Monday, January 29, 2018

Dreams, machines and family fuel Kamiyama Kenji's animated delight, NAPPING PRINCESS

If the new animated movie from Japan entitled NAPPING PRINCESS seems initially a little too childlike and "adorable" to merit your full attention, hold on for just a bit. If you do, you'll soon find yourself involved in a tale of alternate universes -- one a kind of dream world, the other a reality that is heavily linked to the dream. Initially, I wondered why they hadn't entitled this one, Dreaming Princess, but after viewing this really quite good children's film, I realize that the word "napping" is a lot more fun, reflective, too, of the main character's energy and smarts.

As written and directed by Kamiyama Kenji, shown at left, the story here is actually rather complicated (I wouldn't be surprised if some older children may have to pause the Blu-ray or DVD along the way and explain certain things to their younger siblings), involving family history, an automotive dynasty, stolen technology for self-driving cars, and lots more.

All of which gives this animated charmer additional freight, weight and wonder. Napping Princess is by turns sweet, thrilling, funny, moving and consistently one hell of a visual treat.

I wish that the stills shown below were of better quality because they simply do not do justice to what will be up there on your screen (via the Blu-ray version, at least). The colors are spectacular and the animation quite delightful. You'll particularly notice early on the film, I think, the breakfast that our heroine, Kokone, sets in front of her dad because you'll want to grab a fork and dig right in.

The landscapes, based on the actual Japanese locations, are also lovely, while the tale told here -- of an automobile dynasty and the struggle for its control -- will seem both specifically Japanese and simultaneously indicative of so much our Capitalist world today.

Technology -- not only auto-making but smart phones, tablets, and the like --  come into play, as do cute little teddy bears, all of which makes the movie oddly enjoyable on several levels. Mr. Kamiyama's achievement lies in how he manages to bring all this together in so relatively seamless a fashion.

By the end you may find yourself surprisingly moved by the unfolding story of a shattered family and how it is reunited -- well, somewhat, at least. All the leading characters are brought to life quite well visually and aurally, and as the story gains momentum, you'll enjoy everything from plot twists and car/motor-bike chases to fights between monsters and robots (think Pacific Rim but a lot shorter and more fun) plus some inter-generational trauma and drama.

Whatever you do, don't miss the sublime visuals that accompany the end credits. These give you, in a lovely animated version of archival footage, the family's backstory in a series of sweet, incisive snippets: a most charming end to a very surprising movie.

From Shout! Factory and GKIDS and running a lengthy but never boring 112 minutes, and available in both the original Japanese version with English subtitles, and the English-language dubbed version (for younger children), the excellent two-disc set containing both Blu-ray and DVD, with a host of special features included (the 15-minute interview the writer/director Kamiyama is definitely worth seeing), the package hits the street tomorrow, Tuesday, January 30.

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