Movie Reviews

Movie Review: The Tale of Princess Kaguya

The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a wonderful creation that transcends its genre with narrative depth, honest depiction of mature themes, minimalist yet gorgeous visuals and universal lessons for all ages.

Found inside a shining stalk of bamboo by an old bamboo cutter and his wife, a tiny girl grows rapidly into an exquisite young lady. The mysterious young princess enthralls all who encounter her – but ultimately she must confront her fate, the punishment for her crime.

The Tale of Princes Kaguya is a funny and moving allegory that is as whimsical and deceptively simple as its gorgeous drawing.

The animation is simple yet impressionistic and distinct. It looks as if you’re watching a book with line art and colors that becomes increasingly detailed and gains texture as its story unfold.

It has a well written and developed female character at the center. Unlike Pixar’s M.O. (that’s modus operandi youths), there’s no perfectly staged moment to make you cry. A supporting character isn’t fridged to develop the protagonist. There is no simplistic villain.

Princess Kaguya is gradually subjected to adult realities of mortal life. She has to deal with parental and societal expectations, contend with growing apart from her childhood friends and ultimately discover her own happiness.

The film tackles mature themes that can also double as a social commentary. The Tale of Princess Kaguya is also an allegory on materialism, while subtly touching on classism and patriarchy.

The bamboo cutter loves his daughter, but his misguided intentions throw her into a lonely existence of stifling traditions, objectified by men and shut in an artificial world. The heroine becomes a wise girl who refuses society’s boxes and come to terms with adulthood.

This narrative has universal lessons that are honestly depicted without resorting to sappy melodrama. The funny and joyful moments of the film balance out the devastating turn of events. This is written by the same guy who wrote Grave of the Fireflies after all.

As a result, The Tale of Princess Kaguya is not only a timeless film that you need to keep in your collection for you and your kids. It’s a modern classic that manages to surpass many Hollywood live action and animated films through the creative use of simple inexpensive tools.

The caveat of this is that the film could be challenging for kids and adults who prefer uncomplicated stories with easy to learn lessons. The narrative has a lot more depth and surprisingly mature given how simple it looks.

But what’s wrong with that? we all need a bit more mental exercise when technology is making a great job at frying our brain cells. Even if you’re not in the mood for this, the visuals are still captivating.

Studio Ghibli has taught us a lot of things, but it has consistently illustrated one prominent lesson that doesn’t need expensive dead-eyed CGI characters to teach it – the wonders of everyday life can be magical by itself.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya tells the story of an extraordinary girl who discovers the joy of ordinary life and in the process, creates a compelling tale about human folly and mortality.

My Rating: 10/10

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