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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Studio Ghibli In The U.S.: The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Here's another cool movie from Japan's Studio Ghibli... one that has been out in Japan, but is now coming west: The Tale of Princess Kaguya.

Based on the classic Japanese folk story “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” or “Princess Kaguya,” it is considered the oldest example of Japanese literature. It is also known as The Bamboo-cutter And The Moon-child.

Of course, since this is a movie, there are a few differences from the original folk tale.

In the story, an old, childless man called Taketori no Okina (the Old Man who Harvests Bamboo) finds a shining bamboo stalk in the forest. Cutting it open, he finds a baby as small as the palm of his hand. He and his wife name the baby girl Kaguya and raise her as their own.

As perhaps a measure of good karma, whenever Okina would later cut down another bamboo stalk, he was blessed to find gold rocks inside.

As the girl grows up, her beauty does too and soon everyone with a Camaro gathers many suitors.

Naturally, rather than just fall in love with the right man, she instead gives each an impossible task to complete, such as: bringing her a colored jewel from a dragon’s neck; or the Buddha’s stone begging bowl.

But, in the story, she seems to fall under the wiles of the Emperor of Japan, but eventually spurns his advances.

Whenever Kaguya looks at the moon, she begins to cry, though she is unable to tell anyone what upsets her, because she is actually from a city on the Moon - and that gold her 'dad' keeps finding, well, its just the Moon folk's way of saying here, thanks for taking care of our little girl - which all sounds like a pretty stupid way to raise a child.

Surely they have nannies on the Moon?!

Of course, other bloggers writers of this story created versions where she was either sent to Earth as a form of punishment (like Thor was back in the original Marvel comic books) or that she was being protected from an on-going celestial war (think Men In Black II).

Anyhow, before eventually heading back to the Moon, she gave a letter to the Emperor, who then ordered his men to take the letter to the highest summit and burn it.

It is said that the kanji for Mount Fuji, which when read literally means "Mountain abounding with warriors" comes from the soldiers climbing the slopes to follow the Emperor’s orders.
You can read the entire tale HERE.

Studio Ghibli's animated movie is a little bit lighter in tone... they love having women as the lead...

Directed by Takahata Isao (surname first) and released in Japan last year on November 23, 2013, there is a limited release in the U.S. starting October 17, 2014.

It's a pretty good story, and the director has done some nice animated work previously on such beloved animated  films as producing Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Castle in the Sky, and directing Grave of the Fireflies, Pom Poko, and My Neighbors the Yamadas.

Andrew Joseph

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