The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a Studio Ghibli movie co-written and directed by Isao Takahata. It is based on one of the Most Popular Japanese folk tales, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. The film starts with a bamboo cutter named Miyatsuko discovering a miniature girl in the shoot of a glowing bamboo. The girl seems to have an aura of a divine presence. He thinks of her as a gift from the heavens and takes her to his house. Together with his wife, they decide to raise her as their own. The girl is a bit different from regular children. She has an irregular growth rate.
Genre: Fantasy, Drama
All is happy and cheerful. The girl gets along well with the kids of the town. She loves playing there and living a regular life. But her father thinks of her as destined for nobility. When he finds heaps of gold in another glowing bamboo stem, he thinks of it as a message from the heavens. He proceeds to build a castle in the capital. The family leaves the town and relocates to the capital of the nation. The girl, however, doesn’t feel so good about it. The girl grows up to be a beauty and attracts a lot of suitors, including many high-ranking nobles.
Kaguya-Hime (lit. Princess Kaguya) is the main focus of the story. She’s a very curious and intriguing character. We see everything from her perspective. The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a sophisticated yet straightforward story. It makes you think in a lot of ways. What is real happiness in your view? At what point do you think you have enough? Are materialistic things all you need to live a fulfilling life?
In the pursuit of happiness, we work to obtain superficial things. But we forget that what constitutes happiness is self-satisfaction and living in the moment. And by the time we do realize what is really important, it has already been too late.
When a person is good at something, people call them prodigies and develop huge expectations of them. People don’t think of the person’s feelings, and even if they only want happiness for the person, they unintentionally end up hurting the person. Princess Kaguya Suffers from this a lot. She wants regular country life and wants to play with her friends. She wants to run freely without any restrictions. But life is not so simple, and you often don’t get what you wish.
Isao Takahata masterfully tells the story. The film will make an impression on you. It will make you rethink your views on a lot of subjects. The movie encourages you on a path of self-discovery.
Animation & Production
The work on the animation is excellent, as one would expect from a studio Ghibli feature. Takahata brings his approach to animation, which differentiates it from other movies from the studio. The film looks authentic and feels unique, thanks to the traditional hand-drawn animation. In this day and age of CGI and 3D, traditional animation can quickly feel outdated and uninteresting. But Takahata doesn’t let it happen and instead makes you realize that old is gold.
Every frame of the movie looks like a masterfully crafted painting that you would want to hang on your walls. The animation was fluid and a visual treat. Some of the sequences are so well animated that you would just want to watch them again and again without ever feeling bored. You can see strokes of charcoal and paintbrushes. It was a fantastic experience.
The Voice-over work was excellent, and every actor was living their characters very well. Both the original Japanese and the English dubbed versions are equally good. That said, the original Japanese version feels more authentic and is better suited to these types of stories.
Coming to the music department, it was simply fantastic. The film’s score is composed by Joe Hisaishi (Spirited Away, Howl’s moving castle). All the tracks are lovely and fit the theme of the movie perfectly. The track “Nursery Rhyme” was especially beautiful, and I liked it a lot. The theme song “When I Remember This Life”, written and performed by Nikaido Kazumi, was a very fitting cherry on the top.
For most of the movie, I had a massive smile on my face. I enjoyed Kaguya-Hime a lot as a character. There were a lot of sad moments as well that had me emotional. But what can I say? Life is a mixed bag of happiness and sorrow. The ending was really bittersweet.
When it comes to Studio Ghibli films, Isao Takahata is often looked over for Hayao Miyazaki. But that is not to say that he is any less skilled as a filmmaker or animator. The Tale of Princess Kaguya is another one of Takahata’s masterpieces, don’t miss out on it.