I waited far too long to see this film. It had nothing to do with lack of motivation or disinterest; it’s one of the Ghibli films I hadn’t seen yet that I’d been looking forward to the most! I could just never find the time. Now more than five years after its release in 2013, I finally have watched The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, and I can only kick myself for letting this much time go by! I’ve long been a Studio Ghibli fan, and this film just found its way nearly to the top of my Ghibli favorites list, though for very different reasons than other top favorites such as Kiki, Spirited Away, or Arrietty.
The Tale of The Princess Kaguya is an artistic tour de force from Isao Takahata, and sadly also his swan song. Visually, it’s an animated Japanese woodblock print. The story is based on the Japanese folk tale of the bamboo cutter who finds a tiny child in a bamboo stalk, and taking it as a sign from the gods, decides to take her home and raise her. Kaguya herself fits right in with the cast of Ghibli leads, despite being a character already well-woven into Japanese culture. The unique animation style gives the story a distinct feel, rooting it in the historical era when the story takes place. Though primarily a drama, there are some great lighthearted moments in the film as well, and Takahata’s expertise with human drama is on full display.
Princess Kaguya is also the longest Ghibli film at two hours and eighteen minutes, and it is also the only Takahata film with a score by Joe Hisaishi, who usually scores Hayao Miyazaki’s films.
To give yourself a taste of this artistic masterpiece, have a look at the six minute Japanese trailer for the film: