One day an old bamboo cutter named Sanuki finds a tiny girl growing out of a bamboo stalk. Sanuki and his wife decide to raise the girl as their own, believing that she will grow up to be a noble princess. The girl rapidly grows up and by the time she comes of age, the bamboo cutter has moved her into an exquisite mansion and she is given the name of Kaguya. As she learns to be a noble princess, Kaguya wonders if this is truly the path that will make her happy.

Based on the Japanese folktale “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is the latest film from Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies). Unlike many of Studio Gibli’s films, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya has a very hand-drawn visual style to it, which makes the film look like a moving storybook. The visuals are probably the most impressive element of the film, particularly the signature scene, which has Kaguya running while shedding her many robes.

The main theme of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya involves Kaguya’s supposed destiny as a princess, which is a life that Sanuki practically forces her into. Kaguya seemed perfectly happy living at Sunuki’s home in the mountains, where she could sing songs about birds, bugs, and beasts and develop a friendship with a local boy named Sutemaru. While mostly a dramatic film, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya features a comedic subplot involving multiple rich suitors vying for Kaguya’s hand. This change of tone is a bit jarring and, with the film having a running time of nearly two and half hours, it is something that could have been removed from the final film.

With the future of Studio Ghibli being currently uncertain, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is a fine example of what the studio is able to accomplish in the world of animation. Like his signature film Grave of the Fireflies, Isao Takahata creates a gripping dramatic story, which is sure to leave some in tears by the time credits roll.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is not a perfect film, with the film’s biggest fault being its length. However, the film is still a visually impressive experience, which makes it a treat to watch from beginning to end.