Napping Princess


Reviewed by: Jane Fae

Napping Princess
"There is much to like here: plenty of action, dazzling animation and a score that backs up the action without being intrusive."

Enthusiastic. But scoring two C's also for chaotic and confused. That, at least is how Napping Princess came across: a well-intentioned attempt to do something rather clever which, in the end, almost but doesn't quite work.

It opens with the princess in Heartland – a world where cars are all and basic human decency seems to have departed through the window – attempting to instil life, and heart, into machines, literally, through the use of a magic tablet.

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Cut to our world where this appears to have been all a dream, dreamed by our napping heroine, Kokone Morikawa (Mitsuki Takahata).

Or – one of the oldest film propositions in the book – was it? For while the dreamworld rapidly assumes a Godzilla-like narrative, with the dread Colossus arising from the ocean to terrorise the inhabitants and only the “Engineheads” - massive fighting machines manned by humans – capable of slowing its inexorable progress, it contains much the same cast of people (voiced variously by Yôsuke Eguchi, Rie Kugimiya, Shin'nosuke Mitsushima and Wataru Takagi, amongst others), just reshuffled ever so slightly as befits the parameters of their state.

So in dreamworld, we meet the old king and father to the princess who, in the real world, doubles up as Kokone's grandfather and head of a global automotive company. In the dreamworld, we find young adventurer and big brother/boyfriend figure, Peach, who, it seems, also occupies the space taken up by Kokone's real-world dad. Sigmund Freud would have a field day with that!

Villain of the dreamworld is the king's right hand man, Watanabe, who wants the Engineheads to fail, whereupon he will seize the magic tablet, animate his own personal Enginehead, save the day and take over as King.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Kokone's dad has been kidnapped, or arrested by police acting on trumped up charges laid by Watanabe, and as Kokone sets out to rescue him, everyone is after a real tablet which appears to have real magic powers. Or does it?

And the central question (and as close as I will get to a spoiler): whatever happened to Kokone's mother?

As the two worlds become increasingly intertwined, we end with a dramatic cliffhanger, in which Kokone (real and dream) must use all her ingenuity to save father and grandfather, dream and real, from disaster.

There is much to like here: plenty of action, dazzling animation and a score that backs up the action without being intrusive. As befits a film from Kenji Kamiyama, otherwise noted as a director of political science fiction, there is plenty of commentary on present-day society and the brutality of modern life. But equally, he intended this as a film his daughter would love to see, which is why the focus is on father-daughter relationships, as well as reason for the childlike, innocent tone with which the film starts.

But still, the dream-real balance is a difficult one to manage and the lack of clarity, rather than adding to the film, became, in places, a distraction.

Reviewed on: 09 Aug 2017
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A sleepy girl's dreams of life as a princess with the power to bring the inanimate to life begin to intrude on the real world.
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Fantasia 2017

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