Young love challenges the boundaries and that of gods themselves in this fable.
What They Say
Long ago, spirits of fire and water lived as one. But jealous Algaroch, Lord of the Winds, drove a rift between King Oceanus and his sister Hyperia, Queen of Fire. Since then fire fairies and water sprites have been at war and forbidden from consorting, but when Prince Sirius, the king's chosen successor, meets Hyperia's beautiful daughter Malta, they fall madly in love. A wise, old turtle explains their one chance is to reach the hill of Elysium during the next solar eclipse, where a magic flower blossoms that can carry them to a distant star where fire and water live as one.
This feature contains a pair of stereo tracks though it takes the odd approach of being encoded at different levels, mostly because of the differences in when they were created. The original Japanese language track is a decent stereo mix encoded at 224kbps that's mostly a full sounding piece that fills the soundstage well though it doesn't go into placement in any discernible way. The English mix, created for the 1991 US release, is encoded at 192kbps and is much the same for the most part but doesn't mesh quite as well as the Japanese release. Both tracks deal with the material well though they're both pretty unexceptional in the long run, but it fits with the source elements and the time it was created as well as it can.
Originally in theaters in 1981, the transfer for this feature film is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This feature has a lot going for it with some really great fluid animation and it all shows on the screen. It's reminiscent of a lot of Disney films from around this time period with the way it blends the foreground and background animation. Colors have a really good feel to them, though there's only so much depth to a lot of it, but it deals with the underwater setting really well. There's a good natural layer of grain to the feature that doesn't come on strongly and avoids serious blocking, though it does have a bit in some of the really dark underwater scenes. There's a lot to like here overall as the feature comes across strongly and really allows the source material to shine.
Sea Prince and the Fire Child is going to be a hard sell based on its designs no matter what, so I was glad to see them go for an honest classic look here with a cover that shows off all the principle characters. The character artwork isn't all that detailed and it has an obviously younger skew to it but there's a certain charm to it that's appealing. The soft pastel colors give it a nice look too rather than something overly vibrant and garish. The back cover has a standard look that Discotek releases have in that there's a large full color background image with some of the undersea elements. The right side features a few shots from the show while the bulk of the area is given over to a summary about the feature's premise. The production information is a bit minimal but there's a nice nod towards it that draws in fans of those behind it. The technical grid is solid as it conveys everything in a clean and easy to read format. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for this release are very basic as it's done in a split where the left side has the artwork from the front cover while the right has the logo and navigation selections in large print. The layout works well enough but it's the kind of menu where there's so little here outside of the language selection and trailers that you're just getting to the feature and moving on. It's not something that looks bad but it's functional without much style or flair. The show defaults to English language though, ignoring the players' presets.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While Discotek doesn't bring out the classics too often, when they do it's worth taking notice. With the few feature films from classic anime libraries that they've brought over so far, it's like a little bit of secret history come around again. For some fans, it's revisiting it because many of these came over under other names in dub only format aimed at children so they get to see it presented in a way they haven't been able to before or to relive their childhood again. Having missed this before, it was an all new if somewhat familiar experience. Like many fables told through different cultural eyes, Sea Prince and the Fire Child doesn't pull too many punches.
This feature revolves around a tale of forbidden love that comes into play because of deception. At some time in the far past, the incarnations of fire and water were brother and sister and were extremely close, so much so that wherever they went they caused steam to flow into the world. The two were inseparable and their love of each other was huge and important. But the whole relationship changed when the master of wind, Argon, sowed dissent between them and the two ended up going to war against each other. The water spirit, Glaucus, retreated to the sea while Thermis of the fire stayed on the land. The two sides pulled away from each other and the laws came down on both sides that their followers would not interact with each other.
Time has passed and a new generation is coming up in the midst of this, not understanding why these laws are in place. From the sea comes Sirius, a young man who lives free and loves life who is about to take on the role of king of the seas from Glaucus. Above is Marta, a beautiful young woman who is about to take her queen's place as well when the Feast of the Sun begins in a few days time. Each is aware of their own world, but everything changes when Sirius makes his way through the Taboo Seas and meets Marta. The two fall in love quickly and deeply, showing each other so many different things neither had known about and there's a good intensity about it all.
The story of star cross lovers under the sea has plenty of familiar overtones to it and there's a certain about of predictability to all of it. Yet what makes it work is that it does play like classic fables that haven't been watered down. Marta and Sirius can't really make a fully believable relationship here, but there's a good sense of fanciful wonder to it that allows it to feel natural. And it doesn't play it safe. The love between the two doesn't involve any sex of course, but there is nudity and even a very passionate kiss early on that leads to everything else. Other characters die in the course of the story as well as they try to help those that find themselves in trouble. The villains are a bit comical and much of it is steeped in traditions that feel silly and pointless to those in the present, bound to things that didn't effect them.
Sea Prince and the Fire Child is a thoroughly enjoyable classic fable of star crossed lovers at a time when the world was young and filled with magic. There's a good romance here in the larger sense here with the incarnations of water and fire and those that came after them. Some of it doesn't work so well, such as the comical villain of Mabuse who causes trouble for Sirius, or Sirius' younger brother, but these are small pieces that don't dramatically impact things. Watching the romance between the two leads is where the fun is, seeing them pulled apart and their attempts at getting back together. It's another solid entry of fables in anime form that Discotek has added to their library that should definitely be checked out by anyone who wants to get a look at some classic anime that shows childrens tales can be told maturely and still resonate with kids.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.