The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Japanese: かぐや姫の物語, Hepburn: Kaguya-hime no Monogatari) is a 2013 Japanese animated fantasy drama film co-written and directed by Isao Takahata, based on The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, a 10th-century Japanese literary tale. It was produced by Studio Ghibli for Nippon Television Network, Dentsu, Hakuhodo DYMP, Walt Disney Japan, Mitsubishi, Toho and KDDI, and distributed by Toho.
|The Tale of the Princess Kaguya|
Japanese theatrical release poster
|Hepburn||Kaguya-hime no Monogatari|
|Directed by||Isao Takahata|
|Produced by||Yoshiaki Nishimura|
|Based on||The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter|
|Music by||Joe Hisaishi|
|Edited by||Toshihiko Kojima|
|Budget||¥5 billion ($49 million)|
|Box office||¥2.5 billion (Japan) |
$27 million (worldwide)
The film features an ensemble voice cast that includes Aki Asakura, Kengo Kora, Takeo Chii, Nobuko Miyamoto, Atsuko Takahata, Tomoko Tabata, Tatekawa Shinosuke, Takaya Kamikawa, Hikaru Ijūin, Ryudo Uzaki, Nakamura Shichinosuke II, Isao Hashizume, Yukiji Asaoka (in a special appearance) and Tatsuya Nakadai. The film features the final film performance by Chii, who died in June 2012, and was the final film directed by Takahata, who died in April 2018.
It was released in Japan on 23 November 2013, distributed by Toho. At the budget of US$49.3 million, it is the most expensive Japanese film as of 2020. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 87th Academy Awards. The production of the film was the subject of the feature-length documentary film Isao Takahata and His Tale of the Princess Kaguya.
A bamboo cutter named Sanuki no Miyatsuko discovers a miniature girl inside a glowing bamboo shoot. Believing her to be a divine presence, he and his wife decide to raise her as their own, calling her "Princess". The girl grows rapidly, earning her the nickname "Takenoko" (Little Bamboo) from the other village children. Sutemaru, the oldest among Kaguya's friends, develops a close relationship with her.
Miyatsuko comes upon gold and fine cloth in the bamboo grove in the same way he found his daughter. He takes these as proof of her divine royalty and begins planning to make her a proper princess. He relocates the family to the capital, forcing the girl to leave her friends behind, and the family moves into a mansion replete with servants. The girl is soon saddled with a governess who is tasked with taming her into a noblewoman. The girl struggles with the restraints of nobility, yearning for her prior life in the countryside.
When the girl comes of age, she is granted the formal name of "Princess Kaguya" by a name-father. Miyatsuko then holds a celebration, where Kaguya overhears partygoers ridiculing her father's attempts to turn a peasant girl into a noble through money. Kaguya flees the capital in despair and runs back to the mountains, seeking Sutemaru and her other friends, but discovers that they have all moved away. She passes out in the snow and awakens back at the party.
Kaguya grows in beauty, attracting suitors. Five noblemen attempt to court her, comparing her to mythical treasures. Kaguya tells them she will only marry whoever can bring her the mythical treasure mentioned. Two suitors attempt to persuade her with counterfeits, the third abandons his quest out of cowardice, and the fourth attempts to woo her with flattering lies. When the last suitor is killed in his own quest, Kaguya becomes depressed. Eventually, the Emperor takes notice of Kaguya's beauty and tries to kidnap her, but she foils him and convinces him to leave.
Kaguya reveals to her parents that she originally came from the Moon. Once a resident there, she broke its laws, hoping to be exiled to Earth so that she could experience mortal life. When the Emperor made his advances, she silently begged the Moon to help her. Having heard her prayer, the Moon restored her memories and said she will be reclaimed during the next full moon. Kaguya confesses her attachment to Earth and her reluctance to leave; Miyatsuko swears to protect Kaguya and begins turning the mansion into a fortress.
Kaguya then returns to her home village and finds Sutemaru. The two profess their love for one another, and in their joy they leap into the air and fly over the countryside, only to encounter the Moon and fall. Sutemaru wakes up alone and reunites with his wife and child, interpreting the whole experience as a dream.
On the night of the full moon, a procession of celestial beings led by the Buddha descends from the Moon, and Miyatsuko is unable to stop it. An attendant offers Kaguya a robe that will erase her memories of Earth. She is granted one last moment with her parents before an attendant drapes the robe around her, appearing to erase her memory. They leave, and Miyatsuko and his wife are distraught. Kaguya looks back at Earth one last time, and cries silently as she remembers her mortal life.
|Character||Japanese cast||English dub cast|
|Princess Kaguya||Aki Asakura [ja]||Chloë Grace Moretz|
Caitlyn Leone (young)
|Sutemaru||Kengo Kora||Darren Criss|
|The Bamboo Cutter||Takeo Chii[a]||James Caan|
|The Bamboo Cutter's Wife / The Narrator||Nobuko Miyamoto||Mary Steenburgen|
|Lady Sagami||Atsuko Takahata||Lucy Liu|
|Me no Warawa||Tomoko Tabata||Hynden Walch|
|Inbe no Akita||Tatekawa Shinosuke||George Segal|
|Prince Ishitsukuri||Takaya Kamikawa||James Marsden|
|Lord Minister of the Right Abe||Hikaru Ijūin||Oliver Platt|
|Great Counselor Otomo||Ryudo Uzaki||Daniel Dae Kim|
|The Mikado||Nakamura Shichinosuke II||Dean Cain|
|Prince Kuramochi||Isao Hashizume||Beau Bridges|
|Middle Counselor Isonokami||Tamaki Kojo||John Cho|
- Yuji Miyake recorded additional dialogue for the bamboo cutter following Takeo Chii's death.
As a child, Takahata read The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. He recalled that he struggled to relate and sympathize with the protagonist; to him, the "heroine’s transformation was enigmatic" and that it "didn’t evoke any empathy from [him]". In 1960, Takahata was preparing for a potential adaptation for his employer Toei Animation, which eventually was abandoned. After rereading the tale, he realized the story's potential to be entertaining, as long as an adaptation allowed the audience to understand how Princess Kaguya felt.
Studio Ghibli revealed that Isao Takahata was working on a feature-length film in 2008. Takahata announced at the 62nd Locarno International Film Festival in 2009 that he intended to direct a film based on the anonymous Japanese literary tale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya was financed by Nippon TV, whose late chairman, Seiichiro Ujiie, gave ¥5 billion (approximately $40 million) towards the project. Ujiie loved Takahata's work, and pleaded with Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki to let Takahata make one more film. Ujiie died on 3 March 2011, but not before being able to view the script and some of the storyboards.
To make sure the audience emotionally connected with the film, it was important to Takahata that viewers were able to "imagine or recall the reality deep within the drawings", rather than be distracted by a realistic art style. He wanted to have people "recollect the realities of this life by sketching ordinary human qualities with simple props". To assist with this vision, Osamu Tanabe provided the character designs and animation, and Kazuo Oga drew the watercolor backgrounds.
The release of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya was finally confirmed by Studio Ghibli and distributor Toho on 13 December 2012.
In 2012, Shin-ichiro Ikebe was announced to write the film's score. However, in 2013, Joe Hisaishi replaced Ikebe as the composer. This is the first and only time that Hisaishi has scored a film directed by Isao Takahata. The theme song "When I Remember This Life" was written and performed by Nikaido Kazumi. The music from the film's original soundtrack was released on 20 November 2013.
All tracks are written by Joe Hisaishi, except where noted.
|3.||"The Little Princess"||1:15|
|4.||"The Joy of Living"||1:01|
|14.||"The Garden of Life"||0:25|
|17.||"The Coming of Spring"||1:03|
|18.||"Melody of the Beautiful Koto"||0:34|
|20.||"Memories of the Village"||1:36|
|21.||"The Nobles' Wild Ride"||1:29|
|24.||"Mystery of the Moon"||0:48|
|27.||"The City of the Moon"||0:28|
|30.||"The Procession of Celestial Beings I"||2:28|
|32.||"The Procession of Celestial Beings II"||0:57|
|34.||"When I Remember This Life" (Written and performed by Nikaido Kazumi)||5:42|
|37.||"Song of the Heavenly Maiden"||1:34|
The Tale of The Princess Kaguya was initially announced to be released simultaneously with The Wind Rises, another Ghibli film by Hayao Miyazaki in Japan in the summer of 2013, which would have marked the first time that the works of the two directors were released together since the release of the films My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies in 1988. However, in February 2013, distributor Toho announced that the release of Kaguya-Hime no Monogatari would be delayed to 23 November 2013, citing concerns that the storyboards were not yet complete. On 12 March 2014, independent distributor GKIDS announced that it had acquired the US rights for the film and that it would release an English dub version produced by Studio Ghibli and Frank Marshall. Chloë Grace Moretz is the voice of the title character in the English dub. It was released in select theaters in North America on 17 October 2014 and was also released on DVD and Blu-ray on 17 February 2015. The film was selected to be screened as part of the Directors' Fortnight section of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Its North American première took place at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival during the festival's "Masters" program.
The film debuted at first place during its opening weekend in Japan, grossing ¥284 million ($2.8 million). By 2 February 2014, the film had grossed ¥2,313,602,733 ($22,613,153) at the Japanese box office. The film went on to gross ¥2.47 billion ($25.35 million) in Japan, where it was the eleventh top-grossing Japanese film of 2014.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes assigned the film a score of 100% "Certified Fresh" with an average rating of 8.21/10 based on 92 reviews. The critics' consensus says, "Boasting narrative depth, frank honesty, and exquisite visual beauty, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is a modern animated treasure with timeless appeal." It was the first film of the decade to receive a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating, making it one of the highest-rated films of the 2010s.[failed verification] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 89 out of 100 based on 28 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
In February 2014, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya placed 4th in both Kinema Junpo's Best Ten and their Reader's Choice Awards. David Ehrlich of The A.V. Club gave the film an A, deeming it "the best animated movie of the year," adding that it is "destined to be remembered as one of the revered Studio Ghibli’s finest achievements." Nicolas Rapold of The New York Times praised the artwork calling it "exquisitely drawn with both watercolor delicacy and a brisk sense of line."
- The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, a 2013 documentary about the making of the film
- List of films directed by Isao Takahata
- Princess from the Moon, a 1987 major live-action film based on The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter
- List of films with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a film review aggregator website
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