Here are some of my rambling thoughts on The Tale of the Princess Kaguya from my first and third time seeing it. I don’t have time right now, but I’m going to go through and hopefully edit this into something more coherent. The first long stretch was taken from a response comment to someone on ANN who didn’t like the film and called it shallow and other fairly disagreeable things, so, naturally, it reads like a response, rather than an actual essay. So yeah, I’ll edit that at some point. Either that, or I’ll just write about the film again after another rewatch.
spoiler[Kaguya isn’t an alien, she isn’t from the moon, that is simply a metaphor for her individuality. It is telling us that she is special and that she is destined/capable for/of great things(and in turn, that every person is special and has great potential). The way that she grows up only solidifies how special she is. Her father sees how special she is and tries to push her toward reaching, what he sees, as the peak of her potential, without realizing that he is actually forcing her to live out his own dreams and how he wished his life could have been. Her mother truly wants what’s best for her, but given the paternal nature of Japanese culture, her wishes take a backseat to whatever her husband wants. Kaguya, at this point, is a young woman who still has dreams of living a free life, but due to her obligations to her father, and of society as a whole, she begrudgingly puts on a fake smile and attempts to push through it. When she has the vivid dream of running back to the countryside she is near her breaking point for the first time. The pressures of society have nearly broken her and she is ready to, essentially, say “f*** it all, I’m done.” I thought that was a really powerful moment, personally. Moving further along, her strength as human, rather than as a manifestation of her father’s fantasies, begins to shine through. Her resistance becomes stronger and her dissatisfaction becomes more apparent at a surface level. Her mother is entirely aware of it, but given her timidity and , once again, how society is structured in Japan(and probably what she too, considered was best for her daughter), she is unable to effectively voice her opinion. Kaguya eventually becomes little more than a shell. Society, and her father, have pushed her to this point(I think this is a very strong statement against the salaryman nature of Japan). There is nothing left for her, other than to march along with the rest of them. She is no longer the special person and individual that she was capable of being. When she is finally betrothed to the king, she completely breaks. This isn’t okay with her anymore. Life isn’t worth living anymore because the pressure and stress of trying to meet the expectations of societal demands isn’t worth it. She doesn’t nearly take her own life, she actually does it(my own initial interpretation. If you interpret it more at face value, and that she still lives through her life, the message remains essentially the same). This is why she is unable to prevent the Moon people from taking her away. The pain, misery, and tragic nature of life pushed her too far and she felt that there was no other option. After her choice though, she second guesses her decision. She thinks back on her life and finally sees some of the almost unnoticeable beauty and joy buried in life, deep under all of that pressure. She looks back on it all and realizes that she made the wrong choice. That, as hard as life can be, it isn’t worth giving it up. That she was right in eventually fighting against those societal expectations, but that her avenue of escape was wrong. She regrets it, and therefore, when she is finally taken from the world, she looks back on it all and dreams of what it could have been had she been stronger. Had she actually run back to the country during that dream. She sees herself living the life that she wanted and she cries realizing that she truly made the wrong decision. That life is beautiful, but that you have to really fight for it.]
All of this, I think, is a very powerful commentary on society as a whole, but more specifically on Japanese culture and society. It is generally expected that everyone do as they are told and live a normal, productive life. I think that this story tries to throw that all out the window by saying that life, in a way, is what you make of it, but also, that fighting for what you want in life is more important than mindlessly following what is considered acceptable. Other than it’s statement about society, it is a coming of age story. It follows the hardships of growing up and what a difficult and painful experience it can be. It shows us how truly special each one of us are. How much potential we have. How each of us are capable of becoming a prince or princess. It also has a lot to say about the beauty that life is capable of, as well as the sadness. I think all of those interpretations are valid and it is one of the reasons that I love and respect this film so much. Given how closely it resonates with my own life, I guess it is easier for me to feel so strongly about it. Life is tough, but if you let society run your life, you will be miserable. Fight for what you want in life, because you are special and you are capable of much more than a “normal” life.
I hope you have time to read through all of this. And hopefully it will give you a different perspective on the film. Or at least gives you an idea of how I saw it. In any event, that is simply my own take away and why I loved the film so much. Wink
Also, I found this to be one of the most gorgeous things I have ever seen in my life. The animation was done entirely using watercolor artwork, which is just amazing. Beyond that it was so fluid and beautiful that some moments of animation, just by themselves, made me tear up. The way this movie looks just enhanced the setting and brought me into that world and time period even more.
I just recently experienced my favorite anime film for the third time. At about 2 hours and 17 minutes, it’s a little longer than most, but it somehow kept me riveted to my seat during every moment all three times. That movie is The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya. I’m the kind of person who likes stories about characters living life. Or at least striving to do so to the very best of their ability. Maybe “growing up” is a better term for it. For me, personally, it always hits really close to home. Growing up is tough. And somehow, even as Japanese as it is, the story of Kaguya resonated with me perfectly in its depiction of that. Kaguya begins life in a fairly average family, her parents champion her as special, as all good parents do for their children, and they clearly want what’s best for her. Or do they really want what’s best for her? That’s just one of many questions that this story puts on display. Throughout the film we are witness to Kaguya’s trials and tribulations in life. This movie is NOT a fantastical/upbeat/sugercoated story. It is an often depressing look at how societal expectations and pressures, combined with those from your very own family, can literally break you. But this is not a particularly pessimistic film either. It is a loving look at life in all of it’s candid beauty. Life is truly a beautiful thing. But it’s not easy, it’s not this shiny, glossy journey over rainbows. Bad things happen, people hurt, pressure becomes seemingly unbearable, and you may sometimes feel entirely alone. There are a number of possible interpretations of this story, but my personal favorite is that Kaguya is not an alien. Her birth from the bamboo tree is just a metaphor for how each and every person is a wonderful, unique blessing. As the film goes on she is unfortunately put through experiences that are terrifying and overwhelming for anyone. Eventually they take their toll. Kaguya is a wonderfully strong female character. Quite possibly one of the strongest I’ve ever seen in fiction. But even the strongest person is still a human. There is a scene where she nearly takes her own life toward the end, which, to me is truly her breaking point. My interpretation of that scene was that Kaguya actually does commit suicide. It is at that moment that Kaguya is told that she will be returning to the Moon. As she is being taken away back to the Moon Kaguya turns and looks back at Earth and tears come to her eyes. Then with the movie bringing out some of the most gorgeous animation I’ve personally ever seen, we are witness to a flurry of memories. Beautiful memories of her life and the people who loved her. She regrets it. She is truly sad to be leaving Earth. Even as soul crushing as life on Earth had been, it was beautiful and worth it to be alive. This is my favorite movie. The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya by Isao Takahata. The only thing I regret now is that I wasn’t able to talk more at length about the music and visuals in this movie. Every moment is made so much more powerful by the aesthetics. Certain scenes brought me to tears simply because of how utterly breathtaking they were to look at and listen to. If you haven’t seen it, please go watch it.