Little Norse Prince (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Release Date: Monday, October 17, 2005
What They Say
Takahata's Little Norse Prince tells the story of Horus, a young man who pulls a blade out of a Rock Giant only to discover that it is the Sword of the Sun and, if reforged, the sword's destiny will transform the boy into the Prince of the Sun. Urged by his dying Father to return to the place where he was born, Horus travels back to his native village. Here, he encounters the evil ice demon Grunwald whose cunning method of destroying communities is manipulating people and turning them against each other.
Horus brings more trouble to the village when he becomes friends with the beautiful Hilda, whose haunting songs conceal a dark secret, and invites her to stay with them. Although intended as a children's film, Little Norse Prince deals with some mature topics such as death, deception, and the capacity of people to be petty and selfish.
This classic pre-Studio Ghibli anime was Directed by Takahata and animated by Hayao Miyazaki. Although we don't get to see the current Ghibli style, we do get a chance to see the Ghibli founders grafting at the coal face (so to speak): the obvious fun thing to do is try and spot those embryonic trademarks ^_-
This is a Japanese only soundtrack, with only the basic stereo presentation effect- cut the lads some slack, it was made in 1968 after all.
The Anamorphic Widescreen presentation does have small black bars top and bottom, but it doesn't intrude. Otherwise the video is very clean, although some very interlacing shows up in patches, but nothing to get upset over. I did notice one change in the aspect ratio where Hols is getting changed, otherwise the picture remains stable throughout.
N/A Check disc only
Nothing special, as they use stills from the anime as a backdrop to the menu system. All links worked and no dead ends were encountered.
In the extras department we have the original (long) Japanese trailer, and that's your lot. You may want to check out the previews for Castle of Cagliostro and Grave of the Firefilies.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain some spoilers)
The story opens with our young hero (Hols) fighting off a pack of Grunwald's wolves. During the fight he stumbles across a rock troll called Mogue who has been sleeping for a very long time in the ground. Valiant renders Mogue some assistance by removing a (painful) sword embedded in his shoulder. This sword was once magical and went by the name of "Sword of the Sun" - why this sword is in Mogue shoulder to begin with remains unexplained " and Mogue promises to help Hols when it has been re-forged.
Hols rushes home to show his Dad the sword he's found. Only his homecoming is not the happy event he envisioned. His father lies, and upon his deathbed he tells Valiant of the village (up North) where he originally came from, so that Valiant can travel there to see if he has any remaining family and maybe settle an old score with the "devil" who drove his father away in the first place.
Setting off in his boat with his trusty companion bear (Coro) Hols heads North to find his roots. Alas, before he can meet anyone Hols is kidnapped by a bird and dropped off on an icy mountain. There he meets the dreaded "devil" known as Grunwald, who offers Hols friendship as he's taken a shine to the lad. Being young and idealistic Hols rejects the offer; being old and evil Grunwald drops Hols over the mountain ledge (I'm guessing he doesn't like rejection).
Hols is found by some local villagers who nurse him back to health. In return Hols takes care of a monster Pike that is eating it's way through the villagers and their fish supplies- cue lots of merry making and fish cakes for supper!
Grunwald is upset he didn't get the party invite and so sends his wolves to attack the feasting villagers. Hols (of course) defends the village and while chasing down the wolves he meets a young girl named Hilda and her animal friends Chiro and Toto. Hilda, it seems, is also a sole survivor of an attack by Grunwald and has been cursed, although with what we don't know (hex the unknown). What does become evident is that Hilda has some musical talents, and that she knows more about Grunwald than she's letting on. In fact, Hilda is not quite the nice person she seems to be, prone to brooding and rat conjuring on her off moments.
Hols gets trapped in the Endless Forest, leaving Grunwald free to attack the village with a little early Ice Age. As luck would have it Hilda has a change of heart, as do the villagers and everyone decides to make a final stand against Grunwald. "Sword of the Sun" is re-forged: brandishing the sword Hols steps out for the final showdown with Grunwald. The villagers, and even Mogue, also step up to the plate to show the baddies what a group of determined people can achieve when their dander is up. Anyway, no prizes for guessing that Grunwald gets his comeuppance, Hols and Hilda get lovey-dovey and everyone else lives happily ever after.
What strikes you immediately is how Nordic this story seems to be: not Japanese in anyway, European all the way through, not even an arigato bow. Still, Western based anime has always been Takahata and Miyazaki stock and trade, so it's hardly a surprise.
This release ply's it's trade on nostalgia. Nostalgia is knife that cuts both ways, some people will enjoy seeing the embryonic Ghibli boys at work, others may not for exactly the same reason.
This is a must get for every fan of all things Ghibli, although it may have limited appeal to those who are use to the modern Ghibli presentations. Regular anime viewers may also find it all a little too old fashioned. Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong in the visual presentation- it's clean and sharp. It just doesn't have all the bells & whistles effects we've become accustomed to (you lot are spoilt). As such it's as good as I hoped for, given the period if came from, but don't go in expecting 3D CGI- this is cel animation from the good old days when tastes were simpler.
Well done Optimum Asia for releasing something that's an interesting classic.
Japanese Language DD 2.0,English Subtitles,Original Trailer
JVC 28" Pure Flat Wide Screen TV, Pioneer 454 Progressive Scan code free DVD player, Logitech Z-680 THX DD/DTS receiver & Speakers. Secondary equipment, 21" Sony Trinitron monitor, ATI 9700pro & PowerDVD v4, Creative Audigy 2ZS & headphones.
Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B-
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: All
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Optimum Asia
Running time: 81
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Little Norse Prince