree with your review. This was a wonderful story and i just don't see why the average score is so low for this movie. The music was amazing, perfectly fitting in with the story and animation. Great characters. I really enjoyed it. It always makes me happy to come across something so good.

Thanks for a great review! 

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