Making a Personal Film Against the Odds
The significance of 'Princess Arete.'
Welcome! In today’s issue of the Animation Obsessive newsletter, we’re exploring one of the most overlooked anime features of all time — Princess Arete by Studio 4°C.
Released in 2001, Princess Arete is an immersive, atmospheric take on a British fairy tale. Its director, Sunao Katabuchi, used the original story as a jumping-off point to make a strongly personal film. He’d hustled for years in anime, even working closely with Hayao Miyazaki, but felt he had little to show for it. This film was his answer.
Princess Arete is about a young princess who’s locked away in a tower, waiting to be married off — and dreaming of life outside her walls. Suitors like “Dullabore” are no match for her. When a wizard curses her and spirits her away, no one comes to her rescue. She has to find her own way out.
To this day, Princess Arete is obscure, and it lacks a proper release in the United States. Katabuchi’s later works like In This Corner of the World are far better known. Yet this film was his starting point as a serious director, and the turning point of his career. It’s beautiful — and, even now, it has a lot to teach.