The Tale of Princess Kaguya

M Sinclair Stevens

かぐや姫の物語 I was lucky to see this in the original Japanese-language version at the +Alamo Drafthouse.  From the info I could glean on the Internet about the limited release in other American cities, I was afraid it was going to be the dubbed version. So a big thanks to the +Alamo Drafthouse for showing it in the original language!

Taken as a whole (story, visual, and graphics) I think Princess Kaguya is the most Japanese Japanese movie I’ve ever seen. The closest Western-style experience I could imagine would be a movie based on Grimm Fairy Tales drawn in Arthur Rackham’s style. Disney felt it necessary to modernize and sanitize those stories for mid-twentieth century tastes and now, in the face of Pixar and Dreamworks, even the old Disney stuff seems quaint. But since childhood, I’ve alway preferred Arthur Rackham, John Tenniel, and Randolph Caldecott to Disney.

So it’s no surprise to me that I was completely charmed by Takahata’s Princess Kaguya  He also directed one of my other favorite Studio Ghibli films, Only Yesterday (おもひでぽろぽろ), in which he switched between animation styles to great effect to show childhood memories flooding back during a young woman’s vacation in the country.

Princess Kaguya is so unashamedly nostalgic and Japanese that I wonder if it found an audience even in Japan. When I lived there, my colleagues and students were anxious to distance themselves from this kind of old folksy stuff, to show how modern and global they were.

Anyway, I loved this movie but I can’t think of anyone I’d take to see it, anyone who would enjoy it the way I do rather than become bored and impatient or unable to get past the foreignness of the story. It’s a really long, slow movie. I didn’t notice the time passing myself because I just sat there minute after minute feeling visually stunned.

GPlus Discussion

Marc Schnau – 2014-11-04 01:10:41-0500

Beautiful! Not the common Studio Ghibli piece of movie, but I think it will be a success. Not at least because in these days there is a huge need for stories like this. My kids (and most of them are adults) will love it. Me too. 🙂

M Sinclair Stevens – 2014-11-04 14:50:19-0500

Apparently The Bamboo Cutter is the oldest Japanese folk tale and the written version can be traced back over 1000 years.

Kat Talley-Jones – 2014-11-05 12:58:32-0500

I’m so glad to hear you liked it. I’ll definitely catch it this weekend. The style in the clip looks something like the style of Japanese picture books I think we both had.

M Sinclair Stevens – 2014-11-05 19:05:02-0500 – Updated: 2014-11-05 19:08:27-0500

+Kathy Talley-Jones I think you’ll enjoy it. The style definitely is reminiscent of old-fashioned Japanese children’s books. And it changes depending on the emotion of the moment. So it’s very evocative.