Starring: Aki Asakura, Kengo Kôra, Isao Hashizume
Director: Isao Takahata
Running Time: 137 mins
The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya is a Japanese film based on the folktale of a princess, born out of a bamboo plant, who rapidly grows into a beautiful young woman, and becomes the desire of all who see her. However, she begins to struggle with her new-found role as a member of the aristocracy, and wrestles with the emotional dilemma between her own fate, and the happiness of those around her.
Studio Ghibli has always had a unique way with animation, and at its sunset, it’s playing to the highest of abilities. Isao Takahata’s final film is a beautiful tale that’s both serene and sad, and although it may not manage to play with your emotions in the way it clearly wants to, it’s a spectacular animation that you can’t help but adore.
What is most notable about this film is that the animation isn’t exactly the normal Ghibli style. Whilst it retains a staggering visual beauty, the film appears much more like a watercolour painting combined with hand drawings. Although that’s the technique Ghibli have always used, this film’s visual realism is toned down completely.
But in that, it really works its magic, and the animation provides for one of the most beautiful and pleasant experiences you’ve had in a long time. The appearance of the film makes it feel so much more like a classic, centuries-old folktale rather than an ‘anime’, and that, more so than anything else in the film, really pulls you into its world, and whilst you never forget the beauty of the animation, it’s an ingeniously unique tool that works an absolute charm.
Beyond the visuals, the film isn’t actually the pleasant, delightful story that you’d think. Yes, it starts off as a lovely fairytale, but over the course of its (slightly overlong) 137 minute runtime, it evolves to tell what is at times a desperately sad story.
Almost like a fable, it shows how money, fame and power can’t buy you happiness, and as the girl grows up and becomes a more official figure, you do get a sense that she’s not being able to live her life like she wanted, and that is often really sad.
Having said that, the emotions aren’t always hugely effective. The overwhelming tone of the film remains pretty upbeat, furthered by the animation (excluding one astonishingly powerful scene that transcends everything you thought about the movie before), and as such it doesn’t really pack the emotional punch that you’d like.
The story may never pick up to tell a happy story, but because it all feels so serene and pleasant, it’s difficult to feel as desperately sad as the film would like you to, so it doesn’t compare in any way on an emotional level to Takahata’s original masterpiece: ‘Grave Of The Fireflies‘.
Overall, however, The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya is still a fantastic treat of a film, with a wonderfully special animation style that you won’t want to take your eyes off of, as well as a captivating story, even if the emotion isn’t as powerful as it’s intended, so that’s why this gets a 7.4 from me.