A minimalistic and emotionally charged film from an animation master.
Director: Isao Takahata
Company: Studio Ghibli
Isao Takahata is an unusual director, especially for an anime director, given that he was never trained as an animator. Takahata's films tend to be focused around mundane everyday experiences, where as his close friend and collaborator, Hayao Miyazaki, tends to make larger scale epics or family fantasy movies. (Perhaps this is the reason that Miyazaki tends to be better known than Takahada, as his films are more accessible to most audiences. Outside of the morbidly depressing, but excellent, Grave of the Fireflies (1988), Takahada's movies are often overlooked in the West.)
After an absence of 14 years, Takahada officially returned to the big screen with The Tale of Princess Kaguya. Initially, Kaguya was supposed to be released as double bill alongside Miyazaki's The Wind Rises (2013), but was released several months later due to falling behind schedule. Princess Kaguya is based on the Japanese folktale, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, which is about an old couple who find a baby girl inside a bamboo stalk and decide to raise her as their own.
Does Kaguya bring a miracle into her family's life, an extra burden, or an opportunity to grow?
The Tale of Princess Kaguya has a relatively small cast of characters. We get to know Kaguya and her family quite well, along with her childhood friend, Satemaru, and her stern governess, Lady Sagami. Other characters such as the various suitors that try to win Kaguya's hand aren't given much development, but this actually works largely in the film's favor. Kaguya herself is a quiet, often inquisitive child. She grows unusually fast, earning the nickname Takeneko ("Little Bamboo") from the other children in her village. Kaguya loves playing outdoors and is more interested in playing with her peers than material pursuits.
As she grows older, however, her adoptive father becomes increasingly convinced that his daughter deserves the best. After finding gold and some cloth in the bamboo grove, the Bamboo Cutter convinces himself that is a sign that Kaguya should be wed to a wealthy suitor. Believing that Kaguya is divine royalty, he moves his small family to the city. Kaguya is trained to be a 'proper lady,' but after the glamor of her new life wears off, she begins to miss her previous home terribly. Her life of royalty has become a cage, and she feels that she can no longer express herself as freely she used to.
It's better to live poor but happy than to live surrounded by wealth and misery.
If this isn't symbolic, I don't know what is.