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The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Year:
2013
Country:
Japan
Genre:
Drama, Fantasy, Animation
IMDB rating:
8.1
Director:
Isao Takahata
James Caan as The Bamboo Cutter (voice)
Brian Leone as Villager (voice)
Darren Criss as Sutemaru (voice)
Hynden Walch as Me no Warawa (voice)
Chloe Moretz as The Princess Kaguya (voice)
Beau Bridges as Prince Kuramochi (voice)
Oliver Platt as Lord Minster of the Right Abe (voice)
Mary Steenburgen as The Bamboo Cutter's Wife / Narrator (voice)
Daniel Dae Kim as Great Counselor Otomo (voice)
James Marsden as Prince Ishitsukuri (voice)
Dean Cain as The Mikado (voice)
George Segal as Inbe no Akita (voice)
Lucy Liu as Lady Sagami (voice)
John Cho as Middle Counselor Isonokami (voice)
Storyline: An old man makes a living by selling bamboo. One day, he finds a princess in a bamboo. The princess is only the size of a finger. Her name is Kaguya. When Kaguya grows up, 5 men from prestigious families propose to her. Kaguya asks the men to find memorable marriage gifts for her, but the 5 men are unable to find what Kaguya wants. Then, the Emperor of Japan proposes to her.
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Reviews
The Princess Diaries
Although I was chuffed when Big Hero 6 walked away with the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at this years' ceremony, my joy was short- lived when I realised I hadn't seen any other contender in the category. Yes, not even How to Train Your Dragon 2. One excuse was that The Tale of the Princess Kaguya hadn't been released in the UK yet, even though it had been floating around cinemas across the world for the past couple of years. Now released and featuring an English-dubbed cast consisting of Chloe Grace Moretz, James Caan, and Lucy Liu, it was time for redemption, and to watch what once slipped through my fingers. Or eyes. You know what I mean.

Once upon time, in a galaxy far, far away, Mr Bamboo cutter, voiced by Sonny Corleone himself, James Caan, finds the tiniest of children hidden in a magical bamboo shoot and decides to take her under his, and his wife's, wing, raising her like their own and naming her Princess, due to her ability to grow at the speed of knots and develop much quicker than that of a mortal human. One day, Mr Bamboo cutter finds gold and cloth of fine quality in the same place he found his beloved Princess, and decides that she must be moved to the capital in order to fulfill her fate of nobility and become a real-life princess. First off, the film looks beautiful. In terms of effort and sheer elbow-grease the film must have required from the makers, it deserves a standing ovation, and I'm rather glad it got recognised by the Oscars, albeit losing out to the much more mainstream Big Hero 6. Each scene looks like it should be paused, printed out, and shoved in the Louvre for close examination. It is simply a wonder to behold.

Now on to the story. Imagine the wonder of Pans Labyrinth. but set in the delicate world of a U rated movie; that's what came to mind during the course of Tale's simply glorious story that deals with all the key subjects of childhood, moving home, arranged marriage, and finally, fulfilling your destiny. The length of 137 minutes for an animated movie might be questionable, with the film suffering slightly during the half-way mark, but sticking with it results in one of the most heartbreaking, yet inevitable, endings of an animated movie you may ever see. In a nutshell? It's lovely.

Overall Score: 8/10
2015-03-28
simple fable turns into more
An old bamboo cutter finds a tiny princess growing out of a bamboo stalk in the forest. He assumes she's a blessing from heaven. When his wife takes her, she turns into a baby girl. They raise her as their own. She grows quickly like bamboo with magic. The village boys befriend her especially Sutemaru. A bamboo produces fine cloth and gold for the old cutter. He takes his family to the capitol city presenting her as a princess. He becomes obsessed with social climbing. She's a rambunctious girl who rebels against her teacher's attempt to train her. She runs back to the village to find Sutemaru's family gone.

It's an interesting fable and the simple drawing style gives an impression of a children's fantasy. It turns into something much more. It's a young girl trying to grow up struggling against the world of conventions, materialism and the class divide. It's a lesson in real beauty. The drawings are beautiful and such a compelling story.
2015-02-21
A gorgeous complex tale
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is based on the Japanese folk tale The Daughter of the Bamboo Cutter, a tale that has been transmitted since the 16th century. This is one of those films that you don't imagine being made by anybody who is not Ghibli related. The tale could have been turned into a simplistic story for dumb kids with showy 3G visuals and little substance. However, Ghibli and Takhata created an animated piece that is both beautiful to look at, but also a complex multi-layered story with archetypal mythical characters, both delightful to watch and true to the myth.

The childhood part is really wonderful, and we delight at seeing Kagugya discovering the world and growing up as a happy child, really cute, tender and fun; therefore, this part is basically experiential. The second part is, on the contrary, very reflective; it portrays old traditional ways of living and societal structure in Japan with easiness and fun, but it is also the tale of Kaguya's increasing sadness and unhappiness.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya is related to the Buddhist Bon Festival, which is celebrated on a full moon on the 15th August (this is a hint!). Like any myth, the story is a compendium of human wisdom, an exploration of the human feelings, a depiction of human archetypes, and teaches many lessons. Some of the themes presented in the film are really philosophical and mythological and would require of page after page of analysis: from the creation myth, to the suitors tests, to the complex religious symbolism of the Buddhist ending. Just the analogy of the bamboo plant natural progression, and Kaguya being called Li'l Bamboo is an indication of what we can expect (another hint!). Some of the lessons that this old tale is embedded with are very relevant to our modern fast-paced 21st century:

> Money and status don't equal happiness.

> You cannot, should not, must not impose your ideal of happiness onto your offspring; that it is emotional castration.

> We have an obligation with ourselves to let our voice be heard and our heart be seen, no matter the circumstances.

> We all have to follow our own path, despite any family or societal pressure. It is our life, after all.

> Life is a fleeting moment, and we should live it to the fullest. Seek joy, cultivate ways of living and emotional statuses that are soulful to you.

> Love is not about conquest, is not about trials and games, is not about an ideal of love, the perfect partner. It is about what you feel in your heart and how things flow with another person even if that person is not your ideal.

> Parental love is not just about discipline and rules, is also about letting our children find their own voice and way in the world.

> When we die, all vanishes, no memory is left, even if you are a Buddhist and believe in reincarnation. However, there is a longing in our soul to improve next time we came down, if that ever happens, to try again, to have a second, third or fourth chance to be happy, to enjoy life and get what life is all about.

> Happiness is not in the outside world, it is how you feel about the outside world.

One of the most puzzling things in the film is that Kaguya is not a princess in the Disney sense or in the traditional European sense. Certainly, she has a legendary beauty, she is loving and lovable, and she has many suitors who have to do things to get her love. Yet, Kaguya is not perfect, she is a confused human being, and the story doesn't have a perfect ending either. Actually, Kaguya is truly imperfect, is the anti-heroine, she is a mortal human being, she has regrets, but she is never fake or accepts the system. Her only betrayal she commits is that of not letting her voice being heard at the right time and allowing herself to be engulfed by everything and everybody that surrounds her.

More and more, I feel that 2D animation is really modern, artistic and versatile, and that is far from being replaced by 3G. This film is beautifully artistically drawn and lightened, with a very soft palette of gorgeous colors, and an intentional use of the background for narrative purposes. For example, life in the city is shown mostly through images of people, the backgrounds are basic and barely there, not much action, there is some sort of passivity and slow motion. On the contrary, the childhood period in the countryside and the trips of Kaguya to her native town are the opposite, and have very detailed backgrounds and images, rich colors, full of animals and little creatures and plants, and most of what happens there is movement. And that is, after all, the way Kaguya perceives the world.

The only two downsides I see in the movie are, firstly, that it is unnecessarily long and, secondly the quite dramatic differences in the mood of the first and second part of the tale and there is not transition.

I watched the movie in Japanese with English subtitles, and it was delightful.
2017-03-19
Funny, heart-warming, but also sorrow.
I am not an artsy person, but I think Isao Takahata brings State-To-The-Art to the animated movie. The classic hand-drawn like with touched of colors, and 3D rendered on several small scenes (e.g. the falling leaves, grass), picking up different layer of colors to adjust the mood of the scenes amazed me.

This PG-rated animated movie has some scenes that were shocking me (depicting woman's breast, boy's genital, etc.), but this overwhelmed to the overall quality and storyline for the entire film. Some of the scenes might also bring confusion to the younger audiences due to the godly character of the princess that amazed other characters.

I think compare to other Western animated films, this could be compared to UP or Toy Story because it has the element of comedy, heart-warming, but could also stirred-up emotions -- although this particular movie has different inside jokes that Westerners may not get.

Audiences would also learn some of the Japanese tradition, culture, and manners by watching this movie. Awesome soundtracks too!

Takahata has brought the traditional folklore to the modern cinema.
2015-01-16
A movie that makes your mind fly away
Although I have seen a lot of movies from all genres I never felt the desire to write a review until today. This movie brought that side of me it seems.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya has a simple fairy tail story and that is why some people may think is boring or not be impressed, but the true essence of the movie lays in the powerful messages that are delivered throughout. Some may not be familiar with the genre or not a fan of fantasy films and will not be able to catch them.

The movie deals with problems that human kind has always confronted with such as the true meaning of life which may differ from person to person, the absurd and obtuse way the men treated their wives and daughters for centuries and death and how it affects the loved ones. But the one that I really appreciate is that we should enjoy every second of this mortal life, no matter if it is good or bad, important is that we feel something; without bad things we will not be able to appreciate and enjoy the good ones at its true value.

The soundtrack is really incredible and it gets better and better until the very end, making the movie experience so much enjoyable and is very fitting with the situations that the characters are getting through or with the places they are in.

As a big fan of movies that makes you think, those being my favorite kind, I believe this movie is a masterpiece that gets you into the meditating state and makes your mind fly away.
2015-11-01
Aesthetically Pleasing, Artistically Fulfilling & Emotionally Captivating!
One of Studio Ghibli's last feature films before the legendary animation studio went on an indefinite break, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is Isao Takahata's first picture in over 15 years and happens to be an eloquently narrated, gorgeously animated & patiently paced cinema that attempts to bring on screen one of the oldest tales in Japanese folklore.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya tells the story of its titular character who was found in a bamboo shoot by a bamboo cutter who, believing her to be a divine presence, brings her home to his wife. Although this mysterious tiny girl grows rapidly into a young lady, dazzling all who encounters her, she eventually is left with no alternative but to confront her own fate.

Co-written & directed by Isao Takahata (best known for Grave of the Fireflies), this tale is crafted with precision care & elegance plus how all of it is animated brings an artistic vibe of its own. The use of colour palette, sketch-like animation & minimalist approach leaves a lasting impression, the voice performances are spot-on while Joe Hisaishi's score nicely compliments the whole narrative.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya also covers the various restraints women find themselves in every facet of life, no matter what society they happen to be part of, and exposes that without preaching. However, its 137 minutes of runtime feels a tad too long, the final act is stretched, and although its creativity is undeniably impressive, the whole story kind of lacks that immersive element, much like Takahata's earlier works.

On an overall scale, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya brims with some truly astonishing images and is another winning marvel from the acclaimed studio. It's aesthetically pleasing, artistically fulfilling & emotionally gripping and there are going to be many who will have nothing but endless praise for the manner in which this ancient Japanese folklore is illustrated on the film canvas. As for me, I do admire a number of things about Takahata's latest but don't feel any love for it. Still, I've no qualms in recommending it to anyone for it is worthy of a broader audience.
2016-01-10
A Triumph
With the exception of the energetic The Lego Movie, this year has been a disappointment for the animated genre. What a relief then it is that Isao Takahata's (Grave of the Fireflies) new film is a triumphant success.

Based on a 10th century Japanese folktale, The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a bittersweet coming of age story. Our protagonist is Kaguya-hime who is discovered as a baby in a bamboo stalk by an old peasant man. He and his childless wife raise her as their own, providing the best they can as she rapidly ages. While her mother is fearful of change and just wants a comfortable life for her adopted daughter, her father envisions great things. He sees Kaguya as part of a divine plan and after fine clothes and gold come shooting out of bamboo stalks he concludes that the heavens want her to become a proper princess. He assumes this is the best way to make his daughter happy instead of asking her what she wants.

A sharply observed feminist critique of traditional Japanese culture as well as a cautionary tale of the burdens we place on our children, The Tale of Princess Kaguya has a wealth of complex themes and archetypes hidden beneath the surface of its fairly straight- forward story. This is one of the rare films that are both easily accessible to a young audience and one that film students can write thesis papers on.

The final word should be reserved for Studio Ghibli's animation. The style used invokes something between impressionist paintings and water-colours while employing a muted palette. Ghibli moves away from traditional anime and the results are breathtaking. The hand drawn frames could each stand alone as a portrait and yet the film feels fluid. At times the animation blurs into expressionism; the brush strokes matching the characters inner- turmoil.

Easily the best animated film of the year, it's a must see for fans of the genre. Luckily North America will get a theatrical release; the English-dubbed version will be out October 17 and will star Chloe Grace Moretz as Kaguya.
2014-09-29
It all comes down to whether you like the animation
"Kaguyahime no monogatari" or "The Tale of The Princess Kaguya" is the newest Studio Ghibli movie. You may know director Isao Takahata, who turns 80 next year, from "Grave of the Fireflies" or the 1970's TV show "Heidi".

As I wrote in the title, the way you will perceive this film is gonna depend a lot on how you like the animation. It is almost like a children's book and certainly not everybody's cup of tea as it's just so different, not only compared to what Disney and Pixar did in recent years, but also compared to other Ghibli films, such as Miyazaki's work. If you appreciate the style, however, you will surely like this movie. Checking out the trailer before might be a particularly good idea here to get a grasp of what you can expect. By the mere looks of it, this film could also have been made 50 years ago.

My favorite part was possibly the first 45 minutes, the time Kaguya spends with her "parents" in the village before they move to the city. It's just all so harmonic and easy-going. Quite a shame, her father had something else for her in mind as otherwise we may have gotten the same for another 90 minutes. The life in the city and Kaguya's transformation were good to watch too, but not really for the story than for all the cultural and social references of Japan. The stories with her admirers were solid, but somehow I felt something was missing. The ending was a good idea. I liked the return-to-the-moon plot, but I wished it would have been done without all these moon people coming down to get her. I actually really liked the sequence, where she flies up with her childhood crush and this could have worked as a better ending in my opinion. But at least, they did not go for a forced happy ending.

I am not sure about the Japanese version, but the German dubbed version I saw had a female narrator with very little text that was really not necessary in my opinion. One particularly interesting thing about the story was her relationship with her father. Even if he was the driving force for her different new life, which she did not appreciate at all, she was always as loving to him as she was towards her mother. This film offers lots of room for interpretation. Was the finding of the bamboo with a girl inside just as unlikely as the mother giving birth to her at that age and was the girl actually suffering from an illness that resulted in her early death? What about the quick growing early on and the normal growing later on? With that early speed, she must have surpassed her parents in terms of age quickly. And what about the bamboo reference? Do these grew tall quickly and stay the same till they die after 25 or so years? Is there a botanist in the room? This film is on the preselection for Academy Award Best Animated Feature Films and it will be interesting to see if it can make the cut and score the nomination or even possibly win. To make a decision for myself, I still have to see some of the other films on that list. Kaguya, however, is certainly worth watching and there were only really very few moments where I felt it dragged a bit, unsurprisingly with such a long runtime, especially for an animated movie. It was all very rewarding as the song that played during the closing credits was pretty beautiful.
2014-11-27
Beauty that doesn't need to be analyzed
I am a long-term fan of the Studio Ghibli animation films. So of course when i learned that they made a new one, i was instantly interested. The expectations were sort of mixed since it was the first film after Hayao Miyazaki's retirement, and nobody could really tell what Studio Ghibli can come up with now.

But when you actually start watching The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, all these politics and worries immediately dissipate. This film is SO visually different from what Hayao Miyazaki made, yet there's the same delicate touch and emotionality flowing from every second of it. It is like the paintings came to life to tell us a story. The story beautiful as life itself. In a way, it can be viewed as a parable about life, nature and humanity's futile attempts to ensnare it for its own vain entertainment.

But, honestly, no analysis does The Tale of The Princess Kaguya any good. Some things are better if left as they are, for us to simply contemplate their beauty without trying to touch it or make it our own. And this is exactly the reason why it's pointless to dissect this movie into details and describe them here. Simply watch it, and you will be spiritually rewarded.
2015-03-19
Blows all other "princess" movies out of the water
I was excited to see Kaguya-hime during a trip to Japan, on its release date in 2013, with only beginner-level Japanese. The visual story is told so masterfully that I didn't feel that I gained much more insight after re-watching with subtitles.

Length is not an issue here - Takahata takes time to complete the narrative, and for a good reason. The leisurely pace mesmerizes the viewer and allows investment in the characters. By the final moments, which unfold to an ethereal, psychedelic melody, there's not a dry eye in the house. The audience wept audibly both in Japan and U.S. screenings. Considering the similar effect of "Grave of the Fireflies", Takahata may be an even greater emotional manipulator than Spielberg, but a far less maudlin one. Although the film deals with universal themes that could easily turn into clichés (parenting, social mobility, death, etc.), in the hands of this director they invite profound contemplation.

The animated images are among Ghibli's most beautiful - they seem to be equally inspired by 12th-century Genji scrolls and modernist Rimpa-school nature paintings. One amazing scene, of Kaguya's brief "rebellion", is downright expressionistic. It's probably my favorite animation sequence of all time.
2015-01-06
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