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The anime movie Ancien and the Magic Tablet (Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari, also known as Napping Princess) came out in Japanese cinemas on 18 March 2017. Here is a short spoiler-free review of the newest movie from Kenji Kamiyama (Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex, Eden of the East).
Director Kenji Kamiyama specializes in high-grade, unforgettable stories about society. Just as the director of Your Name (Kimi no Na wa), Makoto Shinkai, sublimely gained fame, confidence (and more fans) as a novelist, Director Kenji Kamiyama is challenging the compatibility of fame and one’s nature as an author.
Morikawa Kokone, who lives in Okayama, is seeing a lot of dreams lately. In those dreams, she can see a princess who can cast magic on machines and give them hearts. In the dream world, a robot which can transform into a fantastical steampunk-ish bike appears and builds a unique world that feels nostalgic and fresh all at the same time.
Kokone becomes a weapon when that dream gradually begins to intersect with reality.
From the outline of the work, we can think of Hirune Hime as a fantasy movie with a high school girl as the lead. However, this is not just a fantasy movie.
In the dream world, the citizens are all engaged in the car manufacturing industry under a 24-hour system. It incorporates a very realistic town filled with businesses. From a Japanese point of view (Japan is home to various automobile manufacturers) people can make all kind of relations: ‘Wait, aren’t they trying to point out that company?’ The scenes where the story is connected to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are also colored with reality. After all, we are only 3 years away from the Tokyo Olympics. The story managed to meet in the intersection of dream and reality, making its world feel fresh and contemporary. No matter the generation, there is something to take from this movie.
As expected, Director Kamiyama’s tendency to comment on social nature is felt in every scene. It is a story which can be interpreted as his cynicism towards Japan’s stagnated society while still depicting the accomplishment of a magnificent goal. This is a societal piece seen through the themes of stagnation and development. With its fantastical elements, the confusion of reality and fantasy seems to test the audience. Is this really just an anime movie?
Japan’s anime industry is facing a transition period. Just as Director Shinkai used the aftermath of the 2011 Touhoku earthquake and tsunami as the main theme in Your Name, Director Kamiyama in Ancien and the Magic Tablet tests us by including his extremely strong views about the current Japanese society. Director Kamiyama has retained his nature as a novelist while obtaining fame with his high-grade screenwriting.
Ancien and the Magic Tablet is a must watch.