It’s been a long time since I had seen some light hearted fantasy sci-fi anime that took my breath away and The Napping Princess (also known as Ancien and the Magic Tablet) did propose a sense of escapism. Out in UK cinema’s 16th August 2017 – tickets available here.
Directed by Kenji Kamiyama (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Eden of the East) it showcases some of Japanese top buzzwords of the moment ie Technology, Robotics2020 Tokyo Olympics, and country revitalization. Promoting all the hot topics of Japan it melds in two worlds only seen and controlled by the main protagonist Kokone.
Kokone, is a college student who is off on summer vacation soon and would happily spend it with her recluse of a father who barely speaks rather than prepare for exams. However before she can get ready to referee the next majong match for her father he mysteriously goes missing. Before you can figure out what is going on every time she falls asleep she wakes up young in a kingdom where she wield magic.
Who is her father and what does he have that is so important to her grandfather on the tablet? This seems to the link in both parallel worlds. You begin to learn, that despite struggling to live with her father, her mother’s side of the family is the massive car corporation.
Yoko Shimomura is a composer and pianist, primarily known for her work in video games ie Kingdom Hearts Series, Mario & Luigi Games, FInal Fantasy Series to name a few. Her music echoes the fight instrumentals for Kingdom Heart’s without a doubt bringing animation to the dull mechanics of driving going into flight or the fast movements of Joy running after Ancien.
You may recognise the Heart the motorcycle that morphs into a robot as he is designed by Satako Morikawa (The Cat Returns, Eden of the East). Aspects of the art really added a nice touch to the film, any of the animals including the shiba inu dog had so much character in his face, you could see the same thing in Joy the stuffed animal.
This film felt like it should have been aimed more at kids and I believe SIGNAL.MD, a new subsidiary of Production I.G which is reportedly focused on animation for “children and families” made the film. With the complex story it was almost too simple for adults or just incomplete. I wanted to know more of Kokone’s condition of intertwining her dreamland with the real world. Nothing really is explained. Gaps were filled at the end during the credits where you figure out how her parents met and how Kokone’s mother died. But I still wanted to know more about the fantasy world?
Voice acting was great, I can’t praise Mitsuki Takahata enough for being a convincing high school girl, emphasising the villiage accent and slang. Japanese audio is always the way to go, though I am always open to hearing the English dubs as they have improved drastically.
The rural revitalisation is something I have seen in almost all the international released in the Uk where the main character wants to leave their village and go Tokyo, in this case Kokone would like to see if there is more to the world than majong and her dad’s garage but due to lack of funds and not wanted to abandon her father she gives up that dream pretty much. Later through searching for her father she does a remarkable job of navigating to Tokyo and finding her grandfather easily showing how adaptable the younger generation really is.
Everything relies on technology, phones, tablets, internet, cars, GPS, VR headsets; this film was almost advertising a new product of automatic driving. If this is something in the making I’d be interested in trying it out. The film could have been made purely to advertise product placement than really tell a story.
Either way I enjoyed the film for the nostalgic feels of remembering what it was to be a child and wish for fantastical things to happen and roam freely with our imaginations. Joy as a character was more a metaphor for Ancien’Kokone’s inner child speaking. I liked the pairing of Kokone and her childhood friend Morio who kind of gets dragged into this surreal adventure but at no point does he abandon her. The sense of strong community is highlighted and I liked the way people came together in Kokone’s village and even more so in her dreams. Definitely something to make you think about shaking up your routine in life.
Tickets available here.
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