By Emma Silverthorn @HouseOf_Gazelle
Eight years from inception to completion but The Tale of The Princess Kaguya has been worth the wait. Isao Takhata’s swansong, an adaption of an ancient Japanese folktale, is a nuanced tale with added spiritual dimensions. Springing from a bamboo shoot, growing at an exponential rate, Studio Ghibli offers the viewer a Princess it’s hard not to fall in love with. Princess Kaguya progresses from adorable baby to strong-willed teenager within the space of a year. But the Princess, AKA Lil Bamboo, is not your average royal, happy in her country home with her adoptive parents, her demeanour is more akin to that of a woodland sprite than that of de rigueur fairytale nobility. And this is part of where the stories message lies, must the Princess choose propriety over joy, culture over nature, obedience over happiness in order to exist in the complex world she now finds herself, (she is originally a moon inhabitant, it transpires!)? The film is almost two and halve hours long, which might give you some idea of the epic nature of the tale and the knottiness of its conflicts. And there is of course a touch of Buddhism in here too.
But forgetting these layers Kaguya can certainly be enjoyed for its visual gorgeousness alone. The scene where the heroine runs dream-sequence style back to her home-village, (away from the corruption of the capital city), is a particularly stunning and vibrant example. The animation sits within a more classic genre than hits Spirited Away or Ponyo but this works well in terms of the stories origin and the fact that this production is also more deeply, or fully rooted, in Japanese culture than other Ghibli films.
The music is also lovely, moving from the haunting pagan-like song that the Princess, (voice by Aki Asakura), sings in times of need to the more celestial songs towards the films conclusion. The score adds a bittersweet depth. This sometimes melancholic spirit however, is expertly lifted by its surprisingly humorous script. I particularly enjoyed the scene where the narcissist Emperor tries to woo the Princess, he states ‘Women usually like it when I do this!’ as he attempts to grope her.
This is a beautiful, un-didactically moral and enchanting tale; a very worthy finale from Takhata!
Princess Kaguya is on release from Friday 20th March and on VOD from Monday 23rd.