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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Napping Princess is an animated Japanese film (released in both Japanese with English subtitles and dubbed in English) that combines a teen anime adventure with fantasy elements and near-future events (the 2020 Tokyo Olympics). The storyline is a little too sophisticated for really young viewers, but the movie will appeal to tweens and teens interested in the genre. Expect a bit of action violence -- including a couple of deaths (one by accident, one in a battle) and some mass explosions and destruction. There are also supernatural-seeming fights between mechanical creatures operated by human beings. A flashback shows lovers kissing; language is limited to the likes of "brat," "loser," and "nobody." The main character is curious, brave, and smart, and the movie has messages about teamwork, following your dreams, and standing up for your loved ones.
What's the story?
NAPPING PRINCESS takes place in 2020, just three days before the Tokyo Olympics are set to begin. High schooler Kokome Morikawa (voiced by Mitsuki Takahata) should be studying for her exams, but instead she keeps falling asleep and going into a dreamworld where she's Princess Ancien. This dream/fantasy kingdom is filled with high-tech vehicles, robots, and creatures -- not to mention a talking stuffed animal and a magical tablet that can create life or make nearly anything come true with a bit of code. Back in her waking life, Kokome's father, a brilliant car mechanic, is arrested for stealing from a leading Japanese auto corporation. Then a group of mysterious authorities -- who are vaguely familiar from her dream life -- pursue Kokome for records they believe her father is hiding. With help from her lifelong friend Morio (Shinnosuke Mashima), Kokome straddles her dream and waking lives to rescue her father and solve mysteries about her identity.
Is it any good?
Inventive and visually appealing, this Japanese fantasy adventure sophisticatedly blurs the line between the main character's dreams and reality. In that way, it's like a modern Wizard of Oz. Kokome is plucky, with her babyish voice and eagerness to help -- even if that means engaging in her favorite pastime: napping. She's a charming, curious underdog, as is her enigmatic father (Mr. Morikawa's motorcycle-driving, leather jacket-sporting dad isn't your typical animated-movie pop, that's for sure). When nerdy, slightly older Morio offers to lend Kokome a hand to save her father, it would have been easy for the filmmakers to insert some light romance into the story, but instead they keep the pair's relationship refreshingly platonic.
Although Napping Princess might confuse some inattentive young viewers, it's rather ingenious in the way it weaves the two plot lines together -- making it clear that there's more than one hero(ine) to the story. The only downside is the overtly evil, mustache-twirling villain, who's less human than he is a stereotypical greedy right-hand man who wants all the power for himself. But veteran anime writer-director Kenji Kamiyama knows how to draw viewers in with compelling narratives and protagonists, and Napping Princess is a good choice for families with kids who enjoy more challenging, fantasy-tinged adventures.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fantasy elements of Napping Princess. Did you understand what was really happening?
Which parts of the movie, if any, were scary to you? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?
Why do you think Japanese animated movies are so popular internationally? What makes them different from other types of animated films?
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