Napping Princess (3 stars)

Napping Princess

Bold and thoughtful anime from Kenji Kamiyama which boasts genuine heart

This striking anime from writer-director Kenji Kamiyama is far more bold and brainy than its English title would suggest. Also known as Ancien and the Magic Tablet, Napping Princess is both an enjoyable animated adventure and a thoughtful allegory about the importance of pursuing one's dreams.

In the futuristic Heartland, the automotive industry rules supreme and cars are an essential commodity. In an isolated tower, young princess Enshen (voiced by Mitsuki Takahata) attempts to imbue the machines that surround her with hearts, using a magic tablet. In modern day Tokyo, it is revealed that Heartland is actually the dreamworld of schoolgirl Kokone (also voiced by Takahata), who assumes the identity of Enshen when she sleeps and realises that the answers she is seeking in her real life may lie in her slumbers.

As bright and bubbly as the animation itself, Kokone is a likeable teen whose intelligence and tenacity shine through. She is more than strong enough to drive her own story; essential, given the increasing overlap of her real and dream worlds, and their characters, which requires particular attention from the viewer. Kokone's relationship with her recently imprisoned father motivates her quest; and her need to connect with and remember her late mother, who died in an accident when she was young, informs her (typically adolescent) search for a true sense of self.

Some of the film's themes are in danger of being overwhelmed by the weaving narrative and neon look of the film. Heartland, in particular, is a cornucopia of visual influences, informed by the march of technology, Kokone's half-remembered childhood stories and films like Godzilla and Transformers. Nevertheless, the rich dramatic seam gives Napping Princess genuine heart.

General release from Wed 16 Aug.

Napping Princess

  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • Japan
  • 1h 51min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Kenji Kamiyama
  • Cast: Mitsuki Takahata, Shinnosuke Mitsuhima
  • UK release: 16 August 2017

When schoolgirl Kokone (Takahata) falls asleep, she assumes the identity of princess Enshen in a futuristic heartland where cars are an essential commodity. Bolder and brainier than its title suggests, this striking anime is an enjoyable adventure and a thoughtful allegory about the importance of following your dreams.