The Tale of Princess Kaguya (かぐや姫の物語 Kaguya-hime no Monogatari?) is a 2013 Japanese animated film produced by Studio Ghibli, and directed and co-written by Isao Takahata, based on the folktale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. This is Takahata's fifth film for Studio Ghibli, and his first in 14 years since his 1999 feature, My Neighbors the Yamadas.
Plot Summary: The film follows the protagonist, Princess Kaguya, from her infant years to adulthood in the human world. It also explores the "crime" she committed prior to the events of the film.
The story begins with Okina, a bamboo cutter and gatherer, discovering Kaguya in a glowing bamboo shoot in a bamboo grove. Believing her to be a divine gift, he bears her home; Okina and his wife Ona then decide to take Kaguya (simply naming her "Princess") as their child. Kaguya transforms from a miniature girl into a full-size infant, and Ona suddenly finds herself able to breast-feed. The couple remark on their new daughter's remarkable growth.
Kaguya's growth continues perceptibly, earning herself the nickname "bamboo" among the children of the village. Sutemaru, the oldest among Kaguya's friends, develops a particularly close relationship with her.
Okina later comes upon large amounts of gold and fine cloth in the bamboo grove much in the same way as he found Kaguya. He takes these as confirmation of Kaguya's divine royalty and begins planning to make Kaguya a proper princess, believing it to be her destiny. Kaguya returns home one day to find Okina and Ona packed to leave; abruptly, her life in the mountain is ended as she relocates to the capital. Kaguya finds herself in a spacious home replete with servants and fine clothes. She also finds herself saddled with a coach in femininity named Sagami, who is tasked with taming Kaguya into a prim and proper woman.
Okina holds a celebration in commemoration of Kaguya's name-day, at which an unkind overheard conversation sends Kaguya into despair; she flees the capital and runs all the way to the mountains, looking beggarly and ragged on her arrival. She inquires after Sutemaru and her other friends, but finds that they have all moved away. Kaguya passes out in the snow, only to awaken suddenly back at the party, not missed at all.
Kaguya continues to grow the whole time; her beauty ensnares suitors by the dozen, who besiege the house in hopes of being granted an audience with the Princess. Okina is delighted by the mass of prospective husbands, but Ona is less enthusiastic and Kaguya entirely uninterested. The suitor situation escalates through five men of high standing in the government; Kaguya turns them away one by one by requesting impossible things of them, rebuffing their fraudulent attempts in turn. When one of the would-be suitors is killed in his quest, Kaguya falls into depression and begins spending long periods of time tearfully playing music to the moon.
Eventually, the Emperor himself takes notice of Kaguya. When Kaguya refuses to visit him at his palace, the Emperor decides to visit her instead. Taken with her beauty, he comes up behind Kaguya and embraces her, invoking her revulsion. Kaguya then demonstrates an uncanny ability to disappear at will, surprising the Emperor somewhat. Understanding that Kaguya is not easily moved, the Emperor graciously takes his leave, determined to return and make Kaguya his.
Kaguya's melancholy worsens, worrying Okina and Ona. When pressed, she finally reveals that she comes from the Moon, which she begged for help when the Emperor made his advances. She is faced with returning to the Moon on the fifteenth night of the lunar month, during the full moon. Kaguya, realizing her attachment to the Earth, sadly confesses her reluctance to leave. Okina swears to devise protection against any celestial force and sets out to begin construction immediately. Ona returns with Kaguya to her hometown in the mountains once more. Kaguya meets again with Sutemaru and declares him to be better than all her other potential suitors; Sutemaru vows to protect her, come what may, and they run together through the mountains until they take to the air.
Their joyous flight is cut short when Kaguya sees the Moon and panics, begging Sutemaru to hold her tightly. Despite Sutemaru's best efforts, Kaguya is torn from his grasp out of the sky and down into the ocean. Sutemaru awakens alone in the meadow. Convincing himself that it had been a dream, he returns to his wife and child. Kaguya returns home to the capital with Ona.
On the fateful night of the full moon, a celestial delegation descends from the moon. Despite Okina's men's best efforts, the divine force is unstoppable as it sweeps in unperturbed, putting most in the house to sleep. A Buddha-like figure directs some sprites to ferry Kaguya to them; they enter into Kaguya's chamber through the windows and charm her. Kaguya, in a trance, glides away and out of the room, much to Ona's horror. She rises to the Moon-bound group, from which an attendant offers her a robe of forgetfulness and a crown. Kaguya puts on the crown, but is stayed from the robe by her parents' cries. She begs the attendant to grant her a last moment with Okina and Ona.
Kaguya delivers one final ode to the Earth and all its wonder, embracing her parents for the last time. The attendant then drapes the robe of forgetfulness around her, and Kaguya's expression goes blank. She resumes her seat in the entourage and they ascend to the Moon, leaving Okina and Ona distraught.
Despite her apparent detachment from the Earth, Kaguya looks back one last time, with tears in her eyes, before the group disappears into the light of the Moon.