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The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Drama, Fantasy, Animation
IMDB rating:
Isao Takahata
James Caan as The Bamboo Cutter (voice)
Brian Leone as Villager (voice)
Darren Criss as Sutemaru (voice)
Hynden Walch as Me no Warawa (voice)
Chloe Moretz as The Princess Kaguya (voice)
Beau Bridges as Prince Kuramochi (voice)
Oliver Platt as Lord Minster of the Right Abe (voice)
Mary Steenburgen as The Bamboo Cutter's Wife / Narrator (voice)
Daniel Dae Kim as Great Counselor Otomo (voice)
James Marsden as Prince Ishitsukuri (voice)
Dean Cain as The Mikado (voice)
George Segal as Inbe no Akita (voice)
Lucy Liu as Lady Sagami (voice)
John Cho as Middle Counselor Isonokami (voice)
Storyline: An old man makes a living by selling bamboo. One day, he finds a princess in a bamboo. The princess is only the size of a finger. Her name is Kaguya. When Kaguya grows up, 5 men from prestigious families propose to her. Kaguya asks the men to find memorable marriage gifts for her, but the 5 men are unable to find what Kaguya wants. Then, the Emperor of Japan proposes to her.
Type Resolution File Size Codec Bitrate Format
720p 1280x692 px 3117 Mb h264 3175 Kbps mkv Download
animation of the decade
The animation masterpiece of the decade. Takahata is going out on top. The fabled north American distribution deal between Disney and Studio Ghibli (apparently) applies only to the works of Myazaki; north American distribution of this is being handled by GKIDS. So the heavyweight marketing of Pixar/Disney isn't behind it. But don't be fooled by its "art-house" distribution or its relative obscurity - this is a really big deal.

It's an "epic", having taken eight years to produce and clocking in at well over two hours. I haven't seen the words "production committee" in credits since 'Akira' - that means it was too big for any one normal producer, so several companies had to form a "consortium": Studio Ghibli itself, a TV network, a foreign corporation, a movie studio, and three others. And the animation work itself was so large that parts of it were farmed out to _nine_ other studios.

There are two versions: an English dub of the soundtrack with most things written in English characters (although in general dubs suck, animation is often an exception); and a Japanese soundtrack with written English subtitles and most things (including virtually all the credits) written in Japanese characters. If the names of the voice actors you hear sound vaguely familiar, that's the English dub version. In fact, if you're viewing this in a theater, unless the theater is pretty sophisticated, you won't even have a choice - you'll see only the English dub version. And that's okay.

You get what you're used to from Studio Ghibli: powerful and independent women characters, a strong bond with the natural world, seamless switches back and forth between reality and fantasy, rootedness in tradition and folklore, and the music of Joe Hisaishi. Add to that some themes I associate specifically with Takahata: portrayals of "reality" even when it's quite sad, nostalgia, an acceptance and open portrayal of the concept of the "cycle of life", and ambivalence toward tradition and especially patriarchy (respecting and illustrating the good, while at the same time poking fun at the bad). Finally add a new twist I haven't seen in animation before: whole scenes where all the dialog, the visuals, and even the music, point to one interpretation ...only to recast the whole thing in a different light at the end to reach a totally unexpected conclusion.

The animation is 2D and very intricate, but still appears hand-drawn. Outlines vary in thickness and density, and colored areas don't always reach exactly to an outline. It could be computer-drawn (as many apparently hand-drawn animations actually are these days) only if the computer made an awful lot of "mistakes". Interestingly, the figures and the backgrounds look exactly the same (not different styles of animation as is often the case). It's all colored with pastels. The end result looks somewhat as though 'My Neighbors the Yamadas' had been used as starting sketches which were then finished.

I thought my evaluation of "hand drawn" was vindicated when a whole screenful of the end credits was occupied with the names of all the in-betweeners. But then just a bit later the whole screen was again filled with one category of names, this time all the digital ink and painters. Sometimes what you'd expect to be computer-generated is in fact clearly hand drawn, as when shadows move just a bit awkwardly between the beginning and the end of a scene. Other times the effect really seems computer-generated, as when a character is seen in a side closeup crashing through vegetation with lots and lots of branches flying much faster than anyone could draw them, or as when there's a cross-fade between scenes. I could never even guess though how it had been done when occasionally I could see what was behind a bit of translucent cloth.
Very good reputation in Japan
I've already watched this film 3 times! I was deeply moved and couldn't stop crying every time.

I believe that "Princess Kaguya" is the best Ghibli film in the past 10 years because of the beautiful hand-drawn animation and touching story.

Japanese audience and critics are also very positive for this film, compared to other Ghilbi films.

Hayao Miyazaki is a genius but his recent films are always controversial since "Haul's Moving Castle".

One of the reason is that he relies on his imagination and makes light of a script. That's why quite a few people can't fully understand his recent films and sometimes blame them. ("The Wind Rises" was a tragedy in this meaning.)

Isao Takahata, the director of "Princess Kaguya", is a very good director known for "The Grave of Firefly" but not so active since "My neighbor the Yamada".

His philosophy is very different from that of Hayao Miyazaki. Isao Takahata thinks the scenario is very important and he prefers realism to fantasy.

"Princess Kaguya" is based on the Japanese oldest folklore "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter". But Isao Takahata transforms it into a universal humanistic story by describing Princess Kaguya as a realistic girl.

This film contains many fantastic scenes and they play as good eye candies. But the brilliantly illustrated life and emotions of the heroine is the most important part in this film. And that's what the director wants us to try to sympathize.

The beautiful and artistic style of this animation is suitable for this theme. Because this apparently unfinished animation gives us the room to imagine by ourselves.

Isao Takahata says, "The animations tend to deprive children of their own imagination by pushing them someone else's fantasy. We have to make another animation which let them imagine by themselves".

I can't wait to see the responses from the worldwide audience! Hope you will like this film too!
Let Her Be
Based on a traditional Japanese folktale, this Studio Ghibli presentation revolves around a child found inside a bamboo stalk whose adoptive parents raise her as a princess, contrary to what her heart desires. There are some gaps in the narrative, but this remains a film that works on several levels. It is partially about a childless couple having the chance to realise their dream, but then it is also a tale of them coming to realise that they cannot dictate their daughter's happiness; i.e. it is about parents realising the importance of letting their children go. It is also a story of female empowerment with the title character giving her five suitors impossible quests to win her heart, since she does not wish to be owned by anyone. Furthermore, her empowerment tale is tinged with regret as she learns the unfortunate fates of her suitors, each one disadvantaged by attempting to complete her quests. Promising as this may sound, the film ends on a low note as things turn sentimental towards the end. Several narrative elements do add up either (the parents having the wealth to move to the city; the suitors all returning within a week of each other after a three-year hiatus), however, the quality of the animation constantly pushes the film through. The hand-drawn frames are incredibly effective, with a particular well done sequence in which she goes for a nighttime run and all the lines around her blur surreally together. The music is expectedly good too. If a far cry from director Isao Takahata's 'Grave of the Fireflies', this effort still offers an interesting, often touching story.
Great use of art!
I really enjoyed watching this movie. The colour and detail in the sketches. Specific detail was added where the viewers eye was meant to go. (though I did quite enjoy laughing at the several tiny babies that were left partially drawn)

It is quite refreshing to notice the attention paid to the sketches that went over the changes of the seasons. The detail with the insects, plants, flowers and animals.

Another aspect that really brings quite an effect into the story would be the colour scheme; colourful, ocher/grey, red. The drawings alone are impressive but the additional colour REALLY brings out the emotion behind the ongoing story.

I found the story rather strange because certain parts were confusing. I think this is one film I shall keep in my list to see again.
Incredible Art-Style and Profound Story
The Tale of Princess Kaguya was certainly a story that I was fully intrigued with. Because of its limited release in theaters, it wasn't easy trying to find it, but when I finally caught it at a local art house theater, I was further interested in the story that had yet to unfold. Since it was based on the centuries-old Japanese folktale, I know it has been told differently many times by various writers in literature, theater, even film. Nevertheless, I had to check out Studio Ghibli's take on the classic story.

It's about an elder bamboo cutter named Okina who discovers a young, tiny girl in a bamboo shoot and decides to adopt her as his own along with his loving wife Ona. As years progress, the tiny girl begins to grow rapidly to normal size like the other children of their village, eventually having to leave since her adoptive parents decide to have her raised among the nobles. From there, she is given the name "Princess Kaguya" and things become further complicated when so much is offered to her so suddenly.

When comparing this movie to past Studio Ghibli efforts, it's obvious that the animation style is nothing like its preceding films. And with studio founder Hayao Miyazaki having stepped down and no involvement with this current project, I have to say it's a drastic, yet vibrant change in what Studio Ghibli is widely known for. I loved the story and it had an ending that was rather heartwarming and enough to tug anyone's heartstrings. With the English dub voice of Kaguya done gracefully by Chloe Grace-Moretz (Let Me In, Carrie, If I Stay), she actually stands out well as the title character, like it wasn't forced.

The animation technique was rather intricate, but it was reminiscent of an old Japanese art painting I've once studied about in Art History classes at my local college. American animation studios have believed traditional 2-D to be a dying art form in the film industry these days, but I can tell Japan does not acknowledge it in that way at all, whether it's TV or film. The concept I started believing for the entire film felt like "a timeless painting" and it's quite a stroke of genius, in my opinion.

The music and underscore of Joe Hisaishi has left me engaged that it flows evenly well with the scenes as they play out. But most notably, director Isao Takahata really stepped up following his involvements with titles like "Kiki's Delivery Service," "My Neighbor The Yamadas," and even the touching "Grave of the Fireflies." This entire movie has earned its rightful place in the Studio Ghibli library. This is another example of a Ghibli film where you don't have to be an avid Japanese Anime fan to enjoy it, what matters is that such themes existed in various genres, not just in one medium or one genre alone.
Beautiful & Poetic
A gorgeous movie! Kaguya Hime was maybe a tad too long but it has so many beautiful moments, so many scenes that will take your breath away and so many scenes that will move you that overall it's hard to say anything negative about it. Director Yahata manages to take a basic folk tale and make it a universe, complete with beautiful settings and characters, and this is no small feat. The characters in particular are incredible: from their designs to their voice acting (in Japanese at least) and clear personalities, they are a high point of the movie (the 5 princes!) Yahata has shown a delicacy and sense of harmony & pace that is very different from Miyazaki's and somewhat more subtle...? and this movie deserves the praise it is getting.
A beautiful version of the old Japanese folk tale. A must see!
Like many other Ghibli fans I didn't like the Yamadas back in the day but Takahata Isao has returned with a blast.

The film is beautiful. The animation is simple yet exquisite, reminiscent of old Japanese watercolours. Special kudos go to Joe Hisaishi for his superb soundtrack - the final scene and its music left me almost in tears.

The only problems lie in the sometimes slow development of the plot and a few loose ends. There are also tiny deviations from the original story, but I felt that it was as true to it as possible. All in all a beautifully drawn, beautifully crafted movie, solid voice acting (for a Japanese movie at least) and, again, the beautiful music. Excellent job, Ghibli.

Hats down to Mr. Takahata as well.
Good enough
If not for the story, than surely for the art work, this film is a masterpiece. The pictures were perfect, like a moving water painting that portrayed spring time. But not only the scenery was stunning; the characters were drawn in detail, making them look realistic and closer to a real person. The story was nice as well. The description made it look like the story of Thumbelina or something, but it's not. I think it's based on a folklore Japanese tale, but I'm not sure. Still, it was very interesting, and had this rustic vibe, with the moon princess being sent to earth to live among the humans. The fantasy element is there, however, the story contains some real human emotions and situations, with manly the love for the countryside life and the family bond to overpower any other story of romance or magical kingdoms. So, 8 out of 10.
A beautiful story that transcends emotionally and spiritually.
I have not watched many Japanese animation films. The only the other I have seen except this one is Spirited Away. But now I really consider watching them looking at the skills of the directors Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, etc. The tale of Princess Kaguya based on an old Japanese folktale is the story of a mysterious girl(named Kaguya later) who is discovered by a bamboo cutter in a bamboo stalk. He and his wife the raise baby girl as their own.Their house is situated in greenery of remote village in the mountains. Kaguya seems to grow very rapidly and becomes very close friends with gang of children in the neighborhood. Merrily singing and playing they enjoy the nature and Kaguya is having the most joyous time in her life.

Her father though, envisions great things after he finds gold and fine clothes in other bamboo stalks. He thinks heaven wants Kaguya to become a princess and they need to raise her in that way. So off they go to the city and become a noble family with their gold. Kaguya who is initial happy with all the royal treatment soon understands the sorrows and bitterness in life when things are forced onto her. The story slightly loses its steam after the breezy first hour and I feel the run time could have been short by about 20 minutes. It dwells into complex themes of our world full of deceit and sorrow and the perceptions of cycles of life, afterlife hidden under its straight forward narrative. At times things get difficult to understand, still the visuals are so beautiful that you are completely engrossed into the scenery forgetting about the story. The ending which left me dazed was quite emotional and spiritually powerful. Despite some loose ends, the movie is overall well crafted with beautiful hand drawn animation and music. I felt it was emotionally moving and deeply profound.

RATING: [4/5]
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