Movie: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013)

Posted 1 March, 2015 by Lianne in Entertainment / 8 Comments

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.


I’ve been watching to watch this movie from the moment I saw the trailer…2013? The art, the music, the mystery of the story (though I quickly realised some halfway through that I did read the tale it was adapted from years ago 😛 ), yeah, I was pretty excited to watch this 🙂

Guh, what can I say about this movie? Stunning, stunning, stunning. The art direction, you can tell, is from the same team that brought My Neighbours the Yamadas (review) with the hand-drawn style, the minimalist approach, the colours and scenes not entirely bleeding to the edges of the television screen. 10th century Japan comes to life through this art, depicting life in the country and life in the city, right down to every last detail. The art is delicate, and yet it conveys all of the emotions that Kaguya goes through, especially when she feels despair and frustration.

The story itself is a wonderous yet tragic tale of a young woman, born of a bamboo shoot, growing up with the bamboo cutter and his wife, who is eventually uprooted to the city, treated like a princess but removed from the life she knows. I already could feel the threads of the tragedy slowly emerging and weaving together over the course of the story, leading up to the reveal of where exactly Kaguya comes from. But while there is sadness and frustration as Kaguya comes across obstacle after obstacle, suitor after suitor, there’s also a lot of joy and happiness, namely in the simple things that Kaguya experiences like playing with friends and running through the forests, taking joy in the little things and everyday life. The early scenes with the husband and wife just doting on Kaguya was absolutely joyous, as well as the boys playing with her and hanging out with her.

On a symbolic note, I can see how Kaguya’s story reflects the course of life, and even spiritually that of true joy. Many of the characters she comes across in the city are concerned with material and trivial matters–even her father, the bamboo cutter, in his attempts to make her truly a princess, had lost sight of what made his family happy and that connection with Kaguya. Her suitors are revealed to be shallow, deceitful, false. Kaguya is not bound by the things that others deemed are appropriate or suitable, and does point out the absurdities of certain practices early on before submitting them. Her joy is in life, but she points out in the end that life on earth has its sorrow but also its joy and compassion. The world is not wholly corrupt as people on the Moon made it to be.

And the feels at the end, omg. As I mentioned, you get a sense of the tragedy building over the course of the story, but it really hit me at the end

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

The music in this movie was wonderful, I love that Joe Hisaishi did the music for this. I looooooooooooove the theme song btw being played on the koto. It’s absolutely gorgeous and really reflects the tone of the story (about the first minute of the following video):

Overall, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is a wondrous movie, beautiful yet poignant. I keep mentioning the sadness, but there is joy in the movie as well, and some humourous moments here and there to off-set the situation. Kaguya, despite of her situation and her fate, is resilient and knows her mind. Set in the 10th century feudal Japan, it is brimming with the historical and cultural elements of the time, but the universal themes of love and family and happiness run throughout. I cannot recommend this movie enough. At the time that I write this, it’s a few days before the Oscars and I’m very happy that it did nab a nomination for the movie, it was well-deserved. I’m not sure if it has the momentum to win, but it would be nice 🙂 But anyways, do go see this movie if you have the chance.

Rating: ★★★★★

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8 Responses to “Movie: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013)”

  1. Great Review Lianne! I really want to see this one as well! A friend saw it and she thought it was stunning as well! This is by Studio Ghibli right? I guess I’m going to have to get onto watch this asap! How as the soundtrack by the way? I’ve noticed that Studio Ghibli has some amazing soundtracks!!

    • Thanks Savindi! 🙂 I hope you get to see it at some point, it really is amazing/such an experience. It’s by Studio Ghibli, same director who did Grave of Fireflies and My Neighbours the Yamadas 🙂 The soundtrack by the way is absolutely wonderful, really fitting for the tone of the movie as well as the period it was set in (had a few of the theme songs stuck in my head for days after!). Joe Hisaishi (Spirited Away, Howl’s, etc.) did the soundtrack, which was really cool. Can’t wait to read your thoughts on this movie!!!

  2. I just watched this and was blown away, as usual. I absolutely love the artwork. It was a very powerful way to evoke the emotions in the story, especially during the running scenes. But I think my heart broke a little at the end.

    • The running sequence was amazing, so different from the rest of the movie with the way the drawings are harsher, in line with Kaguya’s emotions (not to mention the accompanying music). But yeah, the ending ;_;

    • I highly recommend this movie, it is indeed a stunning movie and such a poignant one at that! I haven’t seen Song of the Sea yet but I am very curious to watch that one too, it does look gorgeous 🙂

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