Confined in the castle tower by her father, princess Arete spends her days watching the world outside her window. Sometimes she seeks out to watch the common people at work. The knights of the kingdom compete for the right to marry her and rule the land by competing to see who can find powerful magic objects made by a long dead race of sorcerers. Arete wants none of this. She longs to meet the common people and travel to exotic lands she has only seen in the books she keeps hidden under her bed. One day the sorcerer Boax arrives in a fantastic flying machine and offers to take Arete as his wife and transform her into a proper princess.
Arete Hime initially seems like a typical modern iteration of a fairy tale, ala Disney, with a captive princess who desires to see the world and empathize with its denizens. Eventually, it shapes into a multi-segmented journey of self discovery more akin to "Siddhartha" than "Rapunzel."
When looking back at the entire Journey our main character, Arete undergoes, it's quite epic. This in no way changes the fact that some stretches are completely starved for plot development, using the time instead to flash some scenic shots and play with Arete's diatribes on her predicaments. Which brings me to one of the biggest problems with this film:
it is dead focused on Arete. She will continuously feed you her dispositions and her albeit, genuinely pitiful perspective. She`s a free bird trapped in a cage for most of the movie and she longs for human contact. That`s the gist of basically every line she says, and she has many, many lines. While a philosophical and spiritual journey with a poorly paced, and overall uneventful plot may still be a decent read, it`s not particularly satisfying as a film.
Arete is at once adorable and inspiring, in that fairy tale heroine manner, so all is not lost with this movie. Lectures on philosophy are one of my greatest peeves, and she throws a couple out there, but thankfully, most of her character development focuses on her perspective. Arete is not only starved of human contact, but also just the general gratification of being able to live. Her yearning for things so gosh darned basic, things as simple as friends or everyday emotions, illustrates the degree to which she is sheltered and makes her pitiful in a heart wrenching way. She`s even more affecting because she doesn`t just cry and accept the pity. Instead of lamenting her own misfortune, she always keeps her hope and her wits about her through tough situations to get the freedom which she so desires. Arete`s mild mannerisms are a break from the utter exaggerations of most Anime characters, and is a benefit to her cause for sympathy. Emotional understatement is much more effective than rampant bawling. Her rounded personality makes her more complete, more nuanced. Her timid demeanor and slight build serve to contrast and highlight her internal fortitude. When all is said and done, Arete stands side by side with the best animated heroines targeted towards children in any feature, Japanese or otherwise.
It`s too bad that Arete`s character development didn`t come with a richer plot, but at the very least, the focus she commands makes the blandness in the rest of the cast forgivable. Arete is a completely fleshed out, admirable yet pitiable, and altogether believable character who also happens to be adorable. Watching her adventure in Princess Arete is worth suffering the disjointed and hollow plot.
Children’s fiction is an appealing genre for all ages. Consider Harry Potter: kids, teenagers, and adults all screamed in glee when the final book in the saga was released. All of these works are simple, straight to the point, and wonderful to look at. Reading these types of fiction influences everyone in the crucial age of adolescence. Everyone has their favorite children’s books; mine was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Hence, I learned to laugh at dark humor and absurd deaths at a young age.
At the age of five, I asked the unknown sentient beings with the cooties -- a worse opponent than the Bubonic
Plague -- what’s their favorite books. Their response goes something like this:
“The Apple-Pip Princess! I love princesses!”
Today, young girls read Twilight. How time passes by so quickly...
Nevertheless, fantasy stories about being a princess-like figure -- Twilight’s Bella is a more contemporary (and stupider) version of the generic princess archetype -- are still popular. Us cool kids don’t like that kind of mainstream crap; we want aversions, subversions, and different settings (aka what made Twilight oh-so popular). Reinventions, especially the darker and edgier types, are fascinating to us. Think Revolutionary Girl Utena, a work that changed the shoujo demographic forever. Grown-up people are like so mature~
What about the kids? They deserve a work like that. Of course, we are not that stupid to recommend Revolutionary Girl Utena to children -- it has incest and disgusting lesbians; it’s fine with us to show gruesome deaths from CSI. As I previously said, children are sensitive to influences. What is the perfect balance of today’s busting of old conventions and kid-friendly literary devices?
Enter Princess Arete.
Appreciating the work requires a good understanding of the plot structures of the princess fairy tales: the kingdom will be destroyed by an unknown monster, the king (preferably fat and has a good sense of fashion) says, “Whoever kills SOPA wins my princess!”, a charming prince (ideally with good teeth) kills the monster, the princess (usually Olive Oil skinny) falls in love, and they all live happily ever after. Watching Disney Princess works and its kins may be enough; I also recommend watching this after Revolutionary Girl Utena and other feminist works for children. Princess Arete is like one of those hipsters and hippies in the countercultural movements in the 70s; you need to get the context to understand their reasonings.
What amazes me is that this work is old-school allegory. Arete symbolizes the feminist and existentialist aspects of the work; she feels timid, but she wants to find her own meaning of life. Stuck in the towers and objectified as a treasure, she is sick of becoming a princess -- a twist on the archetype and an attack on the Disney Princess culture. There is a gradual progression of her character development: from an isolated figure afraid of having a meaningless life to a braver and maturing female. She is logically the person you will add to your favorite characters if you liked the movie a lot. Boax, the villain, also controls a number of themes as well: the role of magic (or technology if using the work to compare and contrast today’s society), male superiority, and the villain archetype. Other supporting characters reflect the wickedness of fairy tales in a realistic lens. Anyone interested in writing or reading inventive tales will rejoice.
The soundtrack, while not memorable enough to be downloaded, complements the work. Its insert songs don’t feel out of place and introduce the scene in a more, unique way. Dreamy and soothing, the classical music soundtrack elevates scenes into something only few works can do -- now, that’s what I call art.
Having said that, it’s a pity the pacing is almost abysmal.
This is not to say I dislike slow-paced works; I enjoy them more for their atmospheric value. It gives time for our brains to compute literary analysis, hypothesize future events, and appreciate the aesthetics. Most Studio 4C works have beautiful art and this is no exception; the minimalistic art design emphasizes its fairy tale nature. What is problematic, though, is that it feels too slow. There are some scenes that feel too long-winded and should have been condensed or cut; the duration is unnecessarily lengthy. Its pacing undercuts the effects of the strong characterization and symbolism of the allegorical work.
Is this work suitable for the children today -- more hyper and attention deficit than high school students? I’m not a parent -- only an uncle of three nephews and one niece -- so I do not know. However, I will not be surprised if the answer is “no.” I, myself, had trouble watching this work, sometimes dozing off at boring moments. I can see this work, despite that, created for the past generations of children -- the mostly imaginative and curious ones. These kids can get the remote, pause, and ask questions to their parents; the work is targeting that demographic. Children don’t do that anymore. If children don’t understand something, they will switch to another channel; arguably, adults do that as well. It’s a pity a 2001 children’s fiction anime might feel dated to today’s children.
Everyone else can still like this work; I know I did. The work is likable, at the very least, and does not seem harmless at all. Consider this work if you enjoy fairy tales, shoujo works, and innovative pieces. It should provoke some thoughts and make you smile at the end.
We all have a little magic inside of us. At any time, all we have to do is close our eyes and use the words of the heart, and we can become anyone and go anywhere we want to. Regardless of gender, age or ethnicity, we are all capable of it. Much more powerful than any spell, this magic is the strongest force on Earth.
Princess Arete is an exceptionally empowering animated picture by Studio 4°C, based on the book The Clever Princess by English author Diana Coles. While it was originally targeted towards children, the movie itself is a remarkably mature deconstruction of the
traditional fairy-tale model. It uses clever metaphors and sensible story-telling to address its primary underlying theme: the reaching for freedom through self-discovery. Arete must face her journey alone – no one will come and save her. The only way she can be set free from her predicament is by her own hands. She must re-discover the magic inside to shake off the shackles that bind her.
Fairy-tales have been universally used as a way to educate children and pass forward values through the generations. By adopting a fairy-tale format, Princess Arete is making a point: there are certain traditional values that have no place in modern day society, and should be replaced at once. It wants to pass on its own values, but does it appeal to its target audience? Modern media geared towards younger viewers is often the polar opposite of what Princess Arete is. Fast-paced, loud and brightly colored, it tends to reinforce the worrisome belief that children are not capable of introspection and should not be challenged intellectually and emotionally. Arete's story does not need dragons and magic to be stimulating. All it needs is a relatable heroine facing a relatable conflict.
Arete is a curious little girl, who also happens to be a princess. Clever and resourceful, she is the epitome of cool, and a truly inspirational role model. She is empathetic to the core, and tries to understand the reasons behind other people's actions before judging them, though she has her own problems to worry about. Deprived of freedom and objectified as a prize for men to win, she never lets her circumstances dim her bold soul. She is obstinate and refuses to accept what she doesn't believe in; her love of life is what keeps her ever hopeful, and because she never feels sorry for herself, we don't either. The sight of such a rich spirit confined in a cage is certainly sad, and is undoubtedly what gives the first half of the film its air of melancholy. But we never pity Arete – we root for her. Her character development is beautiful, and seeing her grow from a timid but intelligent princess into the brave adventurer she becomes is extremely satisfying. We are often teased with the notion that she will be saved by someone else eventually, but she ultimately puts an end to her misfortune using no magical object or outside help, but with her wits alone.
Though Arete is the focus of the film for the most part, that is not to say the supporting cast is devoid of value. In fact, the main antagonist Boax is done quite brilliantly. A wicked wizard on the outside, he has the soul of a spoiled and simple-minded child. He insists on glorifying a past long gone, and cannot deal with the sight of his world crumbling around him. His own long and enduring existence is soon coming to a halt, and that thought terrifies him. To say he is an allegory for patriarchy would be an understatement. He represents a whole set of values which slowly but surely are losing their influence over societies around the world. And yet, he remains a relatable and charismatic character with a whole lot of individuality. While Ample is not as charismatic, she is an important ally to Arete. Both are forced into a submissive position; nevertheless, while she never actively helps the princess, though she tries to, it's their mutual empathy what makes the cook share the precious piece of knowledge Arete uses to save herself. By joining forces, these two competent, empowered female figures weaken others' influence over their lives.
Studio 4ºC is well known for its smooth animations and appealing visuals, and it does not disappoint with Princess Arete. The relaxed pacing allows the movie to take its time and layer each scene so that they all feel dimensional. Movements all look fluid, whereas the minimalistic character designs are cute and fitting of the fairy-tale premise. While the color scheme complements the medieval setting, the faded colors do make the movie look a bit dated, though everything else looks so pretty this detail can be easily overlooked. Backgrounds seem as if they came right off a storybook; outside environments look like oil paintings, and the interiors are all very detailed. On the sound department, it is equally superb: the theme song Krasno Solntse by Origa is breathtakingly beautiful, and it complements the melancholic feel of some scenes perfectly. The ending theme Kin'iro no Tsubasa sounds nostalgic, yet heartwarming. As for the rest of the OST, it is consistently solid, with some tracks more memorable than others.
Every young girl should watch Princess Arete at least once. While it will hardly rank as any child's favorite, it is an important film that respects their cognitive skills and that they will certainly learn to appreciate in adulthood. More than an amazing role model, Arete is a relatable character with whom girls will surely identify themselves with – and maybe, like she did, they will be able to find the magic inside too.
It’s now the year 2016, new challenges and obstacles awaits us in this following year and let me start the by introducing you guys the Movie Princess and what I think about it.
Plot (6/10)+ Character (4/10)-
The story is very simple but very slow paces in presenting its wonderful message. The concept of the story is good for it promotes freedom by self-discovery and believing in one self to achieve its goal and wishes without relying to any superficial solution which are magic that bent reality. Princess Arete is a good deconstruction of princess stories for it teaches us that dreams can be
achieve by determination and prior knowledge than relying on fairy god mothers and epic level wizards to turn the tables. The show became anti-escapism for Arete resolve her troubles by herself which is impressive for me because most princess stories I ever read or watch are mostly saved by the prince or by their magical spell caster guardians. But the biggest weak point of the story is the characters in general; they are presented in a overly dry manner that it’s hard for me to take any care or sympathy for them. Characters lack actual depth in the story. The interaction is unappealing and not interesting. The characters are not exciting or dynamic. Arete should be dynamic given the role of a smart princess and the wizard Boax is not very intimidating given he’s presented to be the antagonist of the story. Sadly to say he is one the dries fearsome wizard I ever known even the wizard in the Smurf looks more interesting. Nice presentation of message but very shallow on character presentation.
Music (4/10)- Animation (5/10)-
In a magic fantasy setting, music and animation of the setting is very important in hooking the viewers to care. But for fairytale scenery Princess Arete loses for it doesn’t have any appealing atmosphere. The animation is just very gray and gloomy. As for the music it’s doesn’t have any good BGM and the other song are just plain forgettable.
Enjoyment (3/10) Overall (4.7) >>>> (5/10) Average
Even with the great concept and idea the anime holds I cannot denied towards the entire course of the movie I really get bored watching it. I watch fairytale movie for excitement and epic adventure that’s what the children audience wants to see in the first. I don’t recommend this movie to be watch for the children for this anime doesn’t have action or any exciting magic for the kids to enjoy. The reason why I not very positive about the movie because I have seen lots of great fairytale movies with more exciting premise and good morals. Studio Ghibli did a lot of deconstruction of fairytale in the past but they are still exciting for the kiddies to watch.
In Conclusion Princess Arete is not a bad show for it has good message that can be thought provoking and inspiring but it will take a lot of patience and tolerance for one to get the message fully which is not very rewarding if you take account the time you invested on it. There are other good deconstruction of fairytale out there worth the check like the movies of studio Ghibli made I highly recommend you check it out.