The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (4 stars)

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Beautiful, feminist animation from Studio Ghibli's Isao Takahata

Not every little girl aspires to be a princess. Something that’s important to keep in mind while watching Isao Takahata’s feminist-slanted adaptation of an old Japanese folktale, 'The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter'. What may be Takahata’s last Studio Ghibli animation is a beautiful, hand-drawn fairytale that captures the imagination and imparts a valuable lesson about the damaging effects of stereotyping women.

A bamboo cutter (voiced by James Caan in the English-language version) is one day magically presented with a baby girl who pops out of a shoot. Much to the surprise of him and his wife (Mary Steenburgen) she grows at an extraordinarily fast rate. Kaguya (Chloë Grace Moretz) flourishes in her countryside surroundings, scampering around in the fields collecting fruit and getting into trouble. Her parents are jubilant at her arrival but when her father decides to move the family to the city so Kaguya can become a princess her response is one of devastation. When many rich and royal suitors come to ask for her hand in marriage Kaguya’s smart ways help reveal their true personalities.

Takahata plays with the idea that every child has their own individual potential, no matter what their gender. His adaptation critically points the finger at society's rigid ideals rather than individual folly, with Kaguya’s father being painted as terribly misguided rather than cruel. An electrifying dream sequence where Kaguya runs like the wind back to the place and time she was happiest, after being forced to listen to drunk old men talk about her worth in terms of her attractiveness, is heart-breaking. Sadly, this is a message many young women are still being fed on a daily basis, so Takahata’s decision to dedicate an entire film to the subject is sure to provoke an emotional response. This enchanting, admirable fable will elicit exuberant joy and great sadness due to the fact that it both celebrates women and mourns the limitations of their life under patriarchy.

Selected release from Fri 20 Mar.

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya | UK Trailer

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

  • 4 stars
  • 2013
  • Japan
  • 2h 17min
  • U
  • Directed by: Isao Takahata
  • Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen
  • UK release: 20 March 2015

Kaguya (voiced by Moretz in the English dub) is magically born to a bamboo cutter (Caan) and his wife (Steenburgen), but she's devastated when he moves to the city so that she can become a princess. Enchanting, admirable fable about the damaging effects of stereotypes; Kaguya's father is not cruel, just terribly misguided.