Studio Ghibli fans, who were heart-broken to hear that the iconic Japanese animation studio recently went on hiatus, will want to head down to a cinema pretty sharp-ish if they want to catch a screening of The Tale of Princess Kaguya, which was released in Japan in 2013. We always seem to see these things much later in Britain, don’t we?
I went to see The Tale of Princess Kaguya with absolutely no idea what it was about and, honestly, I think this is often the best way to see Ghibli films. For the sake of encouraging you to find your nearest cinema in time (the film is sadly only out for one week), I’ll give you a brief overview.
The film is based on the 10th century folklore tale ‘The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter’ and received critical acclaim on its release, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 87th Academy Awards. Two very familiar Ghibli faces were involved in its creation – Isao Takahata directing and Joe Hisashi composing the beautiful soundtrack.
The story opens with an elderly bamboo-cutter stumbling across a mysterious shining bamboo tree, in which sleeps a tiny girl. He takes the mysterious child back to his wife and they realise she can only have descended from heaven, before the tiny person turns into a human baby and rapidly grows up, learning to crawl and walk within the space of the day. The bamboo cutter then begins to discover gold among the bamboo trees and saves up enough to buy a mansion in the capital, where he and his wife can raise the princess in an environment more fitting to her heavenly status, rather than the rustic countryside. As the princess is trained in the ways of a lady and news of her beauty grows, she is approached by one admirer after another. But how does life as a lady of the court, shielded behind a screen, compare to running and playing in the countryside?
As always, the artwork in this film is absolutely beautiful. It’s not your cutting-edge ultra-modern anime style but more traditional and rough, which helps set the film perfectly in the Heian period. The story itself is charming, hilarious and poignant all at once – not that you’d expect anything less from Ghibli. The story is quite slow to progress and is just over 2 hours long in total, but you’ll be sad once it’s over and left wanting more.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya is everything you’d expect and more from a Studio Ghibli film. It’s moving, beautiful and artistically unique. It’s already ranking highly on my favourite Japanese films list (an idea for another blog post?) You can find if a cinema near you is screening it here but get your socks on – it won’t be showing for long!