The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013)

Brief Intro

🎬 Directed by Isao Takahata, “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” (2013) is a visually stunning adaptation of the classic Japanese folktale. The film tells the poignant story of a mysterious girl found inside a bamboo stalk, who grows into a beautiful princess and experiences the joys and sorrows of life. With its unique animation style and deep narrative, the movie captivates audiences of all ages.

Literary Devices Used in The Tale of the Princess Kaguya


Movie SceneDevice Example
The discovery of Kaguya in the bamboo stalkKaguya as a metaphor for fleeting beauty and life
The rapid growth of KaguyaMetaphor for the inevitable passage of time


Movie SceneDevice Example
Bamboo forestSymbol of natural purity and mystery
Kaguya’s celestial robeSymbol of her otherworldly origins


Movie SceneDevice Example
Kaguya’s return to the moonIrony of longing for earthly life yet being otherworldly
The noble suitors’ questsIrony in the impossibility of their tasks reflecting their superficial desires


Movie SceneDevice Example
Kaguya’s visions of the moonForeshadowing her return to her celestial home
The fall festival sceneForeshadowing the eventual sorrow and separation


Movie SceneDevice Example
The story of Kaguya’s life on EarthAllegory for the human experience of joy and suffering
The transformation of Kaguya’s parentsAllegory for the corrupting influence of wealth


Movie SceneDevice Example
The bamboo grove scenesThe bamboo seems to guide and protect Kaguya
Nature scenesNature is given life-like qualities, enhancing the connection to the natural world


Movie SceneDevice Example
The suitors’ exaggerated promisesHyperbole to show their insincerity
The emotional reactions of KaguyaHyperbole to convey her intense feelings of joy and sorrow


Movie SceneDevice Example
Kaguya’s humble origins vs. palace lifeJuxtaposition to highlight the disparity between natural and material worlds
Scenes of joy vs. scenes of sorrowJuxtaposition to emphasize the emotional range of the narrative


Movie SceneDevice Example
The lush, detailed backgroundsVivid imagery to create an immersive world
The ethereal scenes of the moonImagery to contrast the earthly and celestial realms


Movie SceneDevice Example
References to traditional Japanese folkloreAllusion to enrich the cultural context
The tasks given to the suitorsAllusion to classic tales of impossible quests

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Princess Kaguya

MetaphorKaguya is often depicted as a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of beauty and life, reflecting the transient joys and sorrows she experiences on Earth.
SymbolismHer celestial robe symbolizes her connection to the otherworldly realm, highlighting her ultimate detachment from the material world despite her deep emotional experiences.

The Bamboo Cutter (Kaguya’s Father)

IronyThe bamboo cutter’s desire to elevate Kaguya to nobility, believing it will bring her happiness, ironically leads to her sorrow and longing for her simpler life.
AllegoryHis transformation from a humble bamboo cutter to an ambitious, wealth-driven man serves as an allegory for the corrupting influence of material wealth and societal expectations.

Lady Sagami (Kaguya’s Mother)

JuxtapositionLady Sagami’s nurturing nature juxtaposed with the strict societal norms imposed on Kaguya illustrates the conflict between personal affection and social expectations.
ForeshadowingHer initial apprehensions about moving to the palace foreshadow the eventual emotional turmoil and discontentment that Kaguya will experience.


ImagerySutemaru’s free-spirited and nature-bound life is depicted through vivid imagery of the countryside, highlighting the stark contrast with Kaguya’s confined palace life.
SymbolismHe symbolizes the unfulfilled potential and lost opportunities, representing the life Kaguya yearns for but cannot have due to her celestial origins.

Character Dynamics

The relationships between Kaguya and the other characters are pivotal in driving the narrative and themes. Kaguya’s bond with her parents illustrates the complexities of love and duty, where their desire for her social elevation conflicts with her need for freedom. Her friendship with Sutemaru embodies a pure, untainted connection to nature and simplicity, offering a poignant contrast to her regal life. The dynamics among these characters underscore themes of identity, belonging, and the pursuit of true happiness.

Thematic Analysis

Impermanence of Life

MetaphorKaguya’s rapid growth and her eventual return to the moon serve as metaphors for the transient nature of life and beauty.
SymbolismThe changing seasons depicted throughout the film symbolize the passage of time and the inevitability of change.

Conflict Between Materialism and Nature

JuxtapositionThe stark contrast between the natural beauty of Kaguya’s countryside life and the opulence of the palace highlights the theme of materialism versus nature.
AllegoryThe bamboo cutter’s transformation into a wealthy man serves as an allegory for the corrupting influence of material wealth on human values and relationships.

Search for True Identity

IronyKaguya’s struggle to find her place in the world is ironically complicated by her celestial origin, which sets her apart from both the earthly and heavenly realms.
SymbolismKaguya’s celestial robe and her eventual return to the moon symbolize her true identity, highlighting the inner conflict between her human experiences and her otherworldly nature.

Societal Expectations and Personal Freedom

ForeshadowingThe early scenes of Kaguya’s joyful, free-spirited childhood foreshadow the oppressive societal expectations she will face in the palace.
JuxtapositionThe contrast between Kaguya’s free life in the countryside and her restricted life in the palace underscores the conflict between societal expectations and personal freedom.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Visual Techniques

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
ImageryWatercolor animation styleThe film’s unique watercolor animation creates a dreamlike, ethereal quality that enhances the vivid imagery of both the natural and celestial worlds.
JuxtapositionScene compositionThe visual contrast between the lush, vibrant countryside and the austere, ornate palace visually reinforces the theme of nature versus materialism.

Sound Techniques

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
SymbolismMusical scoreThe musical score, with its traditional Japanese instruments, symbolizes the cultural and emotional landscape of the story, enhancing the symbolic depth of the scenes.
ForeshadowingSound motifsRecurring sound motifs, such as the sound of the bamboo forest or the celestial music, foreshadow key events and transitions in Kaguya’s journey.

Key Scene Analysis

Scene 1: Kaguya’s Transformation

YouTube Link: Kaguya’s Transformation Scene

Breakdown: This scene showcases Kaguya’s rapid transformation from a bamboo shoot into a young girl. The use of metaphor here is potent, symbolizing the fleeting nature of life. The visual technique of speeding up the animation enhances this literary device, creating a sense of urgency and the passage of time.

Scene 2: The Moon Festival

YouTube Link: Moon Festival Scene

Breakdown: During the Moon Festival, the juxtaposition of joy and impending sorrow is palpable. The vibrant imagery of the festival contrasts with the dark foreshadowing of Kaguya’s return to the moon. The sound of traditional instruments adds to the symbolic weight of the scene, highlighting the cultural richness and the impending separation.

Scene 3: Kaguya’s Departure

YouTube Link: Kaguya’s Departure Scene

Breakdown: Kaguya’s emotional departure from Earth is a poignant culmination of the film’s themes. The symbolism of her celestial robe and the ethereal music underscores her otherworldly origin. The visual technique of blending the watercolor animation with celestial imagery enhances the allegorical nature of her journey.


Interactive Quiz

  1. What does Kaguya’s rapid growth symbolize?
    • A) The passage of time
    • B) Wealth and power
    • C) Joy and happiness
    • D) Her celestial origin
  2. Which literary device is used to contrast Kaguya’s life in the countryside with her life in the palace?
  3. What is the significance of Kaguya’s celestial robe?
    • A) It symbolizes her wealth
    • B) It symbolizes her human experiences
    • C) It symbolizes her connection to the moon
    • D) It symbolizes her beauty
  4. How does the musical score contribute to the film’s symbolic depth?
    • A) By using modern instruments
    • B) By incorporating traditional Japanese instruments
    • C) By being loud and overpowering
    • D) By being silent during key moments