Studio Ghibli’s latest export, THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA, introduces itself as a gentle Fairytale. A miniature girl dressed in fine robes blossoms from a bamboo shoot before the eyes of a poor, good-natured farmer in rural, pre-industrial Japan. When he brings her home to his wife, the girl transforms into a charming baby. The couple keep her as their own and swear to raise her as the fine princess she’s destined to be.
The animation looks like the illustrations of old 1950’s children’s books – all sketches and water colors. The simple, painterly style is a sharp turn away from what we’re used to in commercial feature animations and leans more towards director Isao Takahata’s 1999 film, MY NEIGHBORS THE YAMATAS, rather than the more cartoonish POM POKO.
Throughout, the characters and settings are charming and idealized and the film has a fantastic sense of humor. Those laughs are quite a relief because this is far from a Miyazaki film; this is made by the man that brought us the heart-breaking GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES. With themes concerning class structure, gender roles, and unrequited love, the target audience definitely isn’t children but, as pessimistic as it is, I really loved this film.
Avid film geek with an art-house leaning but a love for all things cinema, David graduated from the American International University of London with a degree in film production and has spent the last 10 years ‘chasing the cinema dragon’ through the United Kingdom and Los Angeles working as a field producer and writer. He now resides in Austin, Texas where he is a constant presence at the Alamo Drafthouse, a regular contributor to media blogs, and has assisted in the programming of the South by Southwest Film Festival since 2012.