The Tale of the Princess Kaguya


A new telling of a classic folktale about a baby girl discovered in a bamboo stalk.

I’ve been a fan of Studio Ghibli ever since I first watched My Neighbor Totoro many years ago. I was instantly hooked on Miyazaki’s ability to combine the whimsical and magical with serious topics: death, family, loneliness. His storytelling skills are superior to most. This rings incredibly true in The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, the most recent film produced by the studio.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is a new telling of a classic folktale. It’s about a bamboo cutter who discovers a beautiful baby girl in a bamboo stalk while he’s out working on the mountain. From this discovery, he is sure the young girl is divine and deserves a life of royalty and grandness, which he promptly sets out to achieve for her. Kaguya though, longs to be surrounded by wilderness and with her friends and adoptive parents. As the film progresses, she becomes stressed by and withdrawn from her unwanted lifestyle — until her true history and fate are revealed.

Visually, this film is stunning. The illustration style ranges from soft and colorful to quick and bare, changing throughout the film to emphasize the action on screen. The sound compliments the story as well. It’s used as a tool to make space for existential thoughts that run through your mind while watching. At times it’s completely silent, which lets the animations stand on their own and lets you empathize with Princess Kaguya. In other scenes, playful music accompanies people from the moon, helping to change the perspective on the deeply sad story unfolding on screen.

In full disclosure, this is not a movie with a typical happy ending. I cried and felt the message of the movie deep in my core: hold on to the people you love, even after they’re gone.