2020 Japan, just prior to the Tokyo Olympics: Kokone Morikawa lives with her dad, who does freelance electronics repair out of their home. (Her mom, we're told, died in an accident.) She frequently falls asleep, and has elaborate dreams, based on stories her dad told her, about a place called Heartland and its Princess, a girl named Ancien who had the magical power of bringing machines to life. Kokone's life is soon turned upside down, however, as her dad gets arrested, and her waking and dream lives are suddenly blended- including being pursued In Real Life by a man who looks exactly like Heartland's villain.
This movie had one scene that absolutely floored me: a character in Kokone's dreams turned out to be someone completely different than who SHE thought it was. What made this a stunning revelation was that, with that change of identity, much that had seemed arbitrary in her dreams now made perfect sense- really, I felt exactly the feeling of exhilaration and satisfaction one might get from discovering a major unifying theory in the natural sciences, though HERE it would be more apt to say that it made the allegorical parties, their history, and the stakes involved finally clear. (I hadn't been able to figure out why I liked that character more than I would have expected to if it was who Kokone thought it was; THAT now made sense too!)
Napping Princess is certainly currently relevant. A main focus of the story is self-driving vehicles, which the show seems to advocate for (or at least it advocates for CHARACTERS that advocate for self-driving vehicles.) From what I've heard IRL, aside from some fatalities, another issue that might stand in the way of popular acceptance of this technology is loss of a feeling of control (the same reason people are more fearful of air travel than auto travel, even though statistically one is much more likely to die in an auto accident than in a plane crash.) On the other hand, the show does seem to imply that Kokone's own "natural" dreams might be superior to the products of someone ELSE'S imagination that are being viewed in the V/R goggles of her friend Morio, a young man she recruits to help her. The problem with "near future" sci-fi of this sort is that it will inevitably become "dated" by real-world events.
And back in the dream world, I wasn't that impressed with the originality of either the monster threatening Heartland in her dreams, called the Colossus, which reminded me a bit too much of the monsters Haruhi created in her Enclosed Spaces, OR with Heartland's defense, mecha of the same general sort as Pacific Rim's Jaegers. (But of different design; THESE are called Engineheads, and their crew accomodations are much more steampunk-y than the Jaegers were.)
It DID seem incredibly stupid for Kokone to be communicating with her absent "dad" on his phone when she really didn't know WHO was actually holding that phone. It also strains credulity that Kokone was able to pull off that business in the airport, in front of two employees who- as air travelers are constantly reminded- are always on the lookout for just that sort of thing. Where Kokone's dreams and reality cross paths, the show kind of wants to have things both ways, offering us evidence that the "magic" in her dreams is influencing the real world on the one hand, but then also offering a NON-magical explanation on the other. A critical section of the story is shown in "Heartland Mode", which made it hard for me to precisely know what was happening at this time in OUR reality.
Kokone's story is a mostly well-paced (if minor) thriller crossed with a sort of fairytale allegory about modern technology, with a few family issues thrown in as well. In short, it's a pretty entertaining novelty. It's really worth the watch just for the revelation I mentioned at the beginning of the review, which left Kokone a bit thunderstruck TOO. If you stick around through the credits, you'll even see much of her parents' story, albeit in condensed form. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: No fanservice. Mild violence, and trauma surrounding the loss of a parent. I can't find an MPAA rating on the box, but I'd say about PG.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD.
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Napping Princess © 2017 Signal MD
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