The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a richly-drawn and heart-wrenching new film by Studio Ghibli. Based on the tenth-century Japanese folk tale The Woodcutter’s Daughter, Isao Takahata’s swan-song simultaneously dazzles the senses and tugs on the heartstrings.
The story begins with an elderly bamboo cutter, who finds a tiny magical princess inside a shining stalk of bamboo. Believing that he has been blessed by the gods, he takes the tiny princess home, only for her to transform into a very real human baby. Things only get stranger from there. We see Princess Kaguya, known as Takenoko (Little Bamboo) by her friends, grow up in Japan’s rural countryside, only for her father to decide to send her to the capital, where she must learn to be a true noblewoman. Kaguya must deal with the unwanted advances of the kingdom’s most eligible bachelors, setting them a series of impossible tasks in return for her hand in marriage, before facing her biggest challenge yet.
The film’s animation differs from many of Studio Ghibli’s other offerings, featuring a minimalist art style that encompasses pen and charcoal-drawn sketches, perfectly accentuating the movie’s plot. The film’s artwork is fluid and gorgeous, with the style subtly changing depending on a scene’s emotional resonance. The Tale of Princess Kaguya also features a stunning soundtrack, which seamlessly combines with the plot and animation to produce something that is far greater than any of its individual components.
With a running-time of over two hours, it could be argued that the film is drawn out too long, though this gives the audience more time to luxuriate in the wonderful world that Takahata has brought to the screen. An oddly-structured plot and several surprise twists keep the audience on edge, producing a delicious contrast with the sheer beauty of the animation and soundtrack.
A fusion of joy, melancholy, traditional art and modern animation, the impact of The Tale of Princess Kaguya will certainly linger with its viewers.
Verdict: Four Stars
This article was originally published here.