Napping Princess Review
We are living in something of a new trend of anime cinema here in the West and, honestly, I couldn’t be happier about this fact. Your Name, In this Corner of the World, A Silent Voice, all beautiful and visually imaginative films with stories that tap into the heart. Hopefully, this will continue and we will get to the point where release and acclaim for anime films will be as prevalent as the latest Disney movie. However no trend is perfect, and there was always going to be a film that stumbled a little. That film is director Kenji Kamiyama’s Napping Princess; a kind of mixture of Inception, and Laputa: Castle in the Sky but not as enjoyable as that sounds.
Konone isn’t very good at much except for falling asleep, where she has elaborate dreams based on the stories her father told her as a child. When her father is suddenly arrested just prior to the Tokyo Olympics it might be that her dreams contain the secret to helping him.
Napping Princess - or to give it its full title Ancien and the Magic Tablet - is an odd little film. It is well made and has some beautiful animation, along with a wonderful soundtrack, but doesn’t seem to have much of a story to tell us. The relationship between dreaming and being awake is fun at first, but makes less and less sense the more you think about it. It’s something that could have been really entertaining and interesting, but ends up so confusing that by the finale you’re just looking at the animation with only half an idea of what is going on.
The biggest problem with the film, however, lies with its protagonist. We never really get a sense of who Kokone is as a person. She loves her dad and isn’t very good at anything, that’s about it. Towards the end she seems to have reached a conclusion of what she wants to do with her life but if this is supposed to be a subplot it isn’t very well developed as it’s something we’re told more about in the aftermath yet none the wiser of how she has changed. Sometimes a blank slate character can be a great stepping stone to the world of a movie, but here between the waking and dream world we really needed more about who Kokone is and what makes her tick. If the film had just been Kokone on the run to save her father and connect with her mother’s past against a background of high-tech corporate espionage that would have been a potentially engaging and interesting personal drama. Likewise, if it had just been the steampunk fairytale it would have been a fun kids film with pirates, robots, monsters, and talking stuffed animals. However, putting them together in this way just feels muddled, even with a nice little revelation which puts the fairytale into a proper context with Kokone’s life. It’s a good touch, but didn’t tidy things up completely. Essentially the film doesn’t seem to know what kind of story it wants to tell and so does both to little effect.
Entertaining and imaginative, Napping Princess lacks that extra bit to make it something special like other recent films but is still worth a watch for fans of the genre.