The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is a film released by Studio Ghibli and directed by Isao Takahata. The story of the film is based on a Japanese folktale titled, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Directed by: Isao Takahata
Written by: Isao Takahata and Riko Sakaguchi
Starring: Aki Asakura, Kengo Kora, Takeo Chii, and Nobuko Miyamoto
Run Time: 137 minutes
The film opens with a bamboo cutter named Sanuki no Miyatsuko finding a small girl inside a glowing bamboo shoot. He believes the small girl is a divine presence and takes her home. The small girl transforms into a baby, and the bamboo cutter and his wife decide to raise her on their own. They name the baby Princess, and discover that she grows at an incredibly rapid pace.
As Princess grows, she makes friends with some of the other children in the small village where she lives. She especially becomes close to Sutemaru, the oldest among her friends.
Over time, the bamboo cutter comes across gold and fine clothing the same way he found Princess. He takes this as a sign that she is divine royalty and decides to make her into a proper princess. With this newfound wealth, he makes Princess and his wife to move to the capital to live in a mansion. Princess is forced to leave her friends behind without being able to say goodbye, which is just the beginning of her troubles of adjusting to life in the capital.
After moving to the capital, Princess comes of age and is granted the formal name of “Princess Kaguya.” Kaguya has a hard time adjusting to the restraints of nobility after experiencing the freedom she had back in the small village. And her situation only becomes worse when nobles suddenly appear and ask for Kaguya’s hand in marriage.
I thought the story in The Tale of the Princess Kaguya was well-told, and that it didn’t feel like it ran for a little over two hours. While the story is a little on the slow side to get going at first, this is the point where Kaguya is a baby and toddler. I think her cuteness helps to minimize the impact of the slower pacing of the early part of the film. After Kaguya arrives in the capital, we get to see the struggles she has as she’s expected to act like nobility and how she seems to feel stifled by it. I especially appreciated how Kaguya was willing to speak her mind when it came to her suitors. The movie doesn’t have the “happy ever after” ending that a viewer would hope for, but that kind of ending wouldn’t have been realistic for the story that Takahata was trying to tell.
The animation and art in The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is stunning. It feels like Takahata took the aesthetic used for My Neighbors the Yamadas and refined it quite a bit. The color palette used for the animation helped add to the lush look that the animation had. One of the most interesting things about the animation was, whenever Kaguya would be scared or worried, the animation would be a little more stretched out or elongated. This created an interesting effect and helped the viewer to understand that those were the emotions that Kaguya was feeling during that time.
Between the storytelling and the animation, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is a riveting film to watch. The viewer finds that they have become attached to Kaguya and root for her throughout the film. In my opinion, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is one of the stronger films to come out of Studio Ghibli in recent years. It’s not that the other recent Ghibli films are bad, it’s just that there’s something in The Tale of the Princess Kaguya that isn’t present in those other films.
The DVD pressing is a two disc set. The first disc has the film and three bonus features, and the second disc has one bonus feature on it. The first bonus feature on the first disc is the press conference that announced the completion of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. The press conference runs for about 40 minutes, and it has Japanese audio with English subtitles. The event included a representative from Nippon TV, director Isao Takahata, the co-writer for the script, as well as several of the voice actors and the singer of the theme song. It may have been a press conference, but it was far from boring. The stories that various members of the panel shared were either interesting or amusing. It’s a bonus feature that’s worth checking out.
Next is “Japanese trailers and TV spots.” This runs for 13-and-a-half minutes, and includes a total of 11 items of varying lengths. As you would expect, these have Japanese audio with English subtitles. The final extra on the first disc is “U.S. Trailers,” which runs for three minutes.
The feature on the second disc is a nearly one-and-a-half hour long behind the scenes segment. It’s actually a two part feature that’s shown back-to-back without interruption. This feature has Japanese audio with English subtitles. Over the course of the feature, the viewer gets to see what happened behind the scenes for the making of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, which includes seeing the voice actors recording their lines, the animation process, how the music for the film came together, and the first screening of the film. This feature also included a lot of interesting trivia, which helped to make this a little more interesting to watch. From what we see in this feature, it appears that The Tale of the Princess Kaguya will likely be Takahata’s last film. If it is, at least he’ll end his career on a high note. And from what we see in the feature when Takahata sees Miyazaki’s press conference about his retirement, if Takahata does decide to officially retire, he won’t be announcing it to the whole world at a press conference.
I would recommend The Tale of the Princess Kaguya to fans of Isao Takahata or of Studio Ghibli, as well as to viewers who have an interest in Japanese folklore. And if you see the movie and enjoy it, I would recommend adding it to your anime home video library.
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