I had heard bits and pieces about The Napping Princess just before the Japanese release, and I had no idea that the movie was going to be released overseas at all- let alone receive a dub. My best friend actually caught it while we were searching for tickets to A Silent Voice.
I didn’t know what to expect with one besides the adorable art that reminded me of Eden of the East (same director, Kenji Kamiyama, actually) and those beautiful backgrounds I saw in promotional images as well as ads. This was a seriously good movie, and not just because the art and animation was one point- the story was well balanced, paced, and just plain good.
The Napping Princess features a young girl, Kokone Morikawa, entering her senior summer, the last one before high school graduation. Amidst her own conflicts of where to attend college, a distant father, and the omnipresent Tokyo Olympics set to occur in three days- Kokone dreams of fairy tale world her father spun when she was a child.
The real world centers around Kokone after her father, Momotaro, is arrested by the Tokyo police under charges of stealing Shijima Motor’s property (the tablet). Kokone must secure the tablet and save her father, all while learning more and more about her past in the dream world of Heartland.
In this world, Ancien (seen as a younger Kokone) is the daughter of the King of Heartland, a kingdom where everyone works hard to make machines. One day, Ancien learns she has magical powers that can bring machines to life through an enchanted tablet, and soon after her father locks her away in a tower. Ancien is a rebellious girl, so she escapes to take her tablet back and thus begins the adventure of Ancien and the Magic Tablet. During the bulk of the story stand an impending pair of big bads, the Colossus (a monster of molten metal) and the King’s Advisor who fuels the Colossus with text.
I don’t mean to spoil much, but it’s imperative I give away just a little to explain how well this movie works.
Within the real tablet is a genius-level program for self-driving cars that Kokone’s mother perfected after leaving Shijima Motors with Momotaro. Knowing that the design was working, and knowing that the current Shijima team would be unable to get the self-driving cars to work by the Olymipics, Wantanabe (a Shijima executive and Heartland’s evil advisor), plans on retrieving the tablet under false pretenses and voting out the Chairman (Kokone’s grandfather) after the Olympics.
Personally, I saw this at the Alamo Drafthouse, so I didn’t really want to cry into my loaded fries and pizza; and, by splitting the fairy tale between the real world, The Napping Princess manages to create a wonderfully endearing story without too much sobbing. There are a few points where you can’t tell the difference between reality and fiction that helped give the story depth and adventure that would be sorely lacking if we had left the dream world behind. Furthermore, the inception of the fairy tale not only assisted in telling us needed details of Kokone’s mother’s life, but helped us understand the intense pressure society and the ever looming 2020 Olympics through the use of the Colossus. That obvious parallel of omnipresent pressure between the worlds was a great branching mechanic to help the viewer bridge the worlds that inevitably melded together in the end.
Of course, the dream world parallel did lead to some suspicious plot drops that were never picked back up like the idea of shared dreams and Kokone’s waking dreams during the climax. While these don’t matter to the overall story, if you think back on the movie it’s a little odd that these topics were never properly wrapped up. Though, maybe that’s just the power of napping magic.
Since The Napping Princess didn’t get too much advertising, at least not that I saw, I doubt it will be big. However, this soon-to-be hidden gem will be well worth the price of the DVD/Blu-Ray when it does release.
Oh, did I mention that the dub was great?