Another Studio Ghibli release, “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” (Kaguya-hime no Monogatari) is 95% of a marvelous film. A rather cheap-out ending mars an otherwise magnificent effort, both in story-telling and animation approach.
A bamboo cutter named Sanuki no Miyatsuko lives high in the mountains, plying his trade. One day, while doing his rounds, he discovers a glowing bamboo shoot. Inside is a tiny, tiny girl. Believing her to be a divine presence, Miyatsuko and his wife decide to raise her as their own, calling her “Princess“. The girl grows rapidly and conspicuously, marveling her parents and earning her the nickname “Takenoko” (Little Bamboo) from the other children in the village. Sutemaru, the oldest among Kaguya’s friends, develops a particularly close relationship with her.
As if the Gods want her parents to tend properly for this girl, Sanuki discovers in the forest more glowing shoots, where he is given fine clothing and gold. He knows what he must do. Meanwhile, Princess frolics and plays around on the mountain with the other children, who are amazed as her growth (remember, some bamboo can grow as fast as a yard in a day) and her beauty. When it is time, Dad moves the family to the big city, where they are set up as a caliber of royalty. But the princess wants nothing to do with this, as it means changing who she is. And the suitors! When her beauty is learned of by those on the council, they flock to her. Well, she wants nothing to do with them, as it’s all status to them. Ever crafty, she sets them out on impossible tasks to prove their love for her, with mixed results overall. This portion here produces some of the funniest and heart-breaking sequences within the film.
What is appealing with the story is the artwork. Rather than full-on anime style animation, they have opted for a fine-line pastel approach, allowing us to fill in the background and details with our minds. With things kept simple, the story is allowed to blossom and flourish. Even though it is almost 140 minutes, you never feel it. In one sense, it reminded me of “Wolf Children”, with that sense of wonderment and discovery as things unfold before you. You feel real emotions and empathy for all involved. Although I won’t give away the true ending, I felt like that part was rushed a bit to draw it to a close, but done haphazardly. Despite that flop at the end, it is still a movie worthy of your time and well deserving of its Academy Award nomination (it wasn’t going to win; everything was going to fall before “Big Hero 6”).
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 9 (Exquisite)
Plot 9 (A simple story told fabulously)
Pacing 9 (Moves along consistently)
Effectiveness 9 (Such emotionality)
Conclusion 7 (It was a bit of a dud for me)
Fan Service 0 (A similar show would be “Honey and Clover”)
Overall 3 ½ stars