THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA
Directed by Isao Takahata
Ms. Hen has gotten into anime lately. She thinks it’s very strange that she would like such a thing, but she has enjoyed watching the films ONLY YESTERDAY, WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE, and she recently watched THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA. She has been near the anime convention in Boston, and she’s seen strange looking young people going to that convention. Ms. Hen is not a strange hen, but she thinks if she were a kid, she could be as strange as them.
Ms. Hen was immediately entranced by THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA. The animation is exquisite, with rough drawings over the watercolors. Everything in this film is hand drawn, and some are paper cutouts of the characters that float above a background. The emotion of the princess is expressed in the artwork, in some of the scenes, the drawings are violent and passionate, and what the princess is experiencing is clear to the viewer.
The story is an ancient Japanese folk tale, called THE TALE OF THE BAMBOO CUTTER. A bamboo cutter finds a tiny girl in a tree he is chopping down. He brings her home to his wife, then the girl turns into a baby. The baby grows voraciously, until she is fully grown within a few days. Her parents call her “princess,” but her friends call her “little bamboo.” She enjoys playing in the forest with her friends, especially the boy Sutemaru. The bamboo cutter believes she is a princess, and takes her to the city to live the life she deserves, after he finds gold in a bamboo tree he is cutting down.
Her parents hire a tutor to teach her how to act royally. The princess detests the tutor, and does not want to do what she says. Her parents also hire someone to give her a name, and he gives her the name Princess Kaguya, or the princess of the bamboo. Noble men hear how beautiful she is, and five ask her for her hand in marriage. She sends them all on a quest to retrieve things that they she is like.
THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA reminded Ms. Hen of many other stories. It reminded her of THUMBELINA, since she started as a tiny girl. It also reminded her of CINDERELLA, because she became a princess in a magical way. It also reminded her of ALADDIN, since she was poor, then became rich, because the woodcutter found gold in the tree. Ms. Hen believes that stories from around the world are all connected, like Joseph Campbell says in his book, THE POWER OF MYTH.
The story started in the mountains and the forest, so there were chickens and hens around. An important scene occurred when Princess Kaguya sees her old friend Sutemaru stealing a chicken and running away. He stands there and stares at her, then is caught and gets beaten. The princess is ashamed that she did not help him.
Ms. Hen loved this film. She enjoys watching movies like this because it’s pure fantasy; she can get swept away in the story and not think about the problems of the world. Ms. Hen has found these anime films can get very emotional toward the end, and sometimes she gets overwhelmed with sadness. THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA is especially sad, but beautiful, like life can be sometimes.