A visually enjoyable, entertaining film that's very focused on being fun and making it worth your time.
Title: Ancien and The Magic Tablet (Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari)
Genre: Fantasy, Drama
Studio: Signal M.D
Director/Script: Kenji Kamiyama
Music: Yoko Shimomura
Original Release Date: March 18, 2017
Note: This was seen at the NYICFF.
You know how every time you dream you know something great or awful happened but you can’t remember it when you wake up? That’s Ancien and the Magic Tablet in almost a nutshell. Between the delightful visuals and character expressions, a young women who finds herself in fantasy and reality; she’ll need to wake up soon though, or else they’ll collapse within her.
Though we don’t immediately start with her.
Ancien and the Magic Tablet introduces us to Ancien, a Magic princess who’s not allowed to leave her room. She tells us about Heartland, a kingdom full of technical marvels and a super ignorant King. Driven to making sure machines are the future, The King has ordered his people to build and improve machine quality — so much so that everyone has to get to work on time and be forced to use modern machines or suffer the consequences. Agitating the problem is the appearance of The Colossus, a lava like creature reigning terror on the people of Heartland. Ancien, along with her magical Tablet and her companion Joy, resolves to defeat this terror with her magic…
…and then a young women wakes up.
Kokone (the young women) lives with her dad, a super smart mechanic incapable of socializing with his daughter. Determined and very naive, Kokone goes along to school just like normal, until her dad is arrested — and she’s been left with a broken tablet, a stuffed doll, and no clue what to do with it. She has to figure it out soon though, all while dealing with her penchant for napping and finding herself in Heartland.
Throughout Ancien it’s clear that this should delight the kids, as it’s not overly complex story wise — evil villain in fantasy land wants to defeat The Colossus and take all the credit; evil villain in modern land wants to take credit for a project that will enhance his standing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Narrative wise, there’s a lot to dig in. From pulling our main heroine from fantasy to reality, to the visuals attempt to tell the story — from start to finish, Ancien does a nice job of that.
Ancien establishes the two different worlds well, even though they both feature the same characters but presented differently. Heartland is a marvel its government controls, and Heartland’s protagonists, ranging from Ancien to a pirate named Peach, highlight its fantasy aspects. For modern day Japan, it’s mostly normal until you meet Kokone’s dad, who is creating machines that can drive themselves. This drives the story; someone found out about this possibility and wants to take the credit himself. This leads into familial ties, and how that ultimately influences Kokone and what she must do to make things work.
While there is definitely some violence that takes place in Ancien (though more towards the end), it’s not super dark. The antagonist is the classic exaggerated, kinda powerful person with subordinates that can make us laugh when they screw up. The personalities of the characters, particularly with Kokone, range from unexpected to quite hilarious. They help us navigate through the story, and along the way certain plot points are shown that tie together familial upbringings and dealing with the loss of a loved one.
The music turned out to be one of the surprises of Ancien. Between large robots fighting in a fantasy land to the use of magic, the music accompanying each works extremely well. Even a scene involving Kokone and her grandfather ended up working well, and that was due to the sound around it.
Ancien might have a few issues. There are times where it feels like the merging of reality/fantasy isn’t as clean as it should be. The credits told the backstory of a character that I kind of wish was in the main story. There are hints in the film, but having it at the end feels a bit poor in a sense.
But that said, I feel those are minor issues that don’t really take away from what I watched. Watching Ancien was super fun, and I would totally want to see it again. I think if you find it airing in your area, this is a work to look out for.