Sep 5, 2009
ace52387 (All reviews)
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.