As a big Studio Ghibli fan, I am mad at myself for missing out on The Tale of the Princess Kaguya when it had a short run in theatres back in 2013. It actually took me a while to see this one, but when I did, I was blown away by what a beautiful and kind of heartbreaking movie it was.
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The Movie Review
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is brought to us by the legendary Isao Takahata. I have loved Takahata’s prior work to this with Pom Poko being a real favorite of mine. This would be the last movie that he would be part of before he pretty much retired with his role as a producer in 2016’s The Red Turtle being the last thing he would do.
I had no idea at the time, but this movie is based on a very old Japanese folktale called The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter which has been around since the 10th century. What we ultimately have here with The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is a kind of coming-of-age story with a twist.
We have a poor man called Miyatsuko who is a bamboo cutter and he lives with his loving wife. One day while working, he finds a tiny little girl in a shoot of bamboo, she is no bigger than a finger! He and his wife take in this little miracle and decide to raise her as their own daughter and they call her, Princess, but she soon gets the name Takenoko which everyone calls her by.
Takenoko grows at a rapid pace, but she is loving life out in the country and loves to play with her friends and she just loves being a kid. One day out in the bamboo, Miyatsuko finds a bunch of riches and he takes this as a sign that Takenoko is meant for much more than this!
This leads him to decide that he, his wife, and of course, Takenoko need to move to the city where she will become a princess for real. Takenoko is not happy about this and she wants to say in the country with her friends. We get to see her grow and get a new name, Princess Kaguya and move into this new rich lifestyle that she is not a fan of. A series of suitors come to try and win her hand, but she sets them an impossible task.
Look, I do not want to go into spoiler territory here, but The Tale of the Princess Kaguya has a wonderful twist that shows that Takenoko is far more than just a girl and that she ultimately has to face her past and remember what she really is. I found this to be one of the most heartbreaking endings of any Studio Ghibli movie and it is just so well done in every regard.
As you would expect with a Studio Ghibli movie, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is gorgeous. It has a rather unique look to it that makes it appear like a child’s storybook. The flow of the animation is great and I think that the way they are able to showcase so much emotion on the character’s faces is very impressive.
Like most other Studio Ghibli movies, they managed to get an amazing voice cast for this movie. Chloe Grace Moretz who was quite young at the time does a great job of bringing Takenoko to life. We also have the likes of James Caan, Lucy Lui, James Marsden, Oliver Platt, and even 90s Superman himself, Dean Cain!
The best compliment that I can give The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is that the day after I watched this, I went straight on Amazon and ordered the art book! This is just such a lovely movie and one of the more underrated ones from the Studio Ghibli catalog as it never gets talked about as much as stuff like Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, or Kiki’s Delivery Service. For me, it deserves to be right up there with those!
- At its core, this is a fantastic coming of age story
- Princess Kaguya is one of the most interesting Studio Ghibli characters ever created
- The whole look of the movie is phenomenal
- Not many animated movies have hit me as hard in the feels as this one did!
- I have a feeling that some people may not like the way it ends
- This is one movie where you are doing yourself and the people behind it a huge disservice if you just watch the DVD, this has to be in HD!