This March marks a year since Japan was treated to the release of Napping Princess – a movie created and directed by Eden of the East creator, Kenji Kamiyama. Having missed the chance to see Napping Princess during its UK cinema release last August, I snapped up the chance to experience the film now that it’s coming to home video. Did it grip me as much as Kamiyama’s other projects or send me to sleep?
The story of Napping Princess takes places in two different settings, due to our protagonist Kokone Morikawa’s unusual dreams. Kokone is a high-school student and lives with her father, Momotaro, who is a car mechanic. Elsewhere, in her dreams Kokone is a princess belonging to a society known as Heartland, which revolves entirely around cars. There she has a blue toy bear sidekick named Joy (which is a bear she also has in reality). In this dream world Kokone is locked away because she possesses magical powers that can bring machines to life thanks to the use of a ‘magic tablet’. In the real world this tablet is used by Kokone’s father to help with his work, but one day he’s suddenly arrested and urges Kokone to protect the tablet and the secrets it contains from a ‘bad man’ who’s coming after it.
Up until that day Kokone’s life has been simple: she’s just an ordinary high-school student living with her father. However, as the story progresses, we see that Kokone has problems of her own. Kokone’s mother passed away in an accident while she was still young, and one of Kokone’s biggest concerns is how little she knows about her mother. Even quizzing her father doesn’t give her any answers – at least not on the surface. The answers Kokone seeks are actually buried within her subconscious and seem to surface in her dream world, but will she be able to piece the secrets together while on the run with her dad’s tablet?
On the whole Napping Princess is a kids’ movie, something for the whole family – and especially so when we’re in the dream world. However, at a certain point, when the dream and real world begin to connect, the movie completely disregards the fact that the viewer can no longer keep track of what’s going on. Towards the end of the film I began wishing for a more clear-cut divide between the worlds again, as I honestly found it hard to understand what had been happening in the real world due to the dream world’s story intersecting with it. That said, this is unlikely to put off younger viewers, who will be far more interested in the magic and fantastical world than why a company wants a car mechanic’s tablet.
Away from my problems with the plot, Napping Princess holds up rather well. The animation has been handled by studio SIGNAL.MD, is full of life, and makes an effective use of colours. This is especially true with the differences between the two worlds, with the dream world being painted with a much brighter palette than the real world. It’s just what I’d expect from a film with a firm investment in catching the children’s market. Overall a good job!
Meanwhile, the music has been handled by Yoko Shimomura (who is best known for working on the Kingdom Hearts and Mario & Luigi series of video games) and sounds good. The soundtrack is made up of a lot of fun pieces that add to the magical on-screen action. It’s not the most memorable collection away from Napping Princess but it does work well within the context of the movie.
The voice actors for the movie also do a good job. Kokone is played by Mitsuki Takata, who doesn’t appear to have any other anime roles to her name. Takata offers a compelling performance although comes off slightly whiny at times. On the other hand, her English dub actor, Brina Palencia (Touka Kirishima in Tokyo Ghoul, Shirayuki in Snow White with the Red Hair), does a better job in the role. Overall, all of the Japanese and English actors do well in their roles, so I wouldn’t recommend one over the other. It’s worth watching, whichever version you naturally gravitate toward!
Napping Princess comes to the UK thanks to Anime Limited and is available as a Collector’s Edition as well as on standard DVD and Blu-ray sets. The Collector’s Edition includes a rigid case and a 40- page art booklet. Every set includes the movie with both English and Japanese audio as well as on-disc extras including an interview with the director, interviews with the cast, and trailers alongside other video extras.
Overall Napping Princess is an entertaining, family-friendly offering that only loses its way due to an unfortunate case of trying to do too much. If you can overlook this, then you’re in for a great time, and if you’re a general fan of the director’s work then you’ll probably find something to like here.