The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya

Ghi­bli girl’s grow­ing pains

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Cinema -

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.

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