The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya
Ghibli girl’s growing pains
Release Date: 20 March
U | 137 minutes Director: Isao Takahata Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen/ Aki Asakura, Kengo Kora, Takeo Chii
It may be a film from Studio
Ghibli, the outfit behind Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, but The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya is very different. It’s an extremely leisurely, gorgeously drawn version of an old Japanese folk tale, and it doesn’t look at all like anime as people generally tend to think of it. It’s full of simple, soft watercolours and white spaces. It doesn’t have any battles, monsters or villains, and its magic heroine just wants to be a normal girl.
Set in tenth century Japan, the film begins like Thumbelina, with the heroine emerging from a bamboo shoot, to the amazement of a simple woodsman and his wife. They adopt her, watching as she grows up at accelerated speed, playing with other kids in the forest. ( Ghibli fans will be strongly reminded of My Neighbour Totoro.) Then riches are bestowed on the parents and they become aristocrats, trying to force Kaguya into ladylike behaviour, and away from what truly made her happy.
As an anime with a light touch of fantasy, you could compare Kaguya to The Wolf Children or Kiki’s Delivery Service. Judged against Western literature, you could see it as a cousin of girls’ growing- up classics like Heidi or Anne Of Green Gables. Kaguya’s director Isao Takahata animated both those stories in Japan, though he’s best known for his devastating war drama, 1988’ s Grave Of The Fireflies.
Kaguya is very Japanese, showing the customs and festivities of the country, but it’s instantly accessible to anyone who once opened a book of fairytales. Lovers of folklore will rejoice in this Eastern take on familiar themes, told warmly and rhythmically. When the magic returns to the fore in the last act, the story becomes a precursor to many science fiction fables about human existence. There’s a tremendous flying scene ( well, it is a Ghibli film) and an emotionally- wrenching visitation from the stars.
The big issue is that it’s blooming long – two and a quarter hours! The middle section, particularly, may have even committed viewers feeling restless, though the telling is never less than vibrant. Make sure you’re sitting very comfortably before Kaguya begins. Andrew Osmond
Some people really like confetti.