" the story Takahata crafts is a wonderfully elegant and free-flowing one of grace, beauty and delight"

Studio Ghibli’s latest to get a UK theatrical release, The Tale of Princess Kaguga, is noteworthy for key reasons: it’s a return to the gorgeous, breezy watercolour style that was last seen in 1999’s My Neighbours the Yamadas, which, as it happens, was also the last time Isao Takahata graced the studio with his directorial presence. Kaguya marks co-founder Takahata’s return after a 13-year hiatus, and it couldn’t have come at a more critical time since both Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki retired last year.

Released domestically way back in November of 2013, the lengthy time between this and its UK release is often a terribly slow process, and unlike Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, Kaguya didn’t muster the same levels of interest.

That’s not to say Kaguya is by any means below par in relation to Miyazaki’s final feature in his directorial jigsaw: like Wind, Kaguya was, just this year, Oscar-nominated for Best Animated Feature, and rightly so.

In what is one of the longest animated films I’ve seen in a while (it’s almost two hours 20 minutes), Kaguya never outstays its welcome, even though it does feel noticeably elongated when pitted against its counterparts, but you’ll barely noticed the hours tick by.

Kaguya is so beautifully conceived and so painstakingly put together that any minor issues with its duration can be overlooked in favour of its eye-catching hand-drawn artistry. Takahata, who’s no stranger to producing fine anime, is on form with a story that addresses a Japanese fable whereby a tiny princess is found inside a stalk of bamboo by an elderly bamboo cutter. Without children of their own, he and his wife decide to raise the miniscule girl to not only appease the gods and provide her with a noble life of riches they believe she deserves, but to fill their own childless void.

As with every other film Studio Ghibli have in their filmography, Kaguya continuously addresses several interesting and valid points, as well as engage with Japanese culture and history, raising important issues such as the presumption over how a person should be raised, and the notion how wealth and societal prestige cannot buy one’s love and affection. There are indeed several other elements of interest here, but on a most basic level it’s simply a joy to watch Princess Kaguya grow up and make decisions of her own, rather than at the hands of manipulative elders and by others who think they’re doing her a favour.

Kaguya may not look like what many perceive a Studio Ghibli film to be -- aesthetic-wise especially -- but the story Takahata crafts is a wonderfully elegant and free-flowing one of grace, beauty and delight, particularly if you’re a Ghibli fan, like me.