Napping Princess: The Story of the Unknown Me (Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari) is an anime movie that came out back in 2017 and is written and directed by Kenji Kamiyama, the person behind the amazing movie and series of Ghost in the Shell. That was enough for me to expect something of great quality and story. But unfortunately, the film was not as amazing as I thought it would be.
Three days before the opening of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Kokone should be studying for her exams but instead she is often dozing off and is stuck between reality and a dreamworld full of machines and magic. After her father is arrested and accused of stealing a new cutting-edge technology from a well-known corporation she tries to help him with the aid of her imagination and her childhood friend Morio. On their journey to save her father, they realize that her dreams hold answers to the mystery behind the stolen software and technology along with surprising revelations about Konone’s family.
Plot & Story
The plot of the film takes place in two different settings: Heartland, a dream-like fantasy world, and a near-future Japan. The story can be difficult to describe as it is a mixture of different things that look quite unrelated. At the beginning of the film we see Kokone as a high school girl who sees these weird dreams of her being a princess in a world of cars. The issues begin when she meets Morio who helps her save her dad. There are weird transitions of reality and dreams, a Morio who accepts everything that is happening like there is no problem, and overall the movie has a poorly written story that fails to keep you interested until the end. The story is a straightforward fairy tale that involves characters with the most basic motivations and little to no depth. The goofy villain is what you would except out of a Disney film (which is not necessarily a bad thing) and unfortunately, even if the film manages to build up suspense and drama, without a well based setting, background, and character development the audience fails to get invested in the story and root for the protagonist to succeed in defeating the ‘bad guy’.
Art & Music
The animation and art direction was not your standard anime drawing style and was generally decent for a modern anime film. The characters had nice detailing, with nice shadows and good use of lighting in their designs and their facial features. Sceneries and environments were extremely well done but the 3D sequences and the use of CGI were not kept in the same pace throughout the film. There were certainly some creative designs in it, particularly for the autonomous motorcycle, but scenes like the one where they fly under the bridge, most of the EngineHeads, the Colossus, etc. had no certain charm to them or something to make them pop out. Especially in anime where you can go all out with mecha, the designs were very basic.
The sound and music were borderline average as there was nothing memorable or really intriguing in the soundtrack, which is rather weird since it was made by Yoko Shimomura who is well known for her OST work in the Kingdom Hearts series, Final Fantasy XV, and many more video games. But I will add that I honestly loved the performance of Konoke’s voice actress.
Themes & Trivia
Driverless cars: You would think that we still have a long way to go until we actually see a car driving by itself, but we might actually see something like that in the Tokyo Olympics. In 2013 and 2015, Nissan successfully carried out test drives of hands-free vehicles on the streets of Tokyo. And in 2016 and early 2017, further test runs were conducted in Silicon Valley and London.
Collective production: I was startled to see that Napping Princess is actually a huge production. It was produced by Signal.MD and released in Japan by Warner Bros. Pictures Japan, but there are actually up to 15 more producers such as: Production I.G, VAP, Yomiuri Telecasting, HoriPro, Bandai, Nippon Television Network, Lawson HMV Entertainment, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, Nishinippon Broadcasting, Hulu, Kadokawa, KDDI, Sapporo Television Broadcasting, Miyagi Television Broadcasting, Shizuoka Daiichi Television, Chukyo TV Broadcasting, Hiroshima Television, Fukuoka Broadcasting System. This is insane.
I believe that Napping Princess was very ambitious as a production. It tries to explore a variety of different genres and themes and it has a unique way of telling its story. Yes, it’s different from what you might expect it to be but it’s definitely not a bad film. It had a promising start but unfortunately the execution of the plot ideas and the poor writing really took over after the second half of the film. It does remind me of Satoshi Kon’s work with the whole theme and the way it is approached but sadly it’s not done nearly as good.
Also the fact that she had a ‘magic tablet’ really threw me off for some reason. Even for a fairytale this sounds kind of lame. I am sorry but I can’t really see the ‘magic’ in having a tablet that you basically write stuff in it and they magically happen. Where is the creativity and excitement in that? Technology will ruin even kids’ stories in the future… oh my, I think I just became a grumpy old woman.
In any case, with a narrative that is kind of childish, this movie can be thoroughly enjoyed by kids, since they are not going to try to make sense out of what it actually happening.
‘With hearts united, we can fly.’
- Nice voice acting
- Beautiful and well-designed environments
- No character development
- Poorly written story
- Not any memorable scenes
Would I recommend watching Napping Princess? Yes. It is definitely worth seeing once so you can at least judge it for yourself. I am not the kind of person that finds joy in criticizing other people’s work negatively, so I am going to say that this movie is decent but not a masterpiece. It was a good effort but nothing mind-blowing.