Studio Ghibli Film Earns Highest Rotten Tomatoes Score, But It’s Not a Miyazaki Masterpiece

Studio Ghibli is often synonymous with the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, known for timeless classics like ‘Spirited Away’ and his recent work, ‘The Boy and the Heron.’ Miyazaki’s international acclaim and two Academy Awards have solidified his status as an animation giant. However, under the Ghibli banner lies another creative force often overshadowed: Isao Takahata, a director, screenwriter, and producer.

Takahata’s journey intertwined with Miyazaki’s since their collaboration on Takahata’s debut film, ‘The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun.’ Despite initial setbacks, their partnership blossomed, leading to the co-founding of Studio Ghibli. Takahata helmed notable Ghibli films like ‘Only Yesterday’ and ‘Grave of the Fireflies.’ Yet, his magnum opus, ‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya,’ often goes unnoticed.

Also Read: 10 Studio Ghibli Films Worthy of a Theatrical Re-release

Studio Ghibli Rotten Tomatoes
Image Courtesy: Medium

Adapted from the classic Japanese tale ‘The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,’ the film offers a fresh perspective on female oppression, independence, and environmentalism. Takahata reshaped the narrative to focus on empathy for the heroine, diverging from its original intent to enforce societal norms.

‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’ follows a magical girl discovered by a bamboo cutter and his wife. Despite their humble origins, she captivates all with her ethereal charm. As she grows, suitors vie for her hand, but Kaguya yearns for freedom amidst societal constraints. Ultimately, she reveals her celestial origin and must return to the Moon, leaving behind cherished memories and loved ones.

Studio Ghibli Rotten Tomatoes
Image Courtesy: MUBI

Takahata’s minimalist animation style, inspired by Frédéric Back’s ‘The Man Who Planted Trees,’ eschews detail for emotional resonance. Scenes like Kaguya’s confinement in a box during her coming-of-age ceremony evoke despair through blurred lines and colours.

The film’s central theme of life’s impermanence resonates deeply, encapsulated in Kaguya’s poignant realization: “I was born to truly live.” Takahata’s swan song transforms a conventional narrative into a profound meditation on happiness and harmony with nature, cementing its place among Ghibli’s finest.

– Farheen Ali