Napping Princess was the latest Anime to receive a cinematic release, thanks to all the Anime. They seem to be trying to get the UK cinemas to broadcast tons of Anime films so they have been licensing. This, however was a film I would not have been aware of had I not been checking on Facebook constantly because this film was really not being advertised. Napping Princes is a good statement on how quickly Anime is getting over here, considering that a film like this would normally take ages to get over here. Take, for example, When Marnie was There, which two years before it reached UK cinemas.
Napping Princess did come out in Japan for general audiences on 18 March, with screenings both on the 16 and 18 August for the Sub and Dub respectively. For the record I saw the film in its subtitle version and I know that America will be getting the film on the 8 September. Napping Princess is another one of these films that seems to hope for the success of the previously reviewed Your Name, which is still one of the highest grossing films in Japanese history. The film is actually directed by a director that I generally enjoy, it’s written and directed by Kenji Kamiyama, who has been a writer and director on several projects. He was largely the director for all of Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complexes storyline, which I absolutely love and he did the entirety of the Eden of the East TV series and both of its movies, which while having an unsatisfied inclusion, was at least brilliant for the most part. Napping Princess, however, is his first original project that he has to build up from a movie from the start. With his other movie’s he was building on TV series that he was previously working on. He is completely starting from the ground up, and, believe me, we are going to be talking about that as the review goes on, but I went in with high expectations for this film, let’s see if my expectations were rewarded.
Describing the plot of Napping Princess is rather hard because it’s not exactly the easiest plot to describe. I am going to do my best, however. The best way I would describe this is that there is a dual plot going on. One of the stories revolves around Morikawa Kokone (played by Mitsuki Takahata), a girl that falls asleep a lot and is planning on what she is doing her last Summer before she graduates. The other story revolves around the Princes Isshin and her quest to save her kingdom by getting back a magic tablet that makes robotics come to life. (It’s Anime remember, when did these plots ever not sound mad as hell). It’s all turned on its head however, when Morikawa’s father Momotaro (played by Yosuke Eguchi) is arrested on the pretence of a sense of the representatives of a major automotive company with the aims of getting back a tablet that contains some sensitive information. Now Morikawa must get back the tablet to the rightful owners in order to set everything right, however, the plots may be connected in more ways than we thought.
Napping Princess’s plot can be best summed up as ‘good look piecing this together’. This storyline clearly does not fit the timescale necessary. That’s not to say there’s a pacing issue. It’s actually paced rather well, coming in at a total of one hour and fifteen minutes. There is a real issue, however, there’s not really enough explained. That’s not to say it’s Quest for Camelot level bad, we’re not talking ‘I have absolutely no idea what is going on’ for the most part, we will get back to that later. It feels at thebeginning like it is going to be a plot similar to Saving Mr Banks, where we see the creation of a story plus the flashbacks to what inspired the story, in this case I assume we were seeing the story that was being created in the main character’s dream, followed by the real world scenario that showed her inspiration for the dream. I actually thought that was a very clever idea. The problem is, it abandons that idea quite soon after. The whole ideas is that the worlds might be connected, but they don’t explain how or why they are connected or even if they are connected and it isn’t just all in her head. It’s not explained thoroughly, but at least it’s open to interpretation. The film tries to wheel these dual plots together but it doesn’t really work and in a sense I feel this would have more suited Kenji Kamiyama’s style of setting a TV series first that would then lead into a movie, I could so see this becoming a series. Granted it wouldn’t have had the animation budget to do half of what it wanted to do but it could have succeeded. The plot is rather thinly veiled as a result. The most intriguing stuff happens in the real world since the dream world simply doesn’t have enough time to flesh out a coherent story, despite the fact that it’s where the most action happens. But as I mentioned, the plot doesn’t really flow very well, whereas the plot in the real world flows quite well and it was also the more intriguing, despite the fact that Kamiyama decides that he is going to recycle a lot of the ideas that he used in Eden of East. In fact that plot line is very similar to this one in a lot of ways.
That’s the real downside to this film. It tries way too hard to say that these two ideas are connected and it doesn’t work entirely. We needed a bit more of an idea about what was going on and how it related to everything. I get a lot of the ideas where they were going with this and it’s interesting, but it just needed a little bit more ironing out, maybe one of two more rewrites. If you like the dream world, there are two Anime shorts made to give you more of it. Despite what happens in the dream world being very creative and innovative, it kind of upsetting that we get all this brilliant beautiful looking action, which then grinds to a halt. Further suggesting my idea, that this should have been a TV series and then a movie to finalise the story. At least we get a complete story, I can say that much. I did enjoy it overall.
The worst part of this film, however, it the final act! The final act is all over the place and all the afore mentioned problems are exacerbated to an absurd degree, there is so much going on and a lot of it is meant to relate in how the worlds have been connected, but I cannot figure out for the life of me what is going on, I have no idea how it relates to anything. I was scratching my head, constantly going “what the hell is happening here”, this film has got to have on the most confusing climaxes I have ever seen, not to mention it had kind of lost my seriousness by this point, and it goes almost completely downhill, including one infamous moment with the villain that was so hilarious, I could not believe we were meant to take it seriously.
The main villain is also the weakest character. He is a quite convincing villain and he might have been a bit more intimidating had we been able to take him more seriously, however, there is one moment early on that was so out of their field that it sent the entire audience that was watching into hysterics, it was impossible to take the villain seriously from that point and it only got worse from there, which is a shame because the rest of the characters are actually pretty good.
I liked the main characters Kokone and Isshin respectively and Peach is one of the best eccentric dad characters I have seen in Anime in a long time. We also get Kokone’s cousin Morio who is a decent supporting character and I would even dare say, one of the characters, who I won’t go into too much detail about for fear of spoilers, is a good way of tying the plot up altogether. As a result, it’s very difficult to recommend this film. You are only going to have a chance of understanding it if you are rather adept with Anime and the concept of dual worlds, something I have noticed Japanese fiction likes to do on a regular basis. But even then, you are going to have a bit of a hard time completely establishing the entirety of the facts. Maybe if this film was given more time to develop or maybe if it had ironed out the bolts and went into a bit of an explanation into a couple of things it would have been slightly better, but as it stands it’s a rather confusing film. Ok.
As for the cast, well I saw the film in its original Japanese cast so I can’t comment on the dub which I believe funamation has done, with some excellent casting choices including Bina Palencia and Doug Erholtz. I might even watch this movie again in the dub and give my thoughts on it at the time, but for now I am going to comment on the sub-cast. The sub-cast are actually a very good cast, particularly the solid performances of Mitsuki Takahata and Ysuke Eguchi who are the best performances in the film by far and the cast in general is a really dam good one. If you went to see it in the dub, please let me know what your thoughts are.
As for the animation. It’s the strongest part of the film. The animation is stunningly good and while it’s aiming to be on a level with Your Name, but it doesn’t quite reach those levels. That creates a problem in itself because it feels like it’s stretching itself too far as a result. Mind you any Anime film is not going to look as good compared to Your Name now. I think even when Studio Ghibli get back in the game they are going to have trouble matching up to that film.
Well, that’s another one for me done. Remember leave a comment if you have any thoughts on this one and you can do your own reviews if you wish to, just go to our ‘how to submit’ section, we are always happy to get some new stuff in here.
Thanks a lot for reading my review. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and if you can figure out the climax then get down to climate change research facility because you are clearly going to figure out how to sort this mess out!!!
Calvin – Nerd Consultant
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