A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Princess Arete is a 2001 anime about a princess kept locked up in a tower who longingly observes the goings-on of the common people below as she avoids the overtures of marriage from unscrupulous knights and a wicked wizard. While the slow pace might pose the biggest challenge to younger viewers, there is also a scene in which rats attack a wizard's lackey and two instances of profanity ("s--t" and "damn"). While it isn't the best anime in terms of the quality of the animation and the story itself, tween fans of the genre -- as well as their parents -- will respond to the movie's themes of seeking the reality underneath the appearances, empathy for others, and yearning for travel to faraway lands.
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What's the story?
Princess Arete (Houko Kiwoshima) lives a lonely life, made to live in a tower at the behest of her strict father. To win Arete's hand in marriage, suitors compete to win treasure for the king. While this is happening, Arete yearns to experience the outside world, to live as an ordinary person, and to travel the world. After getting caught trying to escape the kingdom, the king matches Arete with the wizard Boax (Tsuyoshi Koyama), who enchants her and takes her to his faraway castle, where his only companion is a frog-turned-lackey named Grovel (Minami Takayama). As Arete now lives a lonely life locked in the wizard's basement, her only friend is Ample, who hails from a nearby village and cooks food for Boax in exchange for the water he hordes. Arete must find a way to break Boax's spell, get all the water out of the castle and toward the village, and follow through on her desires to travel the world.
Is it any good?
While not without merit, PRINCESS ARETE is slow-paced and feels about 20 minutes longer than it needs to be to tell the story. Because of this, its themes of empathy and looking beyond outward appearances may get lost for younger kids. Children who aren't anime fans already may feel bored.
Overall, it's the titular character who manages to keep this movie interesting and somewhat engaging. Her desire to see and experience the world, to live and work as those she observes while locked away in her tower, makes her a princess much different from the archetypal princesses seen in so many kids' movies. For kids beginning to come of age and starting to see and imagine a larger world outside their usual surroundings, these qualities alone make Arete a relatable character, one the viewer can't help but root for as she struggles against characters less interesting than she.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about movies based on books. What would be the challenges of adapting a book into a movie?
How is Princess Arete empathetic?
How is Princess Arete similar to and different from princesses in other movies? How is this movie similar to and different from other stories centered on wizards, knights, and peasants?
- In theaters: June 1, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: June 1, 2002
- Cast: Houko Kuwashima, Minami Takayama, Tsuyoshi Kayama
- Director: Sunao Katabuchi
- Studio: Omega Project
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Book Characters, Great Girl Role Models
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
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