Cinema Review: The Tale Of Princess Kaguya | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, July 7th, 2020  

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Studio: GKIDS
Directed by Isao Takahata

Oct 16, 2014 Web Exclusive
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One of the elements that has typically set Studio Ghibli releases apart from their animated kin is their portrayal of children. It’s perhaps most visible in Hayao Miyazaki’s beloved My Neighbor Totoro and Isao Takahata’s heart-wrenching Grave of the Fireflies, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a child character among the studio’s output that doesn’t look, feel, and act like a real kid. They giggle, cry, fight; we watch each worldly revelation as it dawns upon their little faces. The young heroine in Takahata’s latest film, Princess Kaguya, is no different – as this magical child matures rapidly from baby to adult, we watch her in every stage of growth and not one feels the least bit false. It’s an impressive display of character tracking from a group of storytellers who have long proven they know children better than anyone else.

While chopping bamboo, an old, poor woodcutter stumbles on a miniature princess sleeping inside a glowing stalk. He carries her home in the palms of his hands and presents her to his wife; the princess transforms into a human-sized baby, and the elderly couple raises her as their own. The woodcutter accepts Princess Kaguya – or Li’l Bamboo, as she’s known to the other children – as a blessing sent from heaven. As she grows into an adult at an unnatural speed, further blessings arrive inside the bamboo stalks; gold and silks that allow the woodcutter to build a mansion in the capital for his little girl, and raise her into the nobility he feels she’s destined to become.

Based on a Japanese folk tale, the most striking element of this new feature from Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbor the Yamadas) is its art style. Drawn in rough, sketchy lines colored in by soft watercolors, The Tale of Princess Kaguya has the magical feel of a moving painting. (Or, to put it into terms comics fans will easily understand: this film looks like a Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strip come to life.) Although the film’s last act may feel like an unexpected turn to those of us unfamiliar with the old folk tale, the movie is a gorgeously entrancing experience to be equally enjoyed by children and adults.

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Author rating: 7.5/10

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