KiraKira Treasure Box

Review: Hirune Hime (Anime film)

3 Comments
Is this film steam-punk? Mecha? Fantasy? Sci-fi? IDK, take your pick. 

ALIAS: Napping Princess
STUDIO: Signal.MD
RELEASE DATE: March 18, 2017
DIRECTOR: Kenji Kamiyama
WRITTEN BY: Kenji Kamiyama
LENGTH:  111 min.
GENRES & THEMES: Adventure; Fantasy; Sci-fi;
SOURCE: Original anime project
This fender and genre-bending film takes us into the not-too-distant machine-driven future. Kokone should be diligently studying for her university entrance exams, but she just can't seem to stay awake. Aside from stealing precious study time, her napping is even more distracting, as it brings on strange dreams with warring machines that hint at family secrets that have been dormant for years. She can't ask her father, a hipster mechanic more talented and artful than his job requires, as he's always busy modifying motorcycles and cars in flights of fancy. What are these visions that lead Kokone at once closer to and farther away from her family? Like all the best anime, the film revels in multilayered fantasy to show how sometimes opposites—waking and dreaming, the past and the future—are far more intertwined than they appear.
Source: NYICFF
Feel welcome to express your thoughts and disagree (politely) in the comment section (discussion is always fun!!), but no opinion bashing will be allowed! Do remember the final verdict is my own opinion, which may differ from yours!

Honestly, I'm surprised I didn't become the napping princess halfway through this movie... 
Like the good nerd that I am, anime films are always an exciting event to look forward to. They open a door of creative possibilities in an industry that is pretty much limiting itself to adapting works with established fanbases, and that is no longer willing to take big risks. Whilst I understand that at the end of the day an animator's gotta eat, my restless heart longs for fresher content and looks towards the next big anime film release with sparkling diamond eyes in hopes that it will Save Anime. Alas... Kenji Kamiyama's Hirune Hime (A.K.A. Napping Princess) was not to be the chosen one.
Alright; so maybe I'm being a bit dramatic (clearly I should be up on a stage, not writing reviews on the internet). A film doesn't have to be the shit or the next Oscar-winning Holy Grail to be worth watching — it just has to be enjoyable in its own way. But heck, this film doesn't doesn't even manage to achieve that.
Napping Princess is the story of Kokone Morikawa, a highschool teen getting ready to enter college in the not-so-distant future of 2020. During the summer of the Tokyo Olympics her father, mechanic Momotaro Morikawa, gets inexplicably arrested and taken away, leaving Kokone alone with his work tablet under the strict orders of not letting anyone take it. Soon she finds herself persecuted by a group of shady men who want to steal the tablet and is forced to flee, all the while realising that the strange dreams she's been having about the young princess of a futuristic kingdom are more linked to reality than she could ever imagine.
Sounds like a fun modern-day fantasy-adventure film, right? Nope.
First of all, I should start by confessing my sins and admitting I had expected this film to be a story à la Paprika, where dreams and reality are interconnected and become one and the same. That is most definitely not what this is. (But your Honour, can you blame me for my ignorance? The trailer was so misleading!!). At it's core, the film appears to be striving to tell a story about family bonds, mother-daughter relations, and self-discovery, all through the techy revolution of self-driven cars that it predicts will exists by 2020. And okay, you know what? That's not bad. The concept of this film is not bad. It's not excellent; it's not outstanding, but it's the kind of setting that can lend itself for some heartwarming moments that could make grown-ass men cry. But... the execution is below-average.
And I'm not talking about its visuals, because sporting character designs by Satoko Morikawa (Eden of the EastThe Cat Returns) and a decently fluid animation by Signal.MD that achieves a perfect balance between CGI and traditional media, this film has eye candy to spare. Despite character-colouring lacking any sort of shading in a way that oddly reminded me of Shin-Chan (do not dis that show, it is my childhood), the design is charming and never comes off as flat. Backdrops are additionally vibrant, rich in colour, and exquisitely detailed! As an animation film, Napping Princess is easily classifiable as a success.
But no. I'm talking about the actual narrative structure. Napping Princess is a genre-mess of badly paced narrative disguised as a coming-of-age story with a surreal twist, that's actually not a wist at all. It attempts to use the magical realm of dreams as a gate for Kokone to explore the family secrets related to her dead mother (of whom she knows nothing of), whilst she embarks on an outlaw-ish journey to Tokyo in search for her arrested father on a pseudo-Baymax-looking motorbike with her friend Morio. I say "attempts" because, much like dreams tend to be, everything related to the dream sequences in this film is an absolute mess — and I don't mean it in an edgy, art-film metaphorical way. I mean it in a, "someone didn't know what the fuck to do to make this story interesting so they added giant robots" kind of way.
In the context of this film (modern-day Japan about to welcome the Tokyo 2020 Olympics) the dream sequences stick out like a sore thumb. They come off as a badly fit puzzle piece that has been forcefully shoved into place to add spice to a film that was as dull as bread-only pizza (i.e. not a pizza at all). They serve little other than to confuse viewers with the question of, is this real or is it a metaphor for something else? and though that in itself isn't a problem —because take a look at Inception and how well Christopher Nolan pulled that idea off— the story fails to lace the sequences into the main story coherently enough to justify them.
And to be fair, that wouldn't be half as terrible if the film didn't seem to be lacking in any sort of motivation. There is no goal, no great achievement at the end of the tunnel (only death) ((jk, I was just being dramatic again)), and the climax goes out like a deflated balloon. The final message on unity and family bonds falls flat like a pancake, because nothing we've seen in these painful two hours has supported or encouraged that theme. There's an attempt at making the stakes seem high, what with the dream sequences full of giant robots seemingly bleeding into reality, but the story lacks the sufficient complex construction necessary to land a triumphant ending. There is absolutely no sense of urgency throughout the film (to Kokone it's just another day on the run from authorities, like any other teen ¯\_(ツ)_/¯), and by the end of it I was left with the biggest sense of, "what was the point???"
The coup de grâce to this disastrously deflated souffle is that the characters are incredibly bland. The bad guy is a caricature evil shady dude who's too greedy for his own good, Morio feels like an accessory to Kokone's journey, and Kokone herself lacks any defining quality other than apparently being very sleepy all the time??? (as well as an uncanny ability to not freak out about anything at all despite suspecting that her dreams are influencing reality, lol.) I'd try to make an effort to point further flaws in the remaining cast, but they're too unmemorable even for that. ┐( ̄ヮ ̄)┌


Conclusions

I think a lot of people reading this review might feel that I'm being too harsh on this film, especially because most other reviews out there seem to agree it was a non-committal fun ride. I genuinely think that for the most part that is what Napping Princess is, and it's easy to consume if that's what you're in for. Not every film has to be an edgy metaphor about the hardships of being a teenager, and that's fine. No really, it is. It's perfectly fine.
Unfortunately... this film didn't cut it out for me. I know I dropped the title of Paprika earlier on and that many will point this out as my mistake (i.e. walking into this film expecting too much), but my anticipation for this film was overall pretty low and I hadn't even read the synopsis properly. Despite its beautiful visuals this film doesn't even qualify as popcorn material for me. There were so many missed opportunities, and the fact that the entire plot revolves around future technology in cars (CARS!!!!) ((what's so interesting about CARS?!?!)) just came off as laughable. I am not shitting you, I lost it halfway through this film and started laughing so hard that I cried; I had to pause to recompose myself (ask my flatmate, this is a True Story).
It honestly feels like Kenji Kamiyama wanted to make a mecha film but got turned away at the door, so he stuffed his mechas into a story about...cars and the Tokyo Olympics(?) to get away with his guilty pleasure. I'd cut it some slack by saying I'm not the demographic this film was aimed at, but what even is the demographic supposed to be?? I'm stuck in a perpetual state of confusion where I keep coming back to the question of: How did this film even get green-lit???

The Good

  • Good for a mindless afternoon when you have nothing better to do
  • Cute plushie dog sidekick!!
  • Great visuals and animation
  • ...Great visuals and animation
  • ...Great visuals and animation.........?

The Bad

  • Only good for a mindless afternoon when you have nothing better to do
  • Confusing plot elements that are Confusing™
  • Flat characters with no clear motivations
  • Inconsistent themes and messages
  • The film makers seemed to have resigned themselves to the idea that the story would lead to nowhere from the get-go...

FINAL VERDICT!

Well, maybe if you’re drunk?

Why can't Mamoru Hosoda's new film be out already? :'(

Posted on: 05/03/2018

PS. This review did not intend in anyway to shame people who find cars interesting.



You may also like

3 comments:

  1. IF you wanna watch something worth it and beautiful, that also has a light novel, watch Violet Evergarden, its gorgeous... emotional and touching

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been thinking of reading the novel first and then watching the anime! I have such a huge pile of stuff I want to read/watch...

      Delete
    2. Yep, read the novel first... the writting style is a delish to read, like sweet syrup with a tinge of pepper and drama. The anime, so far, goes into more dept about the main character herself, so it misses a few of the stories the novel shares... and each chapter is from the POV of other characters and not Violet herself, which is nice change. The novel is complete, 2 Volumens long.
      The anime is exquisit in artstyle, music and pacing, and its almost over (will have 14 chapters, 11 are out). I hope you enjoy both as much as i am!

      Delete

Your comment will be published once it has been moderated!

Kira Kira Treasure Box. Powered by Blogger.