They can’t all be good. After several great anime films in recent months, we have a dud: not atrocious, but long, dull and emotionally inert, for all its runarounds and fighting giants.
Napping Princess is a tale of two worlds. Mostly it’s set in near-future Japan, where sleepy schoolgirl Kokone falls into adventure when her dad, a seemingly ordinary car mechanic, is mysteriously arrested. But when she sleeps, she dreams of a fantasy city, a magic-wielding little princess, and Pacific Rim battles between big robots and fiery monsters. As the film develops, the realities converge.
Yet Napping Princess itself never gels. There are too many characters, with far too few character moments. Kokone never convinces as a real girl (compare, for example, the hugely engaging heroine in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time). There are also no solid stakes on either side. The emotional issues in the real-world storyline aren’t clear for most of the film, let alone felt; while the fantasy world has no inner logic or ethos, atmosphere or wonder. It suffers especially from the film’s lack of flair in direction and composition, which makes all the giant battles feel reheated and half-hearted.
The real world fares a little better. In early scenes, the artists show off the kind of detail that anime often provides, as Kokone makes and eats breakfast with her dad, then scampers through her hometown. It assures us the film that follows will be quality; such a pity it’s false advertising.
While Napping Princess’s dream-reality interactions makes no sense, that shouldn’t be a problem – Satoshi Kon laughed off logic in Paprika and Millennium Actress. The difference is that Kon’s films were enthralling from start to finish. In its baggy two hours, Napping Princess never even gets started. Reviewed by Tom Arden
Release: Out Now
From: Anime Limited
Format: DVD, Blu-ray & Combi Edition
Price (RRP): £17.99 (DVD), £19.99 (Blu-ray), £34.99 (DVD & Blu-ray)
Age Rating: 12A