In Japanese animation, The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya, a woodcutter finds a baby nestled inside a bamboo shoot.
Believing she is destined for nobility, he names her Princess and uproots her from the countryside to the capital city, where she’s courted by dishonest men. Accessible for older children, this latest film from Studio Ghibli is an updated Japanese folktale; a reverse Cinderella that breaks fairytale expectations.
Isao Takahata’s film probes humanity’s obsession with happiness and tendency to equate it with economic success. For women in early Japan, it’s assumed this means becoming a rich man’s property. But the Princess refuses to have her happiness defined this way by an adoptive father who uses her for his own social progression.
Takahata’s ideas are both poetically and visually beautiful. Idyllic pastels, cutesy animals and handmade crafts give way to over-indulgence, pretentious formalities and public beatings in the capital.
This wouldn’t be a Studio Ghibli film without a little dreamlike mystery. Here, it’s the surreal exploration of Kaguya’s origins that both establishes and alleviates its bittersweet ending. 4/5
The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya is on limited release in subtitled and dubbed versions. It is screening at Nottingham Broadway from Friday.