Born a Bamboo Cutter’s Daughter: A Kaguya Review

Kaguya Monogatari PosterA little over two years ago, Ace and I started something we called “Ghibli Month” in which we watched all the movies in the Studio Ghibli library and reviewed them. I never planned on reviewing the final two movies in said library—if I watch them, and then review them, then I’m admitting to myself that there may be no more Ghibli movies, and I’m not ready for that. However, I finally sat down the other day and watched The Tale of Princess Kaguya, directed by Isao Takahata. Upon seeing the two hour timestamp, I was apprehensive that Takahata could really utilize all that time while keeping the film interesting. Looking back, I needn’t have worried.

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Trailer Tuesdays: The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Just in time for the holidays—they’re coming up, all right? Give me a break—a new, longer trailer for the upcoming Ghibli movie The Tale of Princess Kaguya (輝夜姬物語) finally hit YouTube. To be completely honest, I think I’m more excited for this to get subtitled than The Wind Rises.

Yes, yes, I have respect for Miyazaki’s last work, but there’s just something special about the movies directed by Takahata–a difference that you may have picked up on if you’ve been keeping up with our Ghibli reviews. What it boils down to is that while Miyazaki goes after the fantastical settings and epic-quality plots, Takahata explores the more low-key aspects of life. Even Pom Poko, which was admittedly not realistic in the slightest, explores a general issue from a more narrowed lens. There are no countries at war, no devastation plaguing the earth. Instead there’s an issue or a story that affects a small portion of the world—a town, or even a family—which can be related to on a wider scale. In this way the two Ghibli directors complement each other perfectly, and will continue to complement each other until the very end: The Wind Rises deals with cross-continental relationships, both personal and professional, during World War II, and The Tale of Princess Kaguya deals with how a singular, momentary event changes the life of one family forever in ancient Japan.

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Ghibli Month: My Neighbors the Yamadas

My Neighbors the YamadasTsunderin: Previously in the series I had mentioned a movie being something out of the norm for Ghibli; a film that was seemingly an outlier in terms of artistic direction. I was so naïve back then.

Yes, call it the folly of shortsightedness, but I have been thoroughly corrected at the hands of Isao Takahata. I have seen My Neighbors the Yamadas. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing, nor is it a positive thing, it’s merely a different thing and something that I happen to like despite not understanding some of the choices that the director made. Takahata has simply presented us with a film that tries to be more like art than an actual film and in many ways this movie is comparable to modern art in particular: some people will draw more meaning from it than others, and others still will find it completely worthless as a film. I can see both sides—especially the ‘modern art’ side, since my high school-inherited bullshitting sense is going off the hook at all of the haikus separating some of the story.

So for those of you keeping tabs on this series, you should know that this is where I usually start the plot synopsis. This movie doesn’t have a plot. Thank you all for reading, have a nice day.

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Ghibli Month: Pom Poko

Pom PokoTsunderin: Welcome to the second month of Ghibli month! We start this glorious milestone with another environmental tale from Isao Takahata. I’m not going to lie: I went into Pom Poko expecting I would absolutely loathe it and why shouldn’t I? Pom Poko is generally considered one of Ghibli’s weaker films and I personally haven’t read or heard a single good thing about it. As thus, before actually forcing myself to sit down and watch it I was more than prepared to hate it. I was going to criticize the shit out of this film.

What did I think about it? Eh, it was decent.

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Ghibli Month: Only Yesterday

Only YesterdayOut of all the films on Ghibli’s roster, Only Yesterday is the film I was looking forward to watching the most and is the one I’ve heard the least about. After finishing the ninety-some minute drama, I think I have a better understanding as to why I haven’t heard much.

The film focuses on Taeko, a Tokyo business woman and all-around city girl in her late twenties, who decides to take a ten day trip to the countryside where her brother-in-law lives. Taeko feels no ill for city life, nor does she hold any attachment to it: at her office job she feels as though she’s just floating by. She adores the country, but she doesn’t know why.

On her journey to Takase—a small farming town in the Yamagata Prefecture—she is slowly overcome with memories of her younger self, specifically her fifth grade self. She mentions that that moment in time was a defining moment in her life, a moment where she changed from one form of herself to another. In that same vein, she feels like this trip may be another one of those points in her life.

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Ghibli in 2013: Returning to Their Roots

Christmas came early for me, it seems: yesterday while browsing Tumblr I discovered that Studio Ghibli has announced both of their movies for the 2013 season and both of them have so much potential. Both of them also hold the distinct trademarks of the two well-known directors that have presented us with such beautiful and thought-provoking films in the past.

From Isao Takahata’s branch we have Kaguya-hime no Monogatari (The Tale of Princess Kaguya). Perhaps better known under the title The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, the movie seems to be a traditional re-telling of the old tale. Takahata’s style definitely takes traditional Japanese notions and brings them to a modern audience in an act that always came off to me as a desire for his audience not to forget where they came from. In terms of people at Ghibli, Takahata is the one that I would trust most with a story like this since and if the art style on the movie poster is any indication on how the movie will be animated, this film is going to be just gorgeous.

From the other side of Ghibli, we have Hayao Miyazaki’s newest venture,

Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises). From what I’ve been able to find on this movie so far, it seems as though it’s based on the life of one Jiro Horikoshi, a fighter plane designer. Any fan of Ghilbi movies should recognize the resemblance to one of Miyazaki’s earlier films, Porco Rosso, and I can only hope that it will be just as charming.

Although there’s little information out on either right now, I’m excited to see the progress and reception of these films into the New Year.

Manga Mondays: Grave of the Fireflies

I trust Miyazaki. I trust that he will deliver a wonderful story that always has a hidden meaning. I trust that that story will be well executed. I trust that the animation will be superb. And I trust that the characters will be well-developed.

I do not trust that his stories won’t send me into uncontrollable sobbing fits.

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