The Summer 2018 Anime Preview Guide
100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams
How would you rate episode 1 of
100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams: The Animation ?
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How was the first episode?
Considering their similar mobile game origins and their “we have way too many characters” titles, it's perhaps inevitable that 100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams will be compared to The Thousand Musketeers. In the context of that comparison, I have to give this series points for taking a more reasonable approach to its first episode. Instead of bombarding the audience with more character introductions than anyone could possibly be expected to remember, this premiere keeps things more tightly focused. We've got a nameless heroine, a fluffy mascot creature, and two squabbling princes. As it turns out, that's all it takes to get the ball rolling.
This episode runs through the usual early plot points at a reasonable pace. Princess No-Name wakes up in the dream world, Navi gives her a bare-bones summary of what's going on, and from there it's time to start pulling princes out of rings. While the Princess is very clearly a viewer-insert character, she does at least show a bit of initiative from time to time, and she does have a stated connection to this world beyond just getting yanked out of her own reality at random. Avi and Kiel, the only two princes we meet in this episode, fit neatly into the roles of Grumpy Responsible Guy and Charmingly Easygoing Guy, and that's about all they need to do at this point. The pacing is relatively brisk, and with these first steps out of the way it's possible that the series will get into the meat of its story as soon as next week.
That's all well and good, but there are also a few things holding the series back. Apart from the gimmick of having princes sealed away within rings, this show doesn't really do anything that hasn't already been done to death by other titles in the genre. There's no particular theme to the princes apart from “handsome guys in colorful outfits,” and the baddies appear to be amorphous blobs of dark mist that possess regular people. It all feels a bit too standard-issue, as if there's no real message or central idea to the story, and that feeling of blandness carries over into the visuals. This episode looks all right, but it doesn't have any standout moments and its one major action scene is unremarkable in the extreme.
In terms of basic plot structure and pacing, 100 Sleeping Princes has the early advantage over The Thousand Musketeers. By not trying to cram the full ensemble cast onto the screen right away, it gives itself the necessary time and space to build up some narrative momentum. On the other hand, its lack of a unique hook makes it less interesting in the big scheme of things. If I had to sit through one of these shows every week, I'd probably settle for weaker storytelling in exchange for some antique rifle trivia; at least then I'd learn something new from the experience.
Right on the heels of Demon Lord, we find ourselves with another isekai production, and this one couldn't be more different. 100 Sleeping Princes introduces us to an unnamed “princess” from our own world who is transported to the land of dreams, where “dream eaters” must be fought by a bunch of princes. Unfortunately, all these lousy princes have gotten themselves trapped in royal rings, so it's up to the princess to wander around and free them, her harem of dashing royalty growing all the while.
100 Sleeping Princes offers a straightforward combination of isekai and reverse harem appeal, but unfortunately, it doesn't fall anywhere near the top of either of those genres. The show's principle issue is that it just doesn't do much to distinguish itself; this is a competent episode that introduces us to the princess and our first two princes, but none of its narrative beats are pulled off with any flair, and outside of the generally appealing pastel color design, the show's artwork isn't any better. Both the mid-episode chase scene and final fight suffer greatly from the fact that 100 Sleeping Princes lacks fluid animation of any kind, and the direction is just as uninspired. There were multiple points within this episode where I was drawn out of the production because the visual and narrative congruity from one shot to the next felt so weirdly strained, with perhaps the most egregious example being when the finale's life-and-death battle is interrupted for around thirty seconds of “why can't these goofy princes get along” character building.
On the other hand, while 100 Sleeping Princes may lack any secret weapons, it's also not suffering from any fatal flaws. The show's writing is predictable and its execution bare-bones, but there's nothing wrong with the show - this episode does a fair enough job of establishing the dynamic between our leads, the character art is just attractive enough to sell itself, and the show certainly doesn't waste any time getting to its narrative. There were also some neat details here and there that I particularly appreciated, like the fact that our heroine is actually a working adult, as well as the idea that rather than being “trapped in a new world” she's in truth been returned to her home. But on the whole, the worldbuilding here mostly seems like an excuse to run through a lot of cute boys, and the actual character drama isn't funny or thrilling enough to inspire much interest. It's worth a look if you're in the market for a reverse harem, but lacks the hooks or grace of execution that might sell it for anyone but genre enthusiasts.
Why can't we have normal numbers of bishounen in shows this season?! At least 100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams: The Animation isn't making the same mistake as The Thousand Noble Musketeers in introducing all one hundred princes at once – only Avi and presumable prince Kiel make themselves known to our nameless heroine in this episode, which I'm going to guess sets them up as the primary contenders for her heart as well. And she's of a reasonable age for there to be princes pursuing her – before being brought back to the kingdom she was saved from eighteen years ago, Heroine was an office worker, putting her more in the realm of Aoi from Kakuriyo – Bed and Breakfast for Spirits than some other reverse harem heroines.
Not that she's evincing the same kind of agency that Aoi does: right now, Heroine is simply trying to figure out why a stuffed animal keeps saying he's her butler and getting her bearings. The whole magic princess thing is clearly a little weird to her, and while she's not willing to just sit back and let things sort themselves out (as we see when she uses the axe), she's also clearly out of her element. Although, we get more than a hint that her “element” may very well involve anime, manga, and otome games – she makes several comments about her situation's similarity to those things, and at one point she's upset she's going to miss a game event. Having an otaku for a heroine may give this show a more humorous edge than is currently apparent, and it's probably worth keeping an eye out for that.
The quest that Heroine and her two princes are setting out on is a bit like a gender-swapped Sleeping Beauty story, but without the kissing or considerably creepier aspects of some of the older stories: only the princess can awake the princes from their slumber inside the cursed rings. Or at least, that's the story Navi the “butler” is selling right now – Kiel clearly has a prince's ring but just as obviously isn't trapped inside of it, so there's a distinct possibility that someone else freed him. He doesn't necessarily remember that he's a prince, which could speak to the fact that the princess didn't awaken him, but whatever the reason, it feels like an important detail to note.
With the dream eating monsters, too many princes to name (though not count!), and the possibility of the heroine having a personality once she gets her bearings, this looks like eye-and-ear candy with some potential. It's really going to depend on whether the plot develops beyond a game of find the princes, but of the two bishounen shows that have aired thus far, this is the one that has my vote.
We have an interesting study in contrasts here: an isekai harem series aimed at men (How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord) and an isekai harem series aimed at women (this one) both debuting on the same day within an hour of each other. The stylistic differences between the first episodes of these two series exactly mirror the differing approaches between these genres in general, which means both are unlikely to hold much appeal to anyone not normally in that genre's demographic.
The most irritating part of this series is that the self-insert character at the heart of this story isn't deemed worthy of her own name (which the player would normally fill in themselves). She is at least given a sketchy background – we see brief scenes of her struggling with office work and a rush hour commute – but that's it for establishing her identity. She doesn't have much of a personality either, beyond being overwhelmed by what's going on. Of course, the true draws of the show are the dashing princes of the title, two of which she encounters in this first episode. They have much better-defined (if also typical) identities and personalities, and the interactions between them already provide at least some fun. The cat-butler Navi fulfills the traditional role of the cute animal companion too, and naturally the princess gets swept off her feet by one of the guys at one point, while the dream-eaters provide the necessary threat, and the princess's ability to awaken the princes from the rings and empower them provides the reason for them to be loyal to her.
The technical merits for the first episode are defined by a very soft look that's meant to convey a vague impression of a dream world. The princes are handsome enough, while the princess is relatively plain by comparison, and the animation is decent, but the only things that stand out visually are the texturing in some background shots and some use of CG effects for the dream-eater-possessed guards. The musical score is stronger, with the lovely opening sure to be one of the season's highlights.
Despite my cynical tone, the first episode is executed pretty well for what the series is trying to do, so I can see the series drawing some interest. It just doesn't do anything to break out of its very traditional mold.
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