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 produced by Studio Ghibli and directed and co-written by Isao Takahata, based on the folktale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. It is Takahata's fifth film for Studio Ghibli, and his first
since My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999). It was released on November 23, 2013.
The film received critical acclaim and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 87th Academy Awards.
A bamboo cutter named Sanuki no Miyatsuko discovers a miniature girl inside a glowing bamboo shoot. Believing her to be a divine presence, Miyatsuko and his wife decide to raise her as their own, calling her "Princess". The girl grows rapidly and conspicuously, marveling her parents and earning her the nickname "Takenoko" (Little Bamboo) from the other children in the village. Sutemaru, the oldest among Kaguya's friends, develops a particularly 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 soon
relocates the family to the capital, forcing her to leave her friends behind. She finds herself in a mansion, replete with servants and fine clothes. She is also saddled with a governess who is tasked with taming her into a proper noblewoman. She struggles with the restraints of nobility, arguing that life should be full of laughter and struggle.
When the girl comes of age, she is granted the formal name of "Princess Kaguya" for the light and life that radiates from her. Miyatsuko holds a celebration in commemoration of Kaguya's naming. At the celebration, Kaguya overhears party-goers 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. Kaguya passes out in the snow and awakens back at the party.
Kaguya grows in beauty, attracting scores of would-be suitors. Five men of noble standing court her, comparing her to mythical treasures. Not wanting to marry any of them, Kaguya tells them she will only marry whoever can bring her the mythical treasure mentioned. Two suitors unsuccessfully attempt to persuade her with counterfeits. The third abandons his conquest out of cowardice, and the fourth attempts to woo her with flattering lies and a promise of life in the countryside. When one of the men is killed in his quest, Kaguya falls into depression. Eventually, the Emperor himself takes notice of her. Taken with her beauty, he makes advances toward her, revolting her. Kaguya then demonstrates the ability to disappear at will, surprising the Emperor. Understanding that he has been too forward, the Emperor takes his leave, determined to still make Kaguya his.
Kaguya reveals to her parents that she originally came from the Moon. When the Emperor made his advances, she silently begged the Moon to help her and learned the truth: Once a resident of the Moon, she broke its laws, hoping to be exiled to Earth, so that she could experience mortal life. Now having heard her prayer, the Moon will reclaim her during the next full moon. Kaguya confesses her attachment to Earth and her reluctance to leave.
Miyatsuko swears to protect Kaguya and begins assembling defensive forces. Kaguya returns to her hometown in the mountains once more. She finds Sutemaru and tells him she would have been happiest with him; Sutemaru vows to protect her, and they fly through the air together. When the Moon shines upon Kaguya, she begs Sutemaru to hold her tightly. Despite Sutemaru's best efforts, Kaguya is torn from his grasp out of the sky. He awakens alone in a field, and convinced that it had been a dream, returns to his wife and child.
On the night of the full moon, a procession of celestial beings descends from the Moon, and Miyatsuko is unable to stop it. An attendant offers Kaguya a robe that will erase her memories of Earth. Kaguya begs the attendant to grant her a last moment with her parents.
The attendant assures her that upon returning to the Moon, she will be free of Earth's impurities. Kaguya rebuffs her, saying that Earth is full of wonder and life. The attendant then drapes the robe around Kaguya, and she appears to forget about her life on Earth. The procession ascends to the Moon, leaving Miyatsuko and his wife distraught, as Kaguya looks back one last time with tears in her eyes.
Japanese voice cast
- Princess Kaguya - Aki Asakura
- Sutemaru - Kengo Kora
- The Bamboo Cutter (Miyatsuko) - Takeo Chii
- The Bamboo Cutter's Wife (Ona) - Nobuko Miyamoto
- Lady Sagami - Atsuko Takahata
- Menowarawa - Tomoko Tabata
- Inbe no Akita - Tatekawa Shinosuke
- Prince Ishitsukuri - Takaya Kamikawa
- Lord Minister of the Right Abe - Hikaru Ijūin
- Great Counselor Otomo - Ryudo Uzaki
- The Mikado - Nakamura Shichinosuke II
- Prince Kuramochi - Isao Hashizume
English voice cast
- The Princess Kaguya - Chloë Grace Moretz
- The Bamboo Cutter - James Caan
- The Bamboo Cutter's Wife, Narrator - Mary Steenburgen
- Sutemaru - Darren Criss
- Lady Sagami - Lucy Liu
- Prince Kuramochi - Beau Bridges
- Prince Ishitsukuri - James Marsden
- Lord Minister of the Right Abe - Oliver Platt
- Me no Warawa - Hynden Walch
- The Mikado - Dean Cain
- Great Counselor Otomo - Daniel Dae Kim
- Inbe no Akita - George Segal
- Middle Counselor Isonokami - John Cho
- Kita no Kata - Emily Bridges
- Villager - Brian Leone
- Young Kaguya - Caitlyn Leone
- Villager - Michael Leone
- Ayabe no Uchimaro - Liam O'Brien
Additional Voice Cast
- Andre Robinson
- Warren Sroka
- Newell Alexander
- Elisa Gabrielli - Moon Goddess
- John C. Storey
- Rosemary Alexander
- Hope Levy
- Hudson Thames
- Moosie Drier
- Holly Dorff Long
- David Zyler
- James Nardini
- Jamie Simone - Voice Director
Studio Ghibli revealed that Isao Takahata was working on a feature-length film in 2008. Isao Takahata announced at the 62nd Locarno International Film Festival in 2009 that he intended to direct a film based on the Japanese folktale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.
The release of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya was finally confirmed by Studio Ghibli and distributor Toho on 13 December 2012. That same month, it was announced that Shin'ichirō Ikebe was to compose the film's score.
On 4 February 2013, it was also announced that Joe Hisaishi would write the film's score, effectively replacing Ikebe as the film's composer. This is the first time that Joe Hisaishi has scored a film by Isao Takahata.
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya was initially announced to be released simultaneously with The Wind Rises, another Studio 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 The Tale of the Princess Kaguya would be delayed to Fall 2013, citing concerns that the storyboards were not yet complete.
On March 12, 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 theatres in North America on October 17, 2014 and was also released on DVD and Blu-ray in Japan on December 3, 2014.
The film was selected to be screened as part of the Directors' Fortnight section of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Its North American premiere took place at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival as part of the festival's "Masters" program.
The film debuted at first place during its opening weekend in Japan, producing ¥284 million (US$2.8 million). By February 2, 2014, the film had produced ¥2,313,602,733 (US$22,613,153) at the Japanese box office. The total production of the film worldwide was $24,149,665.
In February 2014, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya placed 4th in both Kinema Junpo's Best Ten and their Reader's Choice Awards.
Reviews timed with the North American release have been overwhelmingly positive. 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."
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes assigned the film a score of 100% with an average rating of 8.3/10 based
on 78 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."