The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya is in limited release right now.
|"Dang! That girl be so small,|
she fit in mah hand, yo."
Directed by Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies, Pom Poko), this film is a Japanese folktale brought to life. It is based on the story, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, which concerns a poor peasant who discovers an enchanted baby inside of a glowing bamboo shoot. The film has an intriguing dichotomy between the fantastic and the mundane, with equal attention given to both. While the characters are portrayed realistically for the most part, the story takes jaunts into magical realism every so often, with gorgeous dream sequences and flights of fancy. It never veers so far as to lose its humanity or emotional impact though.
The look of Princess Kaguya is meant to emulate the delicate style of Ukiyo-e which is roughly translated to “pictures of the floating world”. Ukiyo-e is an old Japanese painting style characterized by elegant calligraphy brushstrokes and a muted watercolor palette. The animation is graceful and is often surrounded by off-white negative space—it seems to unfurl like a long painted scroll. Everything is hand-drawn as well, which makes it seem more organic and fluid—a whirlwind of wispy black lines and twirling colors. There is a scene when the art style deconstructs and becomes nothing more than frantic charcoal marks and splatters of paint—just an idea or a feeling imprinted onto the cells. It ranks up there as one of the most beautiful animated sequences I have ever seen. The entire film is eye-candy but it never at any point becomes overwhelming.
Princess Kaguya is an interesting character with complex emotions and motivations. She is trapped in a world that she does not want and has to struggle to keep her individuality. The role of woman in Japanese society has often been typecast as submissive and docile, and this movie uses that concept to tell a compelling story of self-discovery and longing. I found myself feeling so much sadness and solidarity towards Kaguya—it’s not an uncommon feeling to find oneself feeling “trapped” within their station in life. On the surface of this story, these themes might not be readily apparent, but if you read between the lines it becomes clearer. It’s a tragic story, but sorrow is the dominion of many fairy-tales.
|"Putting this flower in your hair will keep|
evil American animation away from you!!!"