Princess Arete (2001)

“Confined in the castle tower by her father, Princess Arete spends her days watching the world outside her window. Sometimes she sneaks out. Prospective suitors are sent on quests to collect magic treasures to win her hand in marriage.”

– Anonymous, IMDB.

Princess Arete is brought to us by director Sunao Katabuchi, who also wrote the screenplay for the film. Katabuchi’s previous writing credits include Sherlock Hound, Black Lagoon, and Kiki’s Delivery Service. Recently, Katabuchi has directed In this Corner of the World, which tells the story of a Japanese woman’s life in WWII. Princess Arete is based off the 1983 novel The Clever Princess, which was written by Diana Coles. The original 60 page book was intended as “A feminist fairy tale… where Princess Arete is a fully active protagonist”.

According to an article on the blog All the Anime, Coles said of the film: “The film company took an option on rights to use the story but did nothing with them for ages,” says Coles. “Eventually they informed me by post that they were going to make the film and sent me the money that had been agreed. They didn’t send me a copy of the film which I was sorry about. I have had no communication with them since their payment for taking up the option.”

According to the same article, as of 2017 Coles had not yet seen the final film.

Some thoughts from me (Potential spoilers below)…
As you might expect from someone who spends too much time googling Princess movies, websites are catching on to my search history and have started suggesting stuff for me. Princess Arete was one of those suggestions, it popped up in my recommended watches on Netflix and managed to catch me on a day where I was laid up in bed and in need of something to watch.

Before I get too far into this, I’ll mention that Princess Arete is a pretty decent film. Like my beloved Rolf Kauka’s Once Upon a Time, I’m sort of posting it here as a way to give a bit of attention to a movie that I don’t see a lot of people talking about. That said, I feel like maybe the reason why more people don’t know about Princess Arete is that, while it has some very interesting things in it, it is also kind of hard to watch.

Princess Arete is a very slow paced film. I’m honestly not sure if I would’ve kept watching it had I not been stuck in bed with nothing better to do. The story it tells is interesting, Arete is a young girl who gets put into a situation where no one can help her but herself, and watching her rise to the challenge and outsmart someone much older and more powerful than her is really great to see. The unfortunate thing is that I do feel as though the impact of that is lessened by the slow pace of the film. A large part of the run time feels dedicated to showing how terrible Arete’s situation is. It’s honestly sort of a downer, it makes you start to question if things are ever going to turn out okay for Arete, and if you should turn off the movie now to avoid further heartbreak.

As a result, this is another film that I flip-flop on whether I should make my friends sit through it. I’m not even entirely sure if this is a film I can make them watch outside of a Bad Princess Movie night. The slow pace just doesn’t really mesh well with the fun group movie watching events I like to host. The film is also subtitled, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but does mean that this film requires a bit more effort to pay attention to it.

So, with all that in mind, I do feel like there are some interesting things in Princess Arete that make it worth a watch. This might just be a film that’s better watched in a more serious setting (AKA, one where you don’t make your friends wear sparkly crowns while watching the movie). 


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