Database for Animation Studies


“I’ve Seen this Place Before:” Memory, Exile and Resistance in The Tale of Princess Kaguya

This article discusses Takahata’s ground-breaking masterpiece, Kaguyahime monogatari, in terms of its portrayal of the role of memory, exile and resistance. While the article focuses mainly on Takahata’s film, it brings in examples from contemporary Japanese literature, Japanese animation, and the recent Disney movie Frozen II to show how memory and exile has been problematized across a wide array of recent cultural forms. In the main part of the article I show how Takahata goes beyond the bittersweet and resigned melancholy of the tenth century original tale―the story of a moon princess in temporary exile from her home--to create a genuinely radical work of art. While remarkably true to the original tale, Takahata’s film also contains a core of passionate resistance that encompasses clearly modern concerns such as feminism and environmental despoliation. Takahata does this by adding two completely original scenes: the first is an overtly feminist resistance when the protagonist imagines in fantastical detail her escape from the confines of her father’s palace. In the second example Takahata inserts another vision of resistance, in this case using music, children and song lyrics, to offer a vision of life and change that emotionally challenges the fatalistic resignation of the original tale’s ending.

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