Napping Princess / Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari (2017)
Directed and written by Kenji Kamiyama (009 Re:Cyborg, Ghost in the Shell series), Napping Princess: The Story of the Unknown Me, also known as Ancien and the Magic Tablet, is an original Japanese animated film about high school girl named Kokone Morikawa (Mitsuki Takahata) who falls asleep very often and goes into a series of dreams of a futuristic world where she’s a princess named Ancien who owns a magically tablet that can bring anything to life. One day, in real life, her father is arrested by the police for unknown reasons and is taken to Tokyo days before the 2020 Olympics. As she travels to Tokyo to unravel the mystery, she begins to see the connections between this and her dreams.
If you somehow ever wanted a movie with elements of Sucker Punch (2011) and Pacific Rim (2013), this anime is it. Well, sort of. The narratives transition in and out of the protagonist’s dreams that feature giant robots and a lava kaiju (monster) called Colossal, and some times when she wakes up, some things that happened in the dream is carried over to reality — though it may not always make sense.
While I highly appreciate the ambitious, unconventional storytelling and how the film leaves clues for viewers to figure most things out on their own, the dream-to-reality narratives can get very confusing at times as the story never tries to clearly explain why Kokone falls asleep frequently, why her dreams are so powerful, why other characters can be in the same dream and what exactly happens in reality while those dreams are shown on screen instead. Either it’s brilliantly ambiguous or just don’t check out right.
If you thought this anime was going to be as great as the likes of Metropolis (2001 sci-fi action drama anime) or Your Name (2016 fantasy romance drama anime), you’d be very disappointed. It’s almost never emotionally engaging. That could’ve been partially fixed if the backstory is revealed earlier instead of during the closing credits. Even then, the viewers might care about Ancien, her cute stuffed toy Joy (Rie Kugimiya) and the Baymax-like Transformer named Heart, more than the protagonist herself, although Kokone’s typical bubbly anime character attitude does keep things entertaining while the story gradually unfolds and gets more interesting in the second half.
The hand-drawn visuals are quite a spectacle — featuring beautifully illustrated backdrops of Kurashiki, Osaka, Tokyo and the futuristic, magical dream world with odd-looking vehicles, robots and Colossal. The score by the legendary video game music composer Yoko Shimomura (Final Fantasy XV, Kingdom Heart, Mario & Luigi) livens every scene up before almost successfully jerking a tear out of my eyes at the end.
All in all, Napping Princess is fun to watch and very intriguing, even though certain things are too ambiguous. At its core, the story is about a broken family with unspoken regrets and untapped talents. Oh, hey, maybe that’s the point of its imperfect narratives. If not, well, it still works well enough.
What I would’ve named the film: “Kokone and Her Confusingly Magical Dreams”
Malaysian censorship: Although Kokone’s mini sailor skirt comes close to revealing her panties in every scene, I doubt any scene needed to be censored. Quite an unrealistically innocent anime, this is, actually.
Second opinion: My friend Henry said that he liked the story but also felt that some parts of the dream and reality were a bit confusing.
Verdict: It may not be a Oscar-worthy nor does it make perfect sense but it’s a very fun, ambitious anime to watch.
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Sci-fi fantasy adventure drama, anime
Running Time: 110 minutes
Director-writer: Kenji Kamiyama
Voice Cast: Mitsuki Takahata, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Tomoya Maeno
Malaysia Release Date: 3 August 2017 (TGV only)
Local Distributor: Atrinaga Sdn. Bhd.