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Even though it has been ages since I watched “Princess Kaguya”, it stays very vividly in my mind. What is particularly stunning is the … how to say … very different aesthetics, the water colour appearance, giving the whole film a dreamy appearance. Even more than other Studio Ghibli films, the supernatural elements take a very casual role, are taken as a given by whoever is affected. There is a tiny baby that emerged from a bamboo shoot. That baby is taken in by the family of the bamboo cutter and grows at a stunning rate. Weird, yes, but then again, she is loved just like a regular child. Her friends play with her and like or dislike her, just as they would a regular girl. Her being special  basically means that her education will require some special measures. As her presence comes along with the presence of a fortune that can be spent on a domicile in the capital and the introduction of nobility, well let’s do that. Soon the film turns into a very melancholic glance at a girl who would like nothing more than being allowed to stay where she likes it most, the rural patch where her foster parents found her. She cannot bear the burden of needing to be noble and gracious the way tradition asks her to. She cannot take seriously the promises the men willing to marry her make, and mocks them, only creating more inconvenience to them and to herself. It does not matter at all that she is from “somewhere else”, because she wants to be a simple girl from a bamboo cutters’ family. There are moments of great despair, she seeks to go back to her old home, only to find out she can’t, that everything has changed, and that the boy the probably loves most has become something of a crook after her disappearance. The story moves Kaguya towards the almost inevitable return to her real home, and the final scenes are as dreamlike as can be, with a very calm yet joyful “extraction”.

Beyond the proper and true telling of the story, what makes the film magic is really its looks. I have not seen this used in a film before, and was initially curious, then skeptical, and finally thrilled. The Ghibli masters manage to be innovative through being old-fashioned, and chose the exact right visuals for telling this particular story. I keep always checking film for toddler-friendliness, to see when I will finally be willing to expose a little child to a large-scale movie. I keep coming back to certain classics of the Ghibli output, such as “Kiki’s Delivery Service” or “My Neighour Totoro”. “Kaguya” may well be a candidate on this list, as it is mostly calm and warm-hearted, but does not shy away from the truths, dangers and possibilities of growing up.

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_tale_of_the_princess_kaguya/

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