Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams: The Animation
Episodes 1 - 12 Streaming
A young woman one day finds herself summoned from our world to another, where she is greeted by a strange furry animal named Navi. Navi tells her that she is the Princess of Traumere, the Kingdom of Dreams, who was sent away in an effort to save her many years ago. Now it is time for her to return and to help set the world to rights by freeing the princes of other nations who are trapped within magic rings, and then, with their help, to defeat the mysterious monsters known as “Dream Eaters.” The princess soon saves Prince Avi of the Kingdom of Knights, and together they meet Kihel, who might be another prince already somehow freed from his slumber. The four of them then set off on a journey to the Kingdom of Dreams, trying to save the world along the way.
If ever there was a vaguely deceptive title, it's this one. 100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams: The Animation never reaches the eponymous kingdom, and exactly one of the princes is “sleeping” in the sense initially described by mascot character Navi; all of the rest are wide-awake and running around their respective kingdoms. While there is a certain relief that we don't meet all one hundred titular princes and a real possibility that “sleeping” is intended metaphorically rather than literally, this twelve-episode TV series feels like an exercise in frustration as it swans around through kind of magical kingdoms with its cookie-cutter leads.
It is worth mentioning that had it aired in another season, 100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams might have fared a little better. While its nameless heroine isn't the most proactive in otome game adaptations, she's not a victim like the heroine of Amnesia, nor is she as devoid of personality as Haruka in the Uta no Prince Sama franchise. But this show had the misfortune to air in the same season as the second half of Kakuryo – Bed and Breakfast for Spirits and Phantom in the Twilight, both of which feature much stronger female protagonists and more compelling fantasy plots. In terms of the basic reverse harem storyline, 100 Sleeping Princes fails by simply not distinguishing itself within its genre, choosing instead to play it as safe as possible in the one anime season within recent memory where just being a female-oriented show with hot guys isn't enough to differentiate it from the norm without any other distinguishing features.
Despite the title and ostensible point-of-view character in Princess, the real protagonist of the piece feels like Kihel, the amnesiac possible prince. Over the course of the series' twelve episodes, Kihel sees the most character development as he slowly regains his memories, and it is ultimately his link to the villains of the story that moves it forward than any special power Princess has. (Although her power absolutely helps.) We also see more focus on Kihel's relationship with Avi than Princess'; where she's concerned, Avi is simply the basic protector role. He and Kihel, on the other hand, have to develop a working relationship wherein they trust and can help each other, both in terms of keeping Princess safe and in trying to figure out where Kihel himself came from. This does feel a bit as if it were thrown in to make the two characters shippable, but it never goes too far, so if m/m romance isn't your thing, it won't be a deterrent…and if it is what you look for, you don't have to look terribly hard. This is an interesting choice because preliminary research shows that Kihel isn't a main character in the original game, suggesting that this may be a poor adaptation or more of a marketing tool than a series intended to stand on its own.
Some of the series' problems come from the fact that the title lays out a huge number of princes for Princess & Co. to interact with. Most of the time there are multiple princes per kingdom (or hanging out on a ship, in one case), and Princess' job is less to physically wake them up and more to help them work out their differences with one another. Mostly she does this by the simple expedient of showing up – the princes talk at her and figure things out largely on their own while Avi and Kihel help defeat any dream-eating monsters that may be hanging around and Navi gets flustered and looks cute. While these issues clear up a bit at the very end of the series, which specifically deals with Kihel's past, things reach their worst point just before that, when the gang visits an Alice's Adventures in Wonderland kingdom that seems to just exist to throw in Alice characters. There really doesn't appear to be much point to it beyond that, and to call this section pandering would almost be to understate the matter.
For all of these storytelling issues, 100 Sleeping Princes does have some very nice music – particularly the two theme songs – and visuals. Attempts are made to give each kingdom its own fashions and architecture, and fight animation looks fairly good. Navi does have an odd ridge of groin fur that seems weirdly placed and Princess dresses a bit young for a supposed office worker, but this is generally a nice looking and good sounding show. The extra “what if” segments aren't terrific, but they can be decently funny.
100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams: The Animation fails by not being ambitious enough. While there are certainly plenty of similar reverse harems out there, this one doesn't try to distinguish itself from any of them, and the result is firmly mediocre. It has its moments, but they're lost in the slough of blandness that is the rest of the series, making this one strictly for the die-hard genre fans only.
Overall (sub) : C-
Story : D
Animation : C+
Art : B
Music : B
+ Quite pretty at times, good vocal cast and theme songs.
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