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The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013) Review

Updated on April 23, 2017

Director: Isao Takahata

Starring (English Voice Cast): Chloe Grace Moretz (Princess Kaguya Houraisan), Darren Criss (Sutemaru), The Bamboo Cutter (James Caan), The Bamboo Cutter’s Wife (Mary Steenburgen), Lady Sagama (Lucy Liu)


The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is based on the old Japanese folktale “the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.” Likewise, it is also the latest film from Studio Ghibli, being directed by the same person that also did Grave of the Fireflies. If you’ve seen that movie, you may be able to predict this movie as being a bit of a tear jerker. If so, you wouldn’t be too far from the truth.


The film’s plot revolves around a moon nymph that hides out on earth, being birthed inside a bamboo shoot. The ba,mboo cutter and his wife raise her as they would their own child. However, he comes to believe their daughter would be better off being raised in the capital (after finding gold and fine cloth in the woods). As a result, she is forced to leave her friends. In the process, as she officially becomes a princess, she gains the attention of several nobles (including the king, who wants her as a bride). In the end, the princess’s supposed happiness brings her nothing but misery.


This movie moves a bit slower than most people are used to, but overall it was a beautiful movie. The animation isn’t as detailed as one would come to suspect from an anime, but there’s a reason for that. Takahata was basing the story on an old folktale, so he modeled the animation on old Japanese folk art. Aside from this, Takahata’s art was beautiful. I especially liked how much emotion he was able to convey with the occasional brush stroke. Also, this film possessed some absolutely gorgeous use of lighting and shadows. All this combined to produce a beautifully-rendered tragedy, with a heart-wrenching love story at its core.


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