Animated Feature: The Tale of Princess Kaguya - Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura
Song of the Sea is a sweet tale of a family whose mother and daughter are both selkies, or people who can transform into seals and back into humans. The film is based on Irish and Scottish legends. When the mother dies birthing the family's second child, the son who adored her struggles with his relationship with the younger sister, who is the selkie. Both children are taken away to live with their grandmother, and the daughter, Saoirse sneaks off to her destiny while her brother chases after her to protect her. The animation in this film is absolutely beautiful and the story was surprisingly engaging for a movie about a child's legend.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya is based on a Japanese story, "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter." A man who makes his living as a bamboo cutter finds a miniature person born out of a bamboo stalk in the woods. He brings her home and he and his wife decide to raise her. In her youngest years, she grows extraordinarily fast moment by moment, and she makes friends with children in the area. Convinced by discoveries of gold and fine kimonos in the bamboo, the bamboo cutter builds a palace to nurture the child into becoming royalty so that she can fulfill the destiny he believes she has. As she grows into the fine young lady he envisions, she receives numerous proposals of marriage from local nobility, including the Prince, though she still is unable to find happiness in anything more than the natural world. In order to become who she really is, she must find her own destiny. Though this film was a bit long for a full length animated feature, it is extremely well done. Though it has been translated into English with an American cast, I highly recommend starting with the original, and the one which has received the Oscar nomination.