Every person has that storybook or movie (or cartoon) that they would watch over and over again until it would be worn out. For me, that’s 1968’s Horusu, Prince of the Sun a.k.a. Taiyō no Ōji: Horusu no Daibōken1. What’s this have to do with Miyazaki, you ask? While Horusu was Isao Takahata’s feature debut, Miyazaki was the key animator, storyboarder, and scene designer.
Horusu is about a boy who battles evil to save a village and a girl named Hilda2. Besides nostalgia, it was really interesting to see the early beginnings of what would become Studio Ghibli within the animation and storytelling. Here are some things I noticed:
The beginning of Horusu definitely reminded me of the intro to Laputa with a set up to the story before the opening title begins. I found that they both contain very little dialogue, for the most part. And the scenic landscape design and coloring reminded me of Naussicaä. What would an other-wordly, but still somewhat Earth-like, place look like? Just ask Miyazaki.
One thing I’d have to point out in Horusu, that Miyazaki and Takahata seemed to have figured out, is that you can have too many animal companions, and they can also be too damn big. Horusu’s sidekick is a talking bear cub. Now, I suppose when Horusu grows into an adult, he could ride the bear. But Hilda, the damsel in distress with a mean streak, has a talking squirrel and a talking owl!
In this case, one plays the “angel” and the other plays the “devil,” but there was definitely an overkill with the talking animal sidekicks here. I’m glad that Ghibli eventually minimized talking animal sidekicks in their films. It just makes the audience wonder “Do all animals in this universe talk? And if so, why don’t they?”
Last but not least, there are the complex trials and tribulations that Horusu and Hilda must endure. Having not seen Horusu in about 25 years, I wouldn’t mind watching it again because there are several plots that are interwoven together — perhaps a little clumsily, but it’s worth a second watch (or ten) if you’re a nine year-old.
If you are nine years old, there’s one more thing about this movie you should know. There’s a scene where Horusu is changing into new clothing, and we see his penis. Yep, his penis. As a nine year old watching for the first time, I kept thinking “he’s totally going commando!” Though, I probably didn’t use that phrase at the time.
So, there’s that.
Hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane!