Moviegoers raised on the shrillness of American cartoons might not know what to think at first about the comparative calm of Japans Studio Ghibli.
It was founded in the mid-1980s by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, and its anime offerings are a blissful antidote to the mania of Westernized family flicks. That contrast is particularly evident in the 79-year-old Takahatas first film in 14 years, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.
The film, which screens Thursday through Saturday at Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 415 Couch Drive, kicks off an extraordinary lineup of nine Studio Ghibli features that will play at the museum through Dec. 28. (All-access passes for Celebrating Studio Ghibli! are available; call 236-3100 or visit okcmoa.com for more information.) If youre a fan of animation, and even if youre not, dont miss this rare opportunity to catch some bona fide masterpieces on the big screen.
Based on a 10th-century folk tale, Japans oldest recorded story, Princess Kaguya begins when an elderly bamboo cutter (voiced by James Caan) comes across a glowing bamboo shoot. Inside the shoot, he finds a miniature young woman who fits in the palm of his hand. The cutter, known only as Okina (meaning old fella), believes she is a gift from heaven and brings her home to his wife (Mary Steenburgen). Within seconds, the tiny curiosity transforms to a normal-sized baby. The cutters elderly wife, named Ona (woman), is suddenly able to nurse.
This is all very strange, Okina says with considerable understatement.The baby eventually takes the name Kaguya, which we are told translates as shining light. Growing at an extremely accelerated rate, Kaguya (Chloë Grace Moretz, The Equalizer) embraces life in the countryside and plays with a group of neighborhood kids whose leader, Sutemaru (Darren Criss, TVs Glee), later serves as a romantic interest for the girl.
But Okina, certain that Kaguya is a princess and deserving of better things, yearns to give her a life of affluence.
He gets his chance when he revisits the bamboo forest where he found Kaguya. This time, the old man finds gold and fine fabrics, enough to enable him and his family to move to a large house in the capital city of Kyoto and secure a teacher (Lucy Liu, Kung Fu Panda) to instruct Kaguya how to be a lady. The Tale of Princess Kaguya grows more opaque as it goes along, capped by an ending that I figure might be less baffling to Japanese audiences familiar with the story.
But the picture also reflects traits that have distinguished many Ghibli productions. It basks in the serenity of nature. And the princess carries on the studios tradition of strong and independent heroines, the kind of tough-minded female character you dont often find in American animation without producers patting themselves on the back enthusiastically.
Most notably, the film boasts exquisite hand-drawn animation. Approximating the stylized look of storybooks and Japanese watercolors, Princess Kaguya is imbued with a lovely melancholy. Almost any frame would be suitable for, well, framing.
Thursdays screening is in the original Japanese with English subtitles, but an English-dubbed version screens Friday and Saturday.
Gettin Ghibli with it Here are some other Studio Ghibli gems worth seeing this month at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Learn more at okcmoa.com.
Whisper of the Heart 8 p.m. Dec. 26 Miyazaki wrote the screenplay for 1995s Whisper of the Heart but handed the directorial duties of this coming-of-age tale to his protégé, Yoshifumi Kond?. Sadly, it was Kond?s only film as director; he died several years later from an aneurysm. It will be shown in Japanese with English subtitles.
Celebrating Studio Ghibli!
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya7:30 p.m. Thursday, 5 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday Oklahoma City Museum of Art 415 Couch Drive okcmoa.com 236-3100 $5-$9
Print Headline: Anime-zing, A lovely folktale, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya kicks off a monthlong celebration of anime masterpieces from renowned Studio Ghibli.