The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

“The Tale of The Princess Kaguya” is a watercolor illustration brought to life by Studio Ghibli. I was in awe of the work, so much so that I would pause the movie at times and stare at the beautiful illustration, and hit Play to see it move as if by magic. Who knew it would take me 3 hours to watch a 2 hour 17 minute movie!

The style of animation is different from traditional hand-drawn animations, wherein the background and characters are drawn separately. This movie was made by uniting the background and the characters into one beautiful picture, giving us the impression of a beautiful watercolor in motion.

This delightful piece of art is based on a 10th century Japanese folk tale. A bamboo cutter discovers a small child inside a glowing bamboo shoot and takes her home to raise her as his own. He sees signs that she is to be a princess and builds a mansion for her in the capital, with the gold he finds while cutting down bamboo stalks. Kaguya finds this new role of princess irksome and stifling as she realizes that being a princess is much more than wearing beautiful silks and frolicking in her mansion. Frustrated by the limits enforced on her freedom, she yearns to go back to her home: the Moon. The Moon hears her plea, and down come celestial beings singing and playing musical instruments. The chief angel cloaks her with the robe which makes Princess Kaguya forget all about her earthly existence. Her silken scarf sways gently behind her as if to bid farewell.

Accompanied by the beautiful songs, this movie was a feast for all the senses. Every syllable is beautifully articulated, you can almost see the singers’ lips change shape, feel the vocal cords strain. Watch it in Japanese with English subtitles, the English-dubbed version pales compared to the original, as per usual.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya was the result of 8 years of hard work. And what an absolute pleasure to watch! The scenes, sounds and emotions lingered with me even after the credits rolled in and the screen went blank. Here I go again, dreaming of tender bamboo shoots.


Spirited Away

I’ve been drawn to anything and everything Japanese for a while now. It started with Made in Japan by Akio Morita, followed by Jiro dreams of Sushi and a book about Hello Kitty. And the latest entrant: Spirited Away.

If you plan on watching it, watch it in HD with English sub titles. The English dubbed version loses the charm and the natural flow of the original movie.

I was mesmerized by the trembling cellophane that the flowers were wrapped in. Yes, cellophane paper cast a spell on me. Spirited Away follows Chihiro in her journey through a strange land in search of her parents. The graphics are utterly beautiful, drawn in incredible detail. You can feel yourself shudder as the wispy spirits pass by Chihiro on the bridge.

There’s a lot to say about the spirits! They’re creepy, definitely. Their creepiness lies in their inscrutability. Their bland faces don’t reveal much, it’s hard to decide whether to trust them or not. The strangest Spirit is No Face, who Chihiro keeps encountering. No Face has a mask and is cloaked in wispy blackness and simply stares at Chihiro from time to time. Cue creepy music.

Chihiro meets Haku, a boy of her age, who acts like a guide. You don’t realize till the end that they’re in love with each other. It’s a beautiful kind of love, where they don’t adhere to the standard holding hands and romancing stuff. They just do stuff for each other.

Spirited Away portrays greed, love, sacrifice, loneliness and goodness through Chihiro and the various characters she encounters in this dreamy journey. Not only is it a visual delight, it’s a feast for all the senses! The music and the background score up the magic quotient. Keep your tissues handy!