Studio Ghibli is widely considered the Japanese Disney. Founded by artists-directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, both men have seen their final works recently realized before their retirement. Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises was released last month to critical acclaim and box office success, and Takahata’s first film in 14 years, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, will be his last for the studio. It was released this past week in Japan, with a trailer made accessible for a peek into this magical visual tale.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya was originally scheduled to release in Japan side by side with The Wind Rises, but later was delayed to its fall window. Changes to storyboards and the musical score caused the interruption. Originally Shiniciro Ikebe was to compose the musical score, but in February of 2013 he was replaced by Joe Hisaishi, who also created the music for The Wind Rises.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya is one of the oldest folktales in recorded history – definitely the oldest from Japan, with a date of sometime in the tenth century. Because of it’s underlying theme of the Princess having descended from the Moon, it is also considered the oldest recorded story of science-fiction. It has been adapted by Isao Takahata and Riko Sakaguchi from the original folktale, The Bamboo Cutter’s Daughter (Taketori Monogatari). It is animated in the style of the traditional Japanese scroll with each frame of the film being a work of art, using only watercolor and colored pencils.
The tale is not for the faint-hearted, and has no Disney fairy-tale ending. It’s billing road show poster reads – “A Princess’ Crime and Punishment”. Princess Kaguya was found nestled in a stalk of glowing bamboo in the forest. An old bamboo-cutter notices this special stalk and cuts it down. Inside he finds a tiny baby girl no bigger than his finger. Since he and his wife were childless he brings the child home where they joyfully raise it as their own. She grows into a full-size young woman, the most beautiful in the land. The bamboo cutter also finds that periodically gold is hidden in the bamboo he cuts, provided so he and his wife can afford to raise her in true Princess style. Of course the eligible men of the land vie for her hand, and she designs impossible tasks for them to achieve. Eventually, even the Emperor asks for her hand. But Princess Kaguya hides a secret: she is from the Moon, and longs to return to her real home and people.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya was produced by Yashiaki Nishimura it stars Aki Asakura, Kengo Kora, Takeo Chii, and Nobuko Miyamoto. No U.S. release date has been scheduled.
Watch the 6 minute trailer here: