Napping Princess

Movie review by Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
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Common Sense says

age 10+

Mind-bending fantasy anime adventure has some violence.

NR 2017 110 minutes

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age 10+

Based on 1 review

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age 10+

So much subtext

This film while very great in terms of Japan's anime creativity is too bogged down with Japan's modern imperial revival propaganda. It feels similar to Kantai Collection where they take a part of their history of conquest and war crimes and turn it into an emotional tale of Japan's struggles against the evil foreign powers. (In this case they couldn't outright use America so they went with "aliens") While Napping Princess doesn't automatically sound the same since it is about telling propaganda of Japan's future and not revisionist history to cover their sins of the past the anime is really (unfortunately) clear about its political motives. The whole story talks about Japan's stagnating industry and gives excuses for why it hasn't done anything revolutionary in the last 20 or so years. It sets the stage based on its aspirations for the coming 2020 Olympics where news has gone out for a while that they hope to present their self driving cars in the opening ceremony shuttling all the athletes to the stadium. The anime makes it seem like 20 years ago they could have easily had this technology but it just so happened that the industry leaders were too traditionalist and didn't think self driving or software in general could compete with their well made cars. (Japan's car industry is still very big and Toyota specifically is still the world's leading car brand) Finally it paints a sad story about how being so traditionalist cost Japan and on a personal level also cost the industry leaders bright minds that could have revolutionized it years ago. But I will admit that if you don't pay attention to the obvious propaganda message then this movie is pretty good. A fantastic story about a girl with an overactive imagination whose dream reality mixes into what is really happening in the real world. I want to end off just by listing out the angles this anime used to promote the propaganda. So obviously the king or President Shijima is there to represent the old industry and how Japan's economy has stagnated. But instead of talking about its poor politics and economic management it blames Japan's problems on being too traditional. Just like any good propaganda there is a hint of truth. Japan is a very traditional society. But everybody that paid attention to it knew that being traditional wasn't their problem. Ancien and Kokone of course represents the modern world and that Japan needs to embrace new technology specifically AI and self driving in this case. There's tons of attention thrown at how people weren't comfortable with a car that can drive itself and how Kokone and her father were trying to change that belief. The colossus is where the anime makes it painfully obvious that its propaganda. The monster represents the media and public opinion of self driving tech. At first its just this thing that is holding "heartland" back and they have to fight against it literally at first with old car tech (engine heads) which is ineffective and then with "magic" or cars that "want to fight of their own free will!" which is effective. This all comes to a head when the evil Watanabe sends out a text "curse" against Shijima which the anime (manga more clearly) shows is just a slander campaign to worsen the fears of self driving tech. This changes what was just a single monster into a flood of black bats that starts burning the country to the ground and spreading everywhere. (just like a viral media campaign) Finally there's the "magic" tablet. This is the tablet that holds the original autonomous vehicle program that was perfected by Momo. Not only does it really show self driving tech in a positive way it almost makes it like miracle power. Through the tablet the Ancien and Kokone can bring stuffed animals to life and motorcycles into deus ex machinas and of course turn just any old "engine head" into like an Evangelion! As soon as the "magic" is placed into the final engine head it literally sprouts wings and reaches the heavens to stop the monster's attack "saving the world." To wrap this up. Great anime. Bad propaganda.

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