The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya Movie Poster Image
 Parents recommendPopular with kids
Beautifully animated Japanese folktale for older kids.
  • PG
  • 2014
  • 137 minutes

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 10 reviews

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Children don't need money and social status to succeed, but rather love, compassion, encouragement, and the freedom to be themselves. Also shows how beauty shouldn't be the only reason to fall in love with someone -- and how striving for social status will ultimately leave you dissatisfied.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kaguya is kind and loving, and her parents adore her and are so grateful to the universe for entrusting her to their care. Sutemaru is a great friend to Kaguya.


A couple of characters die or disappear, including one who dies (plummets to his death) while attempting to reach a treasure for Princess Kaguya. Men tackle and apprehend a young man who has stolen goods.


Kissing. Nonsexual nudity in scenes that show a mother's breast as she nurses a baby. A reference to one suitor's reputation for leaving young women in disgrace.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a retelling of a 10th-century Japanese fable about a tiny, mysterious princess who sprouts from a bamboo stalk and is raised by an elderly bamboo cutter and his wife. The movie, which is available in both the original Japanese (with English subtitles) and in dubbed English, should appeal to mature elementary schoolers who are already fans of movies like Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. There are a couple of scenes of violence -- including the death or disappearance of a couple of characters -- as well as a moment when a woman's bare breast is shown because she's nursing. Families who enjoy fantasies and folk tales should consider seeing this unique film together; it has serious themes and moments of heartbreak, but it also offers strong messages about what children need to thrive (love, encouragement, and the freedom to be themselves) and how striving for social status will ultimately leave you dissatisfied.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bynduns March 15, 2015

Ghibli, you've done it again

I love it when Ghibli tries a new style, and while this doesn't take full advantage of its unique art, IMO, it's still very impressive to look at. Th... Continue reading
Adult Written byPr0ud dad March 7, 2020
Teen, 13 years old Written byrebo344 February 5, 2015

Another excellent film from Studio Ghibli.

Beautiful, emotional, fun. With great animation, music and characters. this really was one of the best animated films of the year.
Teen, 15 years old Written byG.Wallace February 2, 2021

One of the most beautiful animated movies ever

The animation in this movie is absolutely beautiful. This isn't your typical princess movie as it tackles mature themes and the ending may be upsettingyou... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA retells an ancient Japanese folk tale about an elderly bamboo cutter (voiced by James Caan in the English dubbed version) who finds a tiny, magical princess sprouting from a shining bamboo stalk. Shocked by the discovery, he runs home with the tiny princess in his hand. There, the old man and his wife (Mary Steenburgen) watch as the she transforms into a baby. The baby grows faster than other kids and is soon a delightful, curious girl out enjoying the forest with the local boys. One day, the bamboo cutter finds that the bamboo is shining again, this time with treasure. With his newfound fortune, the bamboo cutter moves to the city to give his princess a proper "young lady's" education, complete with an uptight royal governess. Despondent about moving away from her beloved country home, Kaguya's (Chole Grace Moretz) only joy is an outdoor garden she tends for herself. When she comes of age, tales of her beauty reach the highest levels of Japanese society, and five titled men vie for her hand in marriage. But Kaguya still misses her first crush, Sutemaru (Darren Criss), from her childhood home.

Is it any good?

Director Isao Takahata's (Studio Ghibli co-founder) poignant hand-drawn adventure is gorgeously animated. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is sure to make audiences think about everything from parent-child relationships to the oppressive trappings of class to the far-reaching consequences of ignoring your child's potential. This is far from the typical happily-ever-after stories many families are used to seeing, but fans of Japanese animation may not be surprised by the serious themes and at times heartbreaking scenes.

The animation stresses the beauty of the natural and the ridiculousness of the artificial. The story does the same, largely in the form of the governess' demands that Kaguya pluck her eyebrows, blacken her teeth, pull up her hair, and never, ever run -- which are all depicted as ludicrous (much like in Brave). Kaguya yearns for the forest, for freedom, and for her beloved Sutemaru, who treated her as an equal, not a prize to possess. Parents may feel a pang of sadness as they relate with both the Bamboo Cutter, who does what he thinks is best for Kaguya's future, and his wife, who understands that what her daughter wants is her forest home and quiet moments of happiness.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the popularity of Japanese animation. Why is it so appealing? 

  • The studio behind The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Studio Ghibli, is known for offering alternatives to mainstream Hollywood movies. What sets them apart from animated movies made in the United States?

  • What do you think the message of this fairy tale is? Were you surprised by the way the story ended? What would you have liked to happen?

  • How do the characters in The Tale of Princess Kaguya demonstrate compassion? Why is this an important character strength?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

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