Napping Princess

 

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Another animated film built around a young heroine - but this one from Japan.

 
Napping Princess

 

The latest of the many animated features to reach us this year, this enjoyable piece is the work of Kamiyama Kenji who in earlier times was a background artist on such films as Akira and Kiki's Delivery Service. Having turned to writing and direction, he has set out in Napping Princess to create an anime film which would please his daughter. A number of recent films by animators are resonant enough to have what may be an even stronger appeal for adults than for children, even if they hope to attract both audiences. However, it's probably the case that for this work the prime audience is a young one so it is helpful that a dubbed version is available although I was happy to see its subtitled companion.

 

This is a film with a feisty young heroine: she is Kokone who, just ahead of another Tokyo Olympics in 2020, is living in the city with her father, Momotaro. He is a widower who is working on a self-driving car that is to make its debut at the Olympics. But then he is seized by the authorities and accused of stealing the design from a major car company, Shijima Motors. Meanwhile Kokone has found a tablet containing a code vital to the design and is aware of men from Shijima who are out to steal it. Can she save the day?

 

This might seem to be story enough for a movie but in fact Kokone is given to dreams of another existence.  In this dream world we find Princess Ancien who seems to be a figure who echoes Kokone since she too is endangered while in possession of a magic tablet and is being pursued by Watanabe, the same villain who when in pursuit of Kokone is revealed as an executive of Shijima Motors. Furthermore, the world of the princess is under threat from a menacing colossus while the dubious figure of her father, the king, seems to chime with that of the chairman of Shijima Motors.

 

If these two worlds are at first seen turn by turn, they will in fact conjoin in time, and then it is that the truth about the past history of Kokone's parents will gradually emerge. The adventures depicted have a traditional appeal that is blended with many a reference to modern technology and all this is lively stuff. However, as the two plot lines converge we get a surfeit of climaxes since each setting calls for a plot solution and, not altogether surprisingly, the complications of the narrative become formidable - that could be daunting for some audiences. That said, Kamiyama Kenji goes at it all with a will and, if you surrender to his vision, there is a lot of entertaining fun to be had here. I just wish it had cut down on the complexity, in which case it might have left us wanting more rather than feeling surfeited.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Voices of (Japanese language version): Takahata Mitsuki, Furuta Arata, Takahashi Hideki, Mitsushima Shinnosuke, Maeno Tomoya, Yosuke Eguchi, Kugimiya Rie, Takagi Wataru, Shimizu Risa.

 

Dir Kamiyama Kenji, Pro Iwasa Naomi and Sakurai Yoshiki, Screenplay Kamiyama Kenji, Ph Tanaka Kouji, Designers Morikawa Satoko and Koyama Shigeto, Music Shimamura Yoko, Animation Dir Sasaki Atsuko.

 

Signal.MD-Anime Limited/National Amusements.
111 mins. Japan. 2017. Rel: 16 August 2017. Cert. PG.