Image Source: 映画『ひるね姫』公式 on Twitter.

From the writer/director of Ghost in the Shell: SAC comes a story of steampunk dreams and corporate reality wrapped in a modern day fairy tale.

Set three days before the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Ancien and the Magic Tablet (Hirune Hime ~Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari~) is a lite-fantasy that blurs the lines between dreams and reality.

On one hand, it is the story of a magical kingdom where the King runs a factory, employing a vast majority of the population. And while the King’s agents demand an insane amount of “company loyalty”—to the point that workers must all drive the company’s cars or have their wages confiscated—the King spends his wealth to make giant steampunk mecha to fight the molten monsters that rise out of the sea.

Image Source: 映画『ひるね姫』公式 on Twitter.

Surprisingly, the King’s biggest problem, however, isn’t the monsters. Rather it’s his daughter, Ancien. The young princess has a unique gift. She’s able to give life to machines by using her inborn powers and a magic tablet.

With such powers, Ancien spends most of her time sheltered, literally locked in a tower far away from the tablet to prevent her from using her gift in unapproved ways. But unfortunately for the King, she’s smart and precocious enough to break out from time to time—like in the case of the film where she sees a pirate fighting a molten monster and decides she wants to be a pirate too.

Image Source: 映画『ひるね姫』公式 on Twitter.

Yet, at the same time, Ancien and the Magic Tablet is the story of Kokone, a normal high school girl living out in the country. Her father is a car repairman—and one who seems perfectly happy to take payment in food or whatever the customer can afford. She’s got one major defining trait: She can seemingly fall asleep anywhere. And when she does, she always dreams of a world where she is the young princess Ancien—adventuring with her pirate companion, her talking stuffed animal, and a motorcycle that transforms into a robot.

But Kokone finds herself on a real-world adventure all her own as a suited man and his goons frame her father for corporate espionage and start coming after her father’s prized possession, a beat up iPad. Soon Kokone is on the run, tablet in one hand, stuffed animal in the other as she and her childhood friend race towards Tokyo atop her father’s old motorcycle.

Image Source: 映画『ひるね姫』公式 on Twitter.

As you have probably gathered, many of the people and objects in the dream world have proxies in the real world: the beat up iPad and the magic tablet, the King’s evil vizier and the suited man, the transforming robot and Kokone’s father’s motorcycle, etc. In fact, nearly everything in the dream world has a real world proxy—expect for the aforementioned childhood friend, Mario.

As the story continues, the real and dream worlds seem to become more and more intertwined—with the real world affecting the dream and vice versa. But is this really true or is it mere coincidence? Half of the fun of the film is trying to figure out which it is.

That said, the film totally goes off the rails during the climax as the two worlds bleed together, making it hard to tell what is happening in the real world and which in the dream. And while all that happens makes sense by the time the final credits roll, trying to understand the whys and hows of the climax is impossible as it unfolds. It’s much better to simply enjoy the ride.

Image Source: 映画『ひるね姫』公式 on Twitter.

Ancien and the Magic Tablet is a modern day fairy tale, be it the parts in the real world or the fantasy one. Both sides of the story feature a young girl on an adventure. Both feature a wide range of companions and allies alongside an over-the-top mustache twirling villain. Yet, as with all such tales, there is more to the story than it first seems. And the true connection between the two worlds is one both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

All in all, if you’re looking for a fun fantasy adventure, Ancien and the Magic Tablet is a solid pick. It plays with the nature of dreams and reality in ways that makes it fun for adults and children alike.

Ancien and the Magic Tablet will be released in Japanese theaters on March 18, 2017. There is currently no word on a Western release.

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  1. […] the writer/director of Ghost in the Shell: SAC, anime film Ancien and the Magic Tablet is the story of a high school girl whose fantastical dreams and humdrum reality seem oddly […]

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