I discovered Ghilbli movies back in 2015, when I was still in college… the first movie that I watched was Spirited Away. I was so intrigued after watching that movie that I watched all the Ghibli movies that I could find at that time! Some of them were mind-blowing, some were boring and some needed few more extra brain cells for me to understand. I remember talking about these movies to one of my batch-mates, he too became an instant fan of the Ghibli world. Almost 7 years later, my life has significantly changed and so has my taste in movies/entertainment. The tale of the princess Kaguya (2013) is one of the movies in my to-watch list from long time, but only recently I watched it. Hence this post!
A wood-cutter named Miyatsuko was cutting bamboos in a forest, suddenly he came across a mysterious bamboo shoot nearby. Upon approaching the bamboo shoot that looked no ordinary, he found a beautiful doll inside, that could move! The doll is sleeping peacefully. Miyatsuko couldn’t help but took the doll in his arms and brought back home… The poor couple didn’t have a child of their own. Woodcutter showed the doll to his wife, when the lady took the doll in her arms, it magically transformed to a human baby. The couple was shocked yet delighted, they took it as a blessing from heaven and started raising the little baby as their own child.
The baby was growing very fast, so everyone named her Takenoko (Bamboo shoot). Takenoko was the apple of everybody’s eyes… She was fun-loving and jolly, she used to run along with little boys in the neighborhood, that’s where she met Sutenaru. Sutenaru was quite older than Takenoko/Bamboo-shoot when they met, however she grew up to his age pretty quickly.
Takenoko was fond of nature, the hills, the forests and the surroundings of her country-side home. One day her father found another mysterious looking bamboo stick, this time it gave him golds. Miyatsuko realized that the gold must be sent by the heaven as well to take care of the heavenly child they had.
Miyatsuko and his wife moved to the capital after that to make a fine princess out of Takenoko. She was reluctant to leave her friends behind, but couldn’t disobey her parents. Takenoko’s father appointed a lady to teach her the mannerisms of a princess, however it was proven to be pretty difficult job to tame her playfulness. Takenoko was undoubtedly very talented and beautiful, however she didn’t want to be restrained with all the rules and regulations that young women were supposed to follow.
Then came Takenoko’s naming ceremony- Miyatsuko hosted a 3-day-long celebration for that. All the men drank, ate, gambled, entertained themselves. On the other hand Takenoko (now named Princess Kaguya) wasn’t allowed step outside. The guests started questioning her noble birth and whether she was truly worth all the hype.
Life in the capital and all these gossips took a toll on the princess, she fled away to the country-side from the backdoor only to find out the forests had been destroyed, her lovely childhood home is now a deserted place, her friends had left that place as well… Kaguya lost sense and fell down on the ground and woke up in her palace again just like a dream.
The talk about princess’s unearthly beauty was spreading like wild-fire. Suitors from noble houses started fighting between themselves over the princess. One day princess went to the country-side with her mother and a hand-maid to see the cherry blossom. On her way back home, she saw Sutemaru on the street. When she started calling his name, he turned around- however he couldn’t talk to her as some guy started beating him down.
That incident hurt the princess deeply, she cried piteously and then fell silent. She made herself very agreeable, devoted all her time in studies and training. 5 noblemen approached to court her, reluctantly the princess listened to their proposals, sitting behind a veil. They were comparing her beauty with that of unearthly things. The princess asked all of them to bring the same unearthly things she was compared with to flatter her, she said whoever would be successful in bringing that would have her.
For next few days there were no sign of the princes, Miyatsuko was growing desperate, he was afraid that the princess’s demands were unrealistic and nobody would marry her. Finally 3 of the noblemen returned- however all of them got rejected because of their falsehood. The one guy whom the princess actually found interesting died in the quest, so princess Kaguya was feeling hopeless and depressed.
Since the princess rejected all the proposals, the king started taking interest in her. He ordered her to present herself to him, however princess denied to obey him as well. Desperate king gave her a surprise visit in her own mansion and tried to hug her forcefully. The princess gathered courage to stop the king making him leave the mansion immediately.
After that princess Kaguya grew extremely silent, every night she would be seen looking at the moon with teary eyes. The parents started worrying about her well-being and asked her if anything was wrong. Princess Kaguya confessed her true identity to her parents, she’s descended from the moon. When the king was trying to violate her, she desperately sought protection from heaven. She would be taken back to her original home after 15 days. Princess Kaguya grew so affectionate towards her foster parents, her friends, earth’s nature she was not willing to return to moon.
Miyatsuko promised to protect her and converted the mansion into a fortress. Takenoko met Sutemaru for one last time, told him the truth and how much she loved him… Sutemaru too wanted to protect her at any cost. The encounter seemed like a dream to him, after which he went back to his wife and child. On the night of the full moon a procession of celestial beings approached the capital to take princess Kaguya to the moon.
She bid her parents from earth one last good-bye and put on a robe and crown- the robe erased the memory of her stay on the earth. Princess Kaguya left for her home while everyone was looking at the cloud mesmerized by the piece of heaven…
My thoughts on the movie-
I honestly fell for the plot twice. I thought that Sutemaru was Princess Kaguya’s love interest, him willing to leave everything behind and flee away with her to protect her from being taken away- made me even more confident… But he already had a wife and a son. So not sure, if I misread the interaction.
The princess having an opinion of her own and not blindly obeying her parents to marry just any nobleman – wow, this was amazing! More so, because she actually didn’t have another person in mind. Can you imagine a story where the princess is not obsessed with love and marriage and wants to study? Tell me in the comments!
The king mistaking princess’s rejection as acceptance- the movie reinforces meaning of ‘no’ as ‘NO’ instead of killing all logic and sensibility. I appreciate this more than anything. This simple ideology is missing in most of the movies made in the name of entertainment.
The fact that princess saved herself from the king- it was neither her father, nor any of her love interests/men – is a great message. Not all the princesses need saving, they are strong enough to save themselves!
Last but not the least, princess leaving for the moon. Not gonna lie, I was a bit unsettled at first, it didn’t feel like an ending as I am used to watching a marriage, a union or something in the similar line as the ending and then I asked myself, “But is it necessary?”
The princess wanted to experience life on the earth and she did. At the end of her stay, she’s being picked up by her people again… Why would she need a prince charming just for vacation on a different planet!
Enough of my rambling, I’d rate this movie 4.5/5 just for those small surprises and not following the stereotypes! Thanks for reading! 🙂