From 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 intertwined. The two-episode Hulu spinoff delves into her life as a little girl and shows us a few extra dream world adventures.
[This article contains spoilers for Ancien and the Magic Tablet and Ancien and the Magic Tablet ~Another Story~]
Ancien and the Magic Tablet follows high school girl Kokone who, in her dreams, becomes Ancien, a princess in a steampunkish kingdom that has the magic power to make machines come to life. Ancien and the Magic Tablet ~Another Story~ shows the origin of her dreams—something that is a massive reveal in the film itself.
As a small, rambunctious child, the only thing that could calm Kokone down for bed was the promise of a bedtime story. Thus, her father, a recent widower, would tell her the fantastical tales of Ancien—i.e., the story of a brave princess, her magical tablet, talking stuffed animal companion, transforming motorcycle, and the “pirate” who would become Ancien’s best friend.
Of course, Kokone’s young imagination combined the story with things from her world that she could understand: The magic tablet was her father’s busted up iPad; the talking stuffed animal, her stuffed animal; the transforming motorcycle, her father’s motorcycle. Following that pattern, she, of course, cast herself as Ancien and her father as the pirate.
While in the film proper we see the beginning and end of Ancien’s adventures, the Hulu episodes show us several of the adventures that happen in between—i.e., her meeting with a group of munchkin workers and her attempts to escape the tyrannical rule of her father’s chancellor.
We also get to see a bit more clearly the internal struggle that Ancien faces. On one hand, she is a princess, one who must take on all the responsibilities thereof and rule from the top. On the other, she has an amazing power talent and the potential to help the common man greatly by working alongside them. It is a battle between what she was supposed to be and what she is in her heart. And to embrace one, she must be willing to fully give up on the other.
All in all, ~Another Story~ is around 26 minutes long when including both episodes—with about five of those being taken directly from the film. As a stand-alone story, it is a fun little romp that serves to flesh out the dream world and Ancien as a character.
However, once you have seen the film, it becomes a vital piece of the story. The greater connection between the dream world and reality revealed in the movie paints ~Another Story~ in an entirely new light. Suddenly, every word and every action has a deeper meaning—and a surprising emotional punch. Without the film, it’s a fun little bedtime story, but with the film it’s a much more powerful, heart wrenching tale—and that alone makes it worth watching.
Ancien and the Magic Tablet ~Another Story~ is currently streaming on Japanese Hulu (with no English subtitles). There is currently no word on an official Western release.
Ancien and the Magic Tablet was released in Japanese cinemas on March 18, 2017. The film is slated to open in forty countries and regions worldwide.