Napping Princess (Hirune-hime: Shiranai watashi no monogatari) (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

Kokone escapes everyday life by dreaming about Ancien, a princess in a land ruled by a car-obsessed king.  In her real life, things take an odd turn when her father is arrested at the start of her last summer before graduation and just a few days before the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.  This leads Kokone to use skills she didn’t know she had and come into her own.

Written and directed by Kenji Kamiyama, Napping Princess is a sweet story about family, growing up, grieving, and doing the right thing.  The film tackles these themes well and mixes them in a way that feels natural and organic.  The use of the dreamland as comparison and extension of the real world for the lead character creates and interesting dynamic that works for most of the film but eventually loses steam and feels over used in some spots in the second half to last third.  The film remains enjoyable even after that point, but it feels a bit forced at times closer to the end in terms of using the dreamland to explain or hint at things from the real world.  That being said, Napping Princess has an entertaining way of telling its story and getting to a satisfying conclusion.

Napping Princess is an animation film through and through with a style that many will recognize as it’s very reminiscent of Studio Ghibli releases and other old school style Japanese animation films.  The designs here have 2 more or less distinctive styles in terms of giving the characters similar yet different looks in the dreamland and in the real world depicted.  These two sets of characters and settings are done in a way that separates them for ease of following the story, but also connects them for ease of understanding.  It’s a film with a clean look, clear animation, colorful images that takes a mostly kid-friendly story and elevates it enough to make it entertaining for adults as well.

The music by Yôko Shimomura is appropriate and helps carry the film and pass the emotions to the viewer.  It’s a fairly typical score for a Japanese animation film, but it works so why fix (or change) something that is not broken.

Napping Princess is an enjoyable, light animation film that has themes that could have easily become heavy but are presented in such a way that they are kid-friendly while not being boring for adults.  It’s pretty to look at, well done, well animated, and has a good score.  It’s not necessarily the nest film of the year, but it’s good and totally worth checking out, especially if its style of animation is something the viewer is already a fan of.

Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.