Kaguya-hime no Monogatari | Movie Review
If there ever was a quote to perfectly describe the surreal and metaphorical journey that is Kaguya Hime no Monogatari, then this quote would be it. Kaguya-hime no Monogatari, or The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, is a Studio Ghibli film that was created and directed by none other than the legendary Isao Takahata, and was released during the year of 2013. You would expect that with Takahata being behind this movie, that it would deliver as always, and you are certainly right in that regard. Please do note that this is a movie that is slow, long, and it takes it’s time to tell a story, so if you are expecting some kind of action or tension to come out of it, then this movie does not contain any of those things. With that being said, the topic of this movie is about life as a whole, from it’s beauty to the struggles and hardships that come with it, to the growth of it’s individuals from young adolescents to responsible adults. This movie shows us life’s many cycles, from the growth of the little princess Kaguya, to the daily chores of the workers, the struggles of the elderly, the antics of the children, and the habits of the animals. It shows us everything life has to offer in a two hour long magnificent story, coupled with some beautiful visuals and an engaging soundtrack. Since this movie tells the story of life, I like to divide it into several phases, which are: The birth phase, the growth phase, the loss phase, the self-hate phase, and the death phase.
The movie starts off with a very unique premise, a young princess comes out of a random bamboo stick in the woods, and is picked up by an old farmer and taken care of by him and his wife. This concept is already distinctive and interesting in of itself, and grabs the viewer in from the very start of the movie. Not only is said concept great, but also the movie’s execution of said concept is brilliant. Takahata is an expert when it comes to crafting a scene and he does not fail in doing so here in this film. Everything in this movie is symbolic, meaning that a scene that contains flowers blooming can symbolize the growth of the little princess Kaguya for example. Every little scene in the beginning of the movie makes sense metaphorically, from a flower blooming to a butterfly hatching out of it’s cocoon, they all symbolize the concept of life, and they are all used as metaphors for Princess Kaguya’s growth, both physically and mentally. The movie also shows us how the little baby Kaguya is growing up, by making her imitate the jumping movement of frogs, as this scene serves to show us that Kaguya is a fast learner and is growing faster than other children, foreshadowing her as something special, something that is not human.
The little princess starts to become more and more mature as the movie progresses. She starts to become more like the old man who took care of her as a child. The movie tells us that by showing her taking care of another baby, which serves to symbolize the growth of the princess from an immature child to a mature and young adult. We see her start to become more and more responsible in her own actions, even though she still does make some mistakes from time to time. As she becomes more and more like the adult version of herself and less like the younger, more naive version, she finally comes to the realization that she was the princess that sprung out of the bamboo stick all along, and not a normal child. This phase is supposed to symbolize our coming into terms with the reality of who we are. This phase also sets us up for the third phase of the movie, which is the loss phase.
Due to the old man’s unconditional love for his daughter, he decides that she should become a princess instead of staying up in the mountains, and that is because she was sent down from the sky. This part of the story deals with the concept of loss, the loss of the friends she made, the loss of the memories she cherished for so long, and the loss of some other stuff she experienced during her life. The contrast between her previous fun life and her current royal life is seen when she is restricted from the enjoyable activities she used to do as a child, like swimming in the water, which is forbidden for a royal princess like her. We see how now, she has to suffer to be able to come to terms with her new self and this life that was imposed upon her. Unable to escape, and not wanting to disappoint her parents, she has to live her life according to these new set of rules. Is this scenario reminding you of someone? This movie is metaphorical at the end of the day, and it could as well be a reflection of us as human beings who are watching this film, since a lot of us tend to live our lives this way. We lose our way in life when a crisis occurs during maturity and are confused as to what to do. Naturally, this leads up to the self-hate phase, and that is due to Kaguya’s set of rules being imposed on her.
After days of training being imposed on the princess, she starts to become more and more experienced in what she does, from playing the instruments to becoming more “lady-like”, she truly can call herself a princess now. Although her future looks bright in the kingdom, she still misses her old life in the mountains, alongside her friends and the other villagers. She is trapped, and that leads to a cycle of self hate. She tries to run away, but she cannot live on her own, and after her unconscious body is then captured and returned back to the kingdom, she then finally accepts her fate and gets her face redone to become a true lady. After all is said and done, her father brings her a gift, which is a bird that is trapped inside of a cage. The movie here shows us it’s symbolic brilliance, as here we see how there is no difference between the bird and the princess herself, as both are trapped and are unable to escape their fate no matter how hard they tried. When the princess does something she loves to fill in the hole of depression, we see birds and butterflies flying freely in the air, which symbolizes her love for life and the freedom she feels when doing something she actually loves. Due to her unable to accept her fate no matter how hard she tried, she becomes tired and decides to give up on the wealthy life and return to her origins.
After all the emotional crisis is experienced by Kaguya, we finally come to the death phase. Due to the fake love the princess is receiving from the royal princes and the counselors, she decides that her life is no longer valuable, and decides to return to her original home on the moon. This phase symbolizes the fake love that some people may feel and their inability to feel content with their own lives. When the moon people finally arrive, the story ends with Kaguya forgetting her memories and returning back to her home. With that, the movie concludes it’s story about life, which started off from birth and ended at death. The movie tells the tale of peoples’ lives in a very beautiful way. It gives us a generic story, but mixes it in some beautiful imagery, amazing metaphors and powerful execution, to give us an unforgettable experience overall.
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