This adaptation of a popular Japanese folk tale, The Tale of Princess Kaguya tells the story of a couple who raise a child they found in a stem of bamboo. Neither knows their beautiful daughter is not of this world.
If you have even the most fleeting interest in Japanese literature, you are bound to come across The Tale of Princess Kaguya (‘kaguya hime no monogatari’). In Japan it is a story so well-loved and often-adapted it was only a matter of time until Studio Ghibli would try their hand at an adaptation, too.
The animation studio’s films under director Hayao Miyazaki, recently retired, are known for being influenced by European stories and architecture, as well as traditional Japanese stories – Oscar winner Spirited Away for example is stuffed with references to Japanese mythology, while 2004’s Howl’s Moving Castle is the adaptation of a book by British author Diana Wynne Jones.
Kaguya, directed by Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata, is definite proof that even without Miyazaki the studio’s magic won’t be lost.
In a time of constant computer enhancement and 3D animated films, Kaguya returns to the roots of animation with delightfully hand-drawn frames.
The result is a detailed picture in soft pastel colours, each frame moving at a gentle pace to give the film a very organic look. To those used to a bombardment of colours and a lot of action, the film will definitely come across as sedate, but its pacing both visually and narratively makes it a film for all audiences.
The dialogue, too, is poignant where and if it occurs, clearly the intention is for the audiences to concentrate on what the film is conveying visually, which is what Ghibli does best.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya, shares with its many predecessors a love of nature and the miracle of life and takes its time to establish meaningful relationships with its characters.
The ending, with as much foreshadowing as it comes, is all the sadder for how the characters will have grown to you in a short space of time, which is undeniably the sign of another Studio Ghibli masterpiece.
Produced with incredible craftsmanship, The Tale of Princess Kaguya is as exotic as it is simple, as uplifting as it is sombre, and is a treat to both Ghibli fans and casual viewers.
Director: Isao Takahata
Starring: Mary Steenburgen, James Caan, Chloe Grace Moretz
Running Time: 137 minutes
Release Date: 20th March 2015