Kaguyahime no monogatari (The Tale of Princess Kaguya)
Written by Isao Takahata & Riko Sakaguchi
Directed by Isao Takahata
“The Tale of Princess Kaguya” destroyed me; I was a complete emotional wreck when the credits rolled. I think the last time that I had to fight that hard to hold back the tears in the cinema – and partially failed – was during “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”. I have seen quite a few emotional scenes since then, some of which also really moved me – but nothing that could compare to this. The fact that many other people in the cinema were just as emotional as me only amplyfied my own feelings, and we all kinda spiralled into this huge collective emotional catharsis. Then again, I should point out that not everyone reacted in the same way, and that some found the ending a little bit too much, and/or too worn out. But for whatever reason, this movie really spoke to me. It probably helped that I had no previous knowlegde of the legend this movie is based on, thus I came into the movie completely blank, without any expectation, having only seen the very short trailer. Thus I was completely unprepared to what followed.
It took me a while to get into the movie, though, especially because of the very basic animation style. Having seen the trailer, which prominently shows the flight-sequence (by far the visually most impressive scene of the movie), I expected the entire movie to look like that. Thus, it took me a little while to get accustomed to these very basic and plain, but still beautiful, images. After a couple of minutes, though, I couldn’t imagine this movie to be done in any other way, and given the fact that it is based on an old Japanese folktale, it’s only fitting that Isao Takahata would choose a similarly timeless art style for this movie. I also really liked the story, which I found to be very beautiful, poetic and touching. There are no bad guys here. You may say “What’s the big deal about that”, but I challenge you to tell me the last animated movie out of Hollywood that you can think of that didn’t feature an antagonist. Yes, it happens, but it’s a rather rare occurence. Here, most protagonists only have the best intentions. This is especially true for Kaguya’s father, who just wants the best for her – but in doing so, doesn’t even notice how he destroys her happiness little by little, putting them on a path that will end in a valley of tears.
Another part of the story that I really liked where the challenges for her suitors. That was clever thinking on her part, and a nice way to deal with them. But even here, without any intention to harm or hurt anyone, her actions have dire consequences that haunt her. Despite some dark and sad moments, there is also a lot of fun to be had with this movie, especially during the first third, which shows her unburdened childhood, or later with her instructor. I also loved the dream sequence(s), but I understand anyone who doesn’t like this stylistic device. I’m usually sceptical about it myself, but here it fit the story, and managed to communicate some things, thoughts and feelings that might have been a little too subtle and unclear otherwise. The final major ingredient of this animated masterpiece is the beautiful music, which underscores the emotions of the story perfectly. The only small drawback is the length of the movie. With a runtime over two hours, it might be a little long for children, for whom this movie above all seems to be made (which – obviously, given my reaction – doesn’t mean that adults can’t enjoy it too). Especially the ending is a little drawn out. Since it was such an emotional journey for me, I personally didn’t mind at all, but you might want to keep it in mind before watching it. Despite that, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” was the best animated movie that I’ve seen in quite a while.
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