My first look at the latest work from director Isao Takahata, best known for Grave of the Fireflies. based on the folktale, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter . Spoilers within.
Just to note right up front that I am discussing the subtitled version here. I have not seen the dubbed version so any comparison between the two will have to happen at another time. So, first up is the animation and as this is a Studio Ghibli film it is naturally gorgeous! Though the sketch water style aesthetic is certainly different from the usually Ghibli look it is still wonderful to see. I think my favourite part is watching Kaguya running away from her coming of age party because it becomes so minimal where in some shots there are just a few lines used to convey the movement of the character. The level of skill necessary to achieve that for an audience to understand the action is incredible and it’s great to see.
The music is great and compliments the soft look of the film and the watching of life untold style of story being told. Also I loved one great use of sound when she is spinning around under the cherry blossoms tree and the music is intercut with her laughter bringing back the joy she felt as a child in the woods, until she bumps into the actual laughing child and realizes that that life is something she can’t have again; a very moving scene.
The characters inhabiting this beautiful engaging world are good too. The caring supportive mother and the equally caring father who got so caught up with the idea of providing the best of everything for Kaguya that he didn’t realize until it was too late that being shut in like a bird in a gilded cage never made her happy. Being able to experience everything in life made her happy and that seems to be why she aged so quickly in the beginning and why the flowers and such seemed to bloom around her quickly too during that time. I love the one servant Kaguya has and the gang of kids in the beginning they’re all funny. Sutemaru is also good and the relationship/romance they have works. The only minor issue I had with it was the timeline. When she ran off from the party and asked the man where Sutemaru and his family are he explains that they will be back in ten years after the forest has healed. Since Kaguya aged so quickly in the beginning and the only mention of time after that is to say three years passed I was shocked to see Sutemaru as an adult and that ten years in fact had passed, because Kaguya aged so much faster than everyone else I expected her to reach adulthood sooner than everyone too. So that’s a minor issue and another is the ending where the procession comes down and takes her back to the moon. Yes this a folktale and logic should take a backseat to certain story elements, clothes, gold, and Kaguya herself came out of bamboo stalks after all, but I really think that whole reveal and ending could have had some more set up and better pacing.
Despite the, in my opinion, rushed ending the film overall is still thoughtful, sweet, and beautiful and is well worth checking out.