Genre(s): Historical, Fantasy
Age-Appropriateness: 8+ (Naked babies and breastfeeding, clutch those pearls)
Platforms: HBO Max
Episodes: One 2 hour 17 minute movie
TheAwersome Rating: 9.0 / 10 (A National Treasure)
Premise: One day while at work deep in the countryside, a bamboo cutter named Okina discovers a small baby inside of a glowing shoot of bamboo. He takes her home, convinced that she is a princess sent from Heaven as a divine gift. Okina and his wife raise her as their own as she quickly grows and fits right in with the other children of the village. But when Okina finds royal clothes and gold in another glowing bamboo shoot, he’s convinced that he’s been mandated by Heaven to give her the royal life of a Princess and relocates the family to a mansion in the capital.
TheAwersome’s Thoughts: I was so mad when I saw this because I hadn’t heard anything about it before, especially because it was made by Studio Ghibli as the director’s Magnum Opus. I suppose because it isn’t done in an “anime style” and wasn’t by Miyazaki that people ignored it, which is a crying shame. The entire movie is animated in watercolor paints, inks, and pencils, evoking the style of ancient Japanese artworks and scrolls. The character design also follows this same principle, but despite all that you can feel an immense amount of humanity, love, and devotion put into this.
The Story of Princess Kaguya is a 10th century Japanese Folk Tale, hence the traditional look and traditional music. I was initially concerned that it was going to feel very stiff and not be too relatable but was quickly proven wrong. The strong messages of what truly makes life joyous and the importance of taking the pain with that joy were poignant, and much like with Liz and the Blue Bird, I found myself being elated at the gorgeous visuals that created truly magical scenes.
TLDR: The beautiful soul of ancient Japan distilled into a touching masterpiece.