Today: May 26, 2024

The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya

Studio Ghibli have made their reputation with bittersweet tales of love, loss, and human frailty. The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya is the latest and possibly the last oeuvre from one of Studio’s founding fathers – Isao Takahata. But don’t believe those who tell you that no one makes films like this anymore. Truth is, no one ever made films like this before.

The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya is based on a Medieval Japanese folk tale, in which a Moon princess descends to Earth to experience life in all its rich and bewildering glory. Adopted by a bamboo cutter and his wife, the princess enjoys an idyllic childhood, amidst watercolour fields, and inky forests. Convinced that his daughter must move to the city in order to have a life befitting her status, the young princess becomes trapped in a world of fakery and snobbery and the tale takes on a darker, melancholic tone.

There’s no doubt that children love Ghibli, but Kaguya is perhaps it’s most adult film to date, in both theme and execution. The tale unfolds with unhurried pace that those raised on the more frenetic Disney fare may find hard to handle. This is, in many ways, a film for world-weary souls, in need of a little spiritual battery charging.

In fact, Princess Kaguya is more than just an ode to joy and youthful innocence, it’s also a film about Studio Ghibli and, perhaps Takahata himself. In recent years it may have seemed that Ghibli had succumbed to the pressure to produce films with a more marketable ‘universal’ appeal. Spirited Away and Howls Moving Castle certainly did business – and won the awards – on the international stage. But there’s always been something irrepressibly parochial about Ghibli. Like Princess Kaguya herself, Ghibli may have learnt how to look the part but at heart they’ve remained fiercely independent, always ready to throw off those formal robes and run barefoot in the mud. The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya is everything that Ghibli should be. Elegant, elegiac, breathtakingly beautiful and unashamedly Japanese.

Takahata’s first film for Ghibli was Grave Of The Fireflies – an achingly sad tale of childhood and the triumph of the human spirit set in Japan at the end of World War II. Thirty years on and Takahata’s last, bold film closes the circle.

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email:

BFI Player
Previous Story

Britain On Film Launches On BFI Player

Next Story


Latest from Blog


Memory (2023)

Memory is an exquisite American drama in the tender embrace of Michel Franco’s cinematic prowess.

The Valiant Ones

The Valiant Ones was King Hu’s last, great masterpiece. Indeed it’s arguably his last true wuxia film — but what a magnificent beast it is. Directed by the celebrated master of the

Enter the Clones of Bruce Unboxing

There have been so many books, documentaries, and even biopics of the immeasurably pioneering martial arts icon Bruce Lee. His life and work have been studied intensely, and his influence remains felt

BackBeat Unboxing

This month saw underrated Beatle-biopic BackBeat make its Blu-ray debut from Fabulous Films, surely delighting the band’s collectors and completists. Telling the story of the Beatles’ first bassist – the so-called ‘lost

D-Day 80th Anniversary

In just a couple of weeks, the world will observe the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the unprecedented allied invasion of the beaches of Normandy on 6th June 1944. It’s impossible to imagine

Lawmen: Bass Reeves Unboxing

Originally envisioned as yet another Yellowstone spin-off, Lawmen: Bass Reeves is one of the best television westerns in years. Fronted by a stellar performance from David Oyelowo alongside screen legends Donald Sutherland
Go toTop

Don't Miss


From the director of ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ THE TALE