The work of director Kenji Kamiyama tends to favor action and spectacle over character and emotion. That’s fine as far as it goes, but it’s not surprising that his new Napping Princess has some spectacular visuals but that it’s otherwise flat. (Contrast this with Makoto Shinkai’s recent Your Name, which is both visually stunning and emotionally engaging.) In the days leading up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Kokone (Mitsuki Takahata) — whose skirt is short even by anime standards — is a motherless schoolgirl living with her father, a mechanic attempting to perfect the software for self-driving cars.
When sleeping, Kokone dreams she’s a young princess named Ancien in the steampunk dystopia of Heartland, where the villain is not F.V.B. trying to steal Sgt. Pepper’s instruments but an automotive tyrant who controls a giant monster. The fantasy world is never actually as intriguing as the real world sequences, and the battle between the monster and a giant robot feels less integral to the plot and more because it’s been a few years since the last Evangelion movie. Major plot points revolve around tablets and other mobile devices — just like in real life! — though Napping Princess does get credit for being one of the rare near-future movies in which cell phones aren’t transparent.
Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.