Published Jul 26, 2017Focused on the fantastical dreams of an adolescent attempting to deal with loss and understand her place in the world, Napping Princess treads familiar territory for a family-oriented anime. Fortunately, Kenji Kamiyama's warm characters and attention to detail make this a worthwhile story to revisit.
Kokone is a likeable but disorganized high school student who has a jovial relationship with her widower father, an auto mechanic who specializes in DIY tablet hacks that create self-driving cars. She's also got a penchant for falling asleep at will, where she accesses a strange fantasy world in which she takes on life as Princess Ancien. The real world and her dreamscape frequently blend together; the same people inhabit each, though in slightly different roles.
In fact, the fantasy world almost doesn't need to exist when you consider the plot laid out in Kokone's waking state. One day, while she's at school, her father is apprehended by some men who are seeking the technology held on his coveted tablet. What follows is in intriguing story that sees Kokone attempt to rescue her father — and protect his intellectual property — from some evil bigwigs at a massive car corporation.
Unfortunately, a decent chunk of this battle takes place in Kokone's dream world, where the battle is represented through a metaphorical sea monster duking it out with robots in a cityscape. It's fun to watch, but it's often a little too fantastical for the viewer to understand what the hell is actually going on.
Somewhere along the way, Kokone is reunited with her estranged grandfather while also coming to terms with the loss of her mother, who died in an accident a few years before the film takes place. It's a lot of heavy family drama that occasionally feels glossed over due to the overbearing fantasy scenes.
Despite quibbles with the plot, though, Napping Princess boasts eye-popping and detail-oriented animation, a delightfully emotive score from Final Fantasy composer Yoko Shimomura, a wide cast of lovable characters (including a blue stuffed animal that comes to life in Kokone's dreams) and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. You may leave the film feeling a little confused, but you'll be glad you embarked on the journey regardless.