Tim here. This week's look at one of the 2014 Best Animated Feature Oscar contenders takes us someplace entirely new: to a film that might actually be able to swing a nomination. The film is The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, the penultimate film made by the late Studio Ghibli, and probably the final work directed by the great Takahata Isao, who hasn't officially announced his retirement, like friend and colleague Hayao Miyazaki; but when a director is 79 years old and has reached the "enormous gaps between features" stage of his career (his previous film, My Neighbors the Yamadas, came out in 1999), it's time to make some assumptions.
If it's a valedictory work that Princess Kaguya is to be, it's a brilliant one, right down to an ending about the pain of saying farewell when we're not ready to. The film adapts "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter", a folktale that is thought to be the oldest extant work of Japanese literature, telling of a little girl found in a glowing stalk of bamboo by an old bamboo cutter one day. Convinced by this and other signs that he has been tasked by giving her the life a noble princess, the bamboo cutter focuses on pushing her into the upper crusts of society despite how clearly the girl, Kaguya, resents this life, and would prefer to be left in the peaceable wilds of her adoptive home.