The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is a 2014 animated film produced by Studio Ghibli. I did not have the pleasure of watching it until December of last year. To date, it remains at the top of my list of favorite animated films from the Japanese film studio.
Warning: This post WILL have spoilers. The movie is AMAZING so I really urge you to watch it BEFORE reading my post. Ok, I’m going to continue now.
This film is truly a work of art. The dark charcoal lines and simple color pallet used throughout the animation are beautiful from start to finish. The music is simply amazing. The depiction of emotion is unrivaled. The message that this movie conveys is one that is illustrated unbelievably well. The storyline is in a league of its own.
I have thought about this post a lot. Since December of 2015 actually. I have come to the conclusion that The Tale of the Princess Kaguya resonates so closely with me because of how much it makes me think about my relationship with my boyfriend, Jorge, who spent one year with me in the U.S. before having to return back to his home in Spain.
In the movie, a bamboo cutter stumbles upon a miniature girl sleeping inside of a glowing bamboo shoot. (Hahaha, at this point, I already knew I would enjoy the movie.) Convinced she must be of a divine presence, he and his wife decide to raise her as their own and name her “Princess.” The mysterious girl grows up rapidly, aging quite conspicuously, earning her the nickname, “Little Bamboo.”
In many ways, these scenes reminded me of the feelings I felt when I first met Jorge. He was like a gem that came out of nowhere. Vibrant, stunning, radiating a certain energy only he could exude. I found him when he was new to my world.
Princess’s father stumbles across gold and fine clothes presented by the same bamboo shoot that Princess was first found in. With this great fortune, they relocate to a palace where she can grow up as a proper princess. Once she comes of age, Princess is granted the formal name of “Princess Kaguya” for the light and life that radiates from her.
Kaguya grows in beauty, attracting much attention. Her father decides to hold a celebration at their palace in her honor. Except, at this party, she overhears a group of people ridiculing her. Kaguya flees the capital and runs back to the mountains only to find that her old friends have all moved away. It is no longer feels like the place from which she came.
During a period of great sadness, Kaguya cries out to the moon and prays for help. She regains her memory and shares with her parents that she originally came from the Moon. (Yet another one of my favorite scenes, if you can only imagine.) You see, as a past resident of the Moon, she intentionally broke their laws in hopes of being exiled to Earth. It was her wish to experience mortal life. So the moon put her in the bamboo. Sadly, having sent a prayer to the Moon, she would now be reclaimed on the next full moon.
Kaguya confesses her attachment to Earth and her reluctance to leave. This is perhaps one of the most well executed parts of the movie. You see, through Kaguya’s rapid growth, she develops incredibly strong relationships with those she loves. She engages in so many unique experiences in the short time she has on Earth. The essence of this reminds me so much of how Jorge and I grew close and experienced so much while we were together. What may only have been one year’s time felt like so much more.
Kaguya urgently returns to the mountains one final time to find the one person who she truly loved on Earth. Once reunited, they become able to fly. I believe the purpose of this scene is to show that together, they are able to do anything. They soar with the birds, freed of all problems, showcasing how powerful their love for one another is.
Except, mid-way through flight, Kaguya loses her ability to fly and they plummet back to Earth. Despite her attempt to escape the palace and the inevitable trip back to the Moon, she re-awakens back in the palace. If this is not the most clever way of showing how inescapable certain situations are, I do not know what is. Of course, this inherently reminded me of me and my boyfriend wanting so badly to extend our time together, all the while knowing that he would very well have to return home come the summer’s end.
On the night of the full moon, a procession of celestial beings descends from the Moon. Despite their widespread attempts to stop it, the celestial beings cannot be stopped no matter how much anyone wishes they would go away. An attendant of Buddha attempts to offer Kaguya a robe that will erase her memories of Earth. Kaguya begs the attendant to grant her one last moment with her parents to say goodbye before they go.
The attendant assures Kaguya that upon returning to the Moon, she will be freed of Earth’s impurities. Kaguya responds by explaining that Earth is full of life and wonder. When Kaguya is not looking, the attendant places the robe around her and Kaguya appears to forget about her life on Earth. The procession then begins to ascend back up to the Moon.
Kaguya looks back one last time with tears in her eyes. What is truly remarkable about this scene is the beauty and innocence of the celestial procession. The music is so happy. The procession is so beautiful. Yet, everything that it represents is so sad!
This look right here in Kaguya’s eyes is the same look I remember all too clearly from right when Jorge stepped onto the train to leave. Right when he glanced back one final time, before disappearing inside of his train. Those precious last few moments before our summer ended and he began his return back home to Spain. I look at this image and I still recall that imminent fear of what would happen next. Would he ever return? Could this be the last time I ever see him? Will he remember me?
… and that’s the story of why I believe the Moon put my boyfriend in the bamboo.