When Hayao Miyazaki resigned from his position as co-director of Studio Ghibli, many people feared that the Japanese animation company would lose its way.
Miyazaki began the studio in the 1980s with his partner Isao Takahata and it has since been creating some of the most beautiful and visionary animation in film history. Miyazaki himself was responsible for overseeing some of its most popular and critically acclaimed output including Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro and Ponyo.
He announced his departure from Studio Ghibli just prior to the release of what would be his final film The Wind Rises. It was later announced that Ghibli would release a few more films before shutting its doors under the direction of Isao Takahata alone. But, without Miyzaki’s guidance, what would this final output look like?
The Tale Of Princess Kaguya, their most recent film which has just arrived on Amazon Instant Video this week, dissuades any fears its fans might have. Not only is it a worthy entry into Ghibli’s cannon; it is one of the very best films they have produced.
The movie is a profoundly sad and beautiful re-telling of an old 10th century Japanese folklore. It is about a girl who magically appears from a bamboo tree and grows up to become a princess. Isao Takahata, who also directed this movie, gives it an ancient feel akin to a traditional Japanese Emakimono – a horizontal picture scroll that was a popular way of telling stories between the 10th and 16th centuries – by animating the film in watercolour.
However, although the story may be hundreds of years old, it has a timeless and relevant quality for modern viewers. In particular, Isao Takahata explores themes pertaining to the environment as Kaguya is forced to abandon nature and move to the big city with her new-found royalty. Furthermore, it contains a powerful feminist theme as the princess is duty-bound to find a suitor she doesn’t particularly want.