Hey, I’m talking about a modern anime movie for once. How big of a surprise is that? Ok, maybe not a big one. For those of you who read my Sakuracon 2018 Decompressed post, you saw the fact that I purchased this film at that con. This was mostly a blind buy for me. I bought this film knowing absolutely nothing about it except for the director. It’s Kenji Kamiyama, the director of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone complex, which is one of my favorite anime series ever, and Eden of the East, which I like quite a bit. There is something special about this guy’s direction style that draws me to it. Maybe because it has a very western style? I also think that jumping into this film completely blind was a fun experience. I didn’t even read the synopsis on the back of the disc case, so putting Napping Princess together as I watched it was a trip. I highly recommend it. If this sounds interesting to you, please don’t read the rest of this post. I don’t dig into spoilers too much, but I will unveil too many things for you to watch this movie blind.
This show is centered two worlds based around our female protagonist Kokone’s level of consciousness. When Kokone is awake, the anime is based around the real world. What do you expect? Being awake is boring. No exciting imagery appears here. There is a plot centered around Kokone’s existence. Kokone is a school girl that is contemplating where she wants to go to school after high school. Her father wears a special jacket, is maintenance man or technician who refuses to charge people money for his work, and owns a tablet that carries untold technology which he uses to fix or improved other people’s things. He also has a really cool motor cycle. `Kokone and her father communicate more through text then in person until everything changes when a bearded man forces his way into their house. All hell breaks loose from there.
Then there is what happens when Kokone falls asleep. When is a sleep, she takes up the body of a young, red haired princess named Ancien who has a magic tablet. The tablet has the power to do whatever she types. Eventually she types too many things with the tablet, her magic causes chaos through the kingdom which causes the kingdom to be afraid of her, and then the tablet is locked away in a vault. Hoping to rescue a factory worker wearing a mysterious jacket, she styles the tablet and her motor cycle, rescues him, and then they both go into hiding. I feel like I may have given away some of the plot here, but hopefully it’s vague enough for most of you to not get an idea about what this film is about or what it’s trying to do yet. Half the fun is putting these two ideas together.
This movie isn’t that heavy into characterization, because not many people or even have character arcs. The visuals are the star of this film and the characters are only the devices in which the story is told. Yes, Kokone and her father talk in person at the end of the film, but that’s about it. Kokone is still a high schooler that is trying to figure out what college she wants to go to and her father is still helping people for less of a price then his help deserves. None of them have changed from this experience besides having another family member in their life and they don’t need to text each other in order to talk. That’s it.
The other characters are just as flat as they are. Possibly flatter, because they don’t have any defined personalities. They either appear to become an obstacle or help the characters. None of them get enough screen time and/or development to even be considered people or characters. Also, there are some stupid character moments that were just there to movie the plot forward. For a film, this is completely alright with me. If this was an anime series that didn’t have any character arcs and changes in it, I would be pissed off because there would be no point in watching it. With an hour and a half film, you can only do so much with a film that is centered around spectacle.
It doesn’t matter what setting our point of view character is in, this film is just gorgeous guys. The art design and character design perfectly incapsulates the experience as a whole. The real-world scenes have boring and completely ordinary, but everything completely sells it. Kokone is wearing her generic school girl uniform (the skirt is too short), almost everybody is wearing a boring business suit, and all sorts of settings including train stations, streets, and office buildings things are well detailed and believable. Then there is much more interesting dream world. Kokone’s character is wearing a very cool steam punk dress was awesome, and the steam punk buildings were exciting to look at, and there was colossus monsters fighting against giant robot battles too. There are so many cool things going on. I just wish the transitions between one setting to another felt more natural.
The poor transitions from one setting to another are why I would call this film a lesser Satoshi Kon film. Not in the Perfect Blue way, but in the Millennium Actress sort of way. The way Millennium Actress goes from the story our actress is telling us to real world almost seamlessly. This film hard cuts between the two in a much more cut in dry sort of way. If Satoshi Kon was behind this film, I would say it’s more then good. There are some many instances where the point of view would be the dream world. We would see this awesome robot and colossus fight, but then the cut would be Kokone hanging from the ledge on the inside of an incredibly tall office building. How did we get there? I don’t know. The film never tells any of this. On the opposite end, if this film would explain how one thing blatantly connected to another, all the magic would be gone.
If this movie still wanted to do hard cut transitions, I think that the best thing that this film could do is combine the two settings/styles at the end of the film. This would go along with the theme of having both of these settings and their background stories combining together in a cohesive manner. Our protagonist learns the truth of her fantasy dream world before the climax of the film, so it would make sense from a thematic level. What a missed opportunity. (Or I could be incredibly picky.)
Would I recommend this film? Yes. It some problems, but the complete experience is fun and satisfying. Despite the lack of characterization and the bigger focus on the visuals, Napping Princess did please me a great deal. No part of the film is wasted, because the two settings combined is still a very inventive way to tell the audience a story that has been done over and over and over again by many visual mediums. Why? Because it keeps you guessing until the major aha moment where the whole thing clicks. So yes, the film doesn’t make a lot of sense for the majority of it but believe me. It does connect. (Or I can be a complete idiot who didn’t see the whole thing coming. That’s always possible.) Also, it’s so satisfying seeing the established bad guy just get destroyed at the end of the film and seeing the story end on a high note. It’s not an experience that you will regret.
Thanks for reading everyone. If you like what I do and want to help out, please buy me a Ko-Fi. Please don’t feel like that you have to though. The choice is up to you. Don’t break the bank on me.