Guest Writer: Heidi Berthiaume
Napping Princess is a Japanese animated fantasy movie where a girl’s dreams and her reality begin to overlap, leading to adventure and hidden truths about her family. Directed by Kenji Kamiyama of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex fame, this anime also features the music of Yoko Shimomura, known for her Kingdom Hearts and Mario & Luigi video game compositions.
The opening title comes up as “Ancien and the Magic Tablet” and the audience is introduced to Heartland, a magical place where everyone works at the King’s car factory. Ancien, the King’s daughter, uses her magical tablet to create code to bring to life a blue teddy bear she names Joy and a motorcycle she names Heart. Wanting to help fight the giant Colossus that threatens the kingdom, despite her father’s disapproval of her use of the tablet, Ancien recruits a motorcycle driver named Peach and they run away from the city. Ancien’s story stops whenever Kokone, a high school girl, wakes up.
Living alone with her widowed father, an eccentric mechanic who prefers to text with her than talk to her, Kokone meets up with Morio, a cousin who has returned to their town from college. The news stations are filled with reports on the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which will showcase self-driving cars from Shijima Motors. Ancien and Kokone’s stories intertwine more and more after Kokone’s father is arrested for supposedly stealing code from Shijima Motors.
Determined to save her father, Kokone convinces Morio to help her go to Tokyo to see the Chairman of Shijima Motors. They borrow Kokone’s father’s motorcycle to escape Watanabe, a Shijima Motors employee and look alike to the evil adviser of Heartland who is pursuing Ancien. Watanabe is determined to find the tablet that contains the stolen code. Kokone’s dreams begin to bleed into the real world to the point Morio meets Ancien and there is a beautifully animated flying motorcycle sequence.
Some of the mechanical designs bring to mind Big Hero 6. There’s even a hint of Neon Genesis Evangelion present in the final climax. Everyone has a fully formed personality and it’s refreshing to see teenagers behaving without pretension. As often happens in fantasy stories, the protagonist’s adventure is a result of the actions of those who came before, in this case, Kokone’s parents. Stay through the credits to see more of their relationship.
Napping Princess is available in the US in a limited theatrical release by GKIDS in an English dubbed and English subtitled version.