Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Exquisitely Drawn 'Tale of Princess Kaguya' Unusual

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Exquisitely Drawn 'Tale of Princess Kaguya' Unusual

Article excerpt

"The Tale of the Princess Kaguya" has a dark-haired beauty with five noble suitors who want to marry her, but she is no Disney princess.

She's the title character of a movie based on a Japanese folk tale, likely written in the late ninth or early 10th century, about a baby discovered inside an illuminated stalk of bamboo by an old bamboo cutter in rural, ancient Japan.

"Heaven must have sent her to me as a blessing," he declares before taking the girl home to his childless wife.

She first mistakes her for a tiny doll but quickly realizes the baby has magical qualities. She somehow allows the older woman to nurse her and, like bamboo itself, grows at an unnaturally rapid rate, charming and captivating the neighbor children who dub her "Li'l Bamboo."

The girl is content to skip and march through the woods with her friends, picking grapes and mushrooms, tumbling down hills, climbing trees, joyfully being among the flowers, birds, bugs and beasts. Her doting father calls her Princess and is convinced she is meant for grander things when he later finds golden nuggets and an explosion of rich fabrics in the same bamboo grove. He decides that the heavens wish for her to be a noble princess and slips off to the capital to build a commensurate home with the treasure.

The girl's parents eventually lead her from their simple home in the country to palatial digs where she is schooled in the art of acting like a noble lady. That leads to a rush and crush of admirers, largely comic challenges to win her heart, along with questions about the nature of happiness and her mysterious origins and fate.

"The Tale of the Princess Kaguya," from 79-year-old director Isao Takahata ("Grave of the Fireflies"), is hand-drawn rather than done with computer assistance and was years in the making.

It's beautifully rendered, with frames that look like timeless watercolor paintings, whether cherry-blossom petals flutter to the ground or a carriage rolls through the countryside where the hills in the background are periwinkle, the flowers in the foreground yellow with a splash of pink and the grass a lovely green. …

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