Kaguya Hime no Monogatari


Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on December 2013

The Studio Ghibli franchise is mostly associated with superstar director Hayao Miyazaki, but the filmmaker formed the studio back in 1985 with another renowned auteur, Isao Takahata. Takahata was nearly as prolific as Miyazaki for a number of years but hasn’t made a feature since 1999—until now. His latest is a wonderfully crafted fairytale piece based on the ancient Japanese story,  the Tale of Princess Kaguya. Okina (Takeo Chii), an elderly forester, finds a glowing bamboo stalk in the woods and is shocked to discover a tiny girl inside (Aki Asakura), which the befuddled man takes  home to wife Ouna (Nobuko Miyamoto). Reminiscent of both Miyazaki and Japanese folk tales in general, the girl shapeshifts into a baby that the couple feel obliged to raise. She grows at a flabbergasting rate and as she matures Okina finds treasures and gold in the forest. Newly rich, the couple give their daughter a mansion and servants but the girl yearns for the rough and common neighborhood of her parents’ poor birth. Aristocrats court her to no avail and even the Emperor cannot win her. The denouement reveals her otherworldly heritage.  Charming, poetic and evocative, Takahata has reached into Japanese lore for a winner. English title: The Tale of Princess Kaguya. (137 min)