Isao Takahata, Studio Ghibli co-founder and director (Grave of the Fireflies, Only Yesterday, My Neighbors The Yamadas) has made the very exciting announcement that he will be directing a new feature-length film. Takahata is the “other” half of Studio Ghibli (edit FTNH: Miyazaki being the more well known "half"), and one of Japan’s most famous anime directors. With this new film, Takahata will be breaking a 10-year hiatus (his last feature film, My Neighbors the Yamadas, was released in 1999). His new film, Taketori Monogatari (The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter), is a movie adaption of the classic 10th century folktale (also popularly known as Kaguya Hime no Monogatari (The Tale of Princess Kaguya)).
Taketori Monogatari has directly and indirectly inspired many Japanese manga and anime, such as Sailormoon and Inuyasha. This beloved story is considered to be the oldest surviving example of Japanese narrative, and every Japanese person knows this story. A little baby is found inside the stalk of a glowing plant by a bamboo cutter. He takes her home, and raises her with his wife as their own daughter, and they give her the name Kaguya-Hime (radiant-night princess). She grows into a beautiful adult woman, with many suitors, even the Emperor of Japan – and she rebuffs them all. Then, things become even more complicated as her true lineage becomes revealed, and her special relationship with the moon...
This would be Studio Ghibli’s first foray into remaking a classic folktale (unlike Disney, which is famous for such remakes – Cinderella, Snow White, etc.). Taketori Monogatari has been made into live-action and animation remakes many times, and while it has not been announced whether Takahata intends to faithfully follow the original story, it is more likely that he will surprise us. For one thing, a faithful rendition of this story has been done many times, and it might not be interesting for Japanese locals; for another, he is well-known in Japan for his originality and creativity. So it is certainly a treat to look forward to.
What sort of movie will Taketori Monogatari become? We can expect a stunning attention to detail and documentary realism, emotionally-charged human drama, and Takahata's patented style of logic and precision. His adaptations are more logical and calculated than Miyazaki's instinctive, almost impulsive style. He doesn't scrap the original source material as Miyazaki-san always does (Conan, Kiki, Howl). Instead, Takahata gets to the core of the story, fleshing it out, adding depth and color and bringing them to life.This tale can be found everywhere and will be familiar to those who've read any collection of Japanese fairy tales. The Golden Book of Japaneses Fairy Tales is a good place to find a copy as it also has some lovely illustrations. Online, there's a sweet child-friendly site HERE where you can read the story with the illustrations shown here (which are actually animated gifs at the site) for each page and some Japanese music that's optional to listen to as well.
And what will the 68 year old beloved Studio Ghibli Director, Hayao Miyazaki, be doing? Not retiring. He's reportedly in the planning stages on TWO more films right now - set to be released 2011 and 2013. Miyazaki-san creates animation which is unapologetically for children, so we can expect more fantasy family films coming our way.