Movie Review: The Tale of Princess Kaguya

movie poster Princess Kaguya

“All life on Earth is cyclical — birth, growth, death, and revival…”

A bamboo cutter finds a tiny girl in a bamboo sprout and takes her home.
He and his wife raise the girl like a daughter of their own. They notice that she is something very special and call her “Hime” (princess). Hime grows up in a natural environment where she leads a happy simple life with her foster parents. In doing so, she establishes contacts with her neighbors’ children in a carefree way. She feels a special friendship with the boy Sutemaru.

One day, the bamboo cutter finds a gold treasure in the bamboo grove and regards it as a sign to offer Hime a comfortable and rich life in the city. From then on, the couple and Hime live in a palace with many employees and a lady-in-waiting who is supposed to teach Hime the appropriate etiquette. But Hime is unhappy and longs for the simple life back in the mountains and finds it difficult to get used to the new life. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Hime is a divine being who originally came to Earth from the moon and must return there as well.

Princess Kaguya is based on one of the oldest Japanese fairytales: “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter”, a fairytale of the 10th century. (Japanese: “竹取物語” Taketori monogatari. (link to English translation of the fairy tale and to the Japanese version).

“The Tale of Princess Kaguya” by Ghibli Studios is an artistic anime
with an unique impressionistic animation style. Osamu Tanabe is responsible for the character design, animation design, and the layout. Kazuo Oga created the artwork. Isao Takahata states in an interview given to Wired: “All life on Earth is cyclical — birth, growth, death, and revival — as in the songs I wrote for the film. I consider this to be the basis for everything.”

This is a wonderful and beautiful movie! My rating is: (5 of 5 stars) ★★★★★ (Review by Japan Kaleidoskop)

Genre: Animation, Fantasy, Drama
Year: 2013
Title (Japanese): かぐや姫の物語
Director: Isao Takahata
Writer: Isao Takahata
Screenplay: Isao Takahata and Riko Sakaguchi
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Length: 2 hours 17 minutes

movie trailor:

Book Review: People from My Neighborhood

bookcover people from my neighborhood kawakami hiromi
The book contains 36 stories, “palm-of-the-hand stories”, so tiny they fit into a hand. Often compared to Kawabata Yasunari’s short story collection of 1971. Each story is about a person, an animal, a place in the neighborhood. Or it describes a phenomenon, a specialty, an occasion, or event that happened once in the neighborhood of the narrator.kawabata palm of the hand stories coverThe miniature stories are loosely tied together by a theme or a thought. Each can be read as a stand-alone short story with a punch line. Together they become a big picture of the neighborhood like in a hidden object game.

Some of the stories show elements of magical realism, others are narrated in simple language, and many are told like childhood memories. Things remain hidden in the dark or are presented as vague memories. Towards the second half of the book there are many surreal stories.

Kawakami Hiromi is a well-known author in Japan. Many of her books have been translated into English. Here are some examples:

The Briefcase
The Nakano Thrift Shop
Record of a Night too Brief
The Ten Loves of Nishino

With around 120 pages it is a small book, which can be read in one go. You begin to read and shortly after you are at the end.

First sentence: “A white cloth was lying at the foot of a zelkova tree.”

Last sentence: “I could have done without the strains of ‘White Butterfly Samba’ blaring from loudspeakers around the globe every morning and night, but as Kanae’s sister kept lecturing me, that was a small price to pay for world peace, so I held my tongue.”

It is more a literary poetic experiment. There is nothing more to say for me about the book. What have I just read? I have no idea but it was interesting and charming.

Reviewed Title
Kawakami Hiromi. People from my Neighborhood. Translated by Ted Goosen. Granta Books, 2020 (cover).

Book Review: To the Spring Equinox and Beyond

Cover To The Spring Equinox and Beyond
“Moreover, Keitaro was a youth with romantic cast to his personality and a hatred of mediocrity.”

Keitaro, a young man is living in Tokyo in the 1910s. He has graduated from school and is seeking for a job and his position in life. He is living in a boarding house where he meets a man who is totally different from him. He is an adventurer and takes many risks. He is called a “high-class idler.” Suddenly, he disappears without paying his rent and Keitaro is in trouble because he is associated with the troublesome man. He left a bamboo walking stick behind which Keitaro takes but is somehow ashamed of.

Feeling alone in the city he often visits a friend Sunaga and his family. There he meets his cousin Chiyoko a beautiful girl. She is supposed to marry soon. The novel is about the relationship of the family members and Keitaro’s observations and interactions with the people around him. The book is narrated from different perspectives in each chapter. The novel is about “ambiguities of self-identity, faith and love.”

Natsume Sôseki has written many books. He is probably the most famous Japanese writer in Japan. Several of his works have been translated into other languages. I mention only the most famous examples of English translations here.

  • I Am a Cat (吾輩は猫である. Wagahai-wa neko de aru. 1905–06)
  • Botchan: Master Darling (坊っちゃん. 1906)
  • The Three-Cornered World (草枕. Kusamakura. 1906)
  • Mon (門. Mon – The Gate. 1910)
  • The Wayfarer (行人. Kōjin. 1912–13)
  • Kokoro (こころ. Kokoro. 1914)
  • Grass on the Wayside (道草. Michikusa. 1915)

To the Spring Equinox and Beyond is one of the less known works and resembles “Sanshirô”. It is his sixth novel which was also serialized in the “Asahi Shimbun” in 1912. The novel is interesting because you get to know about the living habits and customs of the Japanese in the early 20th century. The story has some turns and twists you cannot foresee. Also, the change of the point of view in the narration is a good technique which makes the story richer. Natsume Sôseki is a very skilled writer who observes many details and has a deep understanding of the human heart.

Reviewed Title
夏目 漱石. 彼岸過迄, 1912.
Natsume Sôseki. To the Spring Equinox and Beyond. Translated by Kingo Ochiai and Sanford Goldstein. Tuttle Publishing, 2005 (cover).