100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams Episode 10: The Cat and Kihel

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The Cheshire Cat continues to run away from Avi, Kihel and Navi while dragging his ‘Alice’ along (not that she’s Alice but whatever). In the process, Avi and Navi get held up by some talking trees due to an inability to make anyone laugh so Kihel goes ahead which just further cements the idea that he’s going to be about the only character getting any actual story here. For 100 Sleeping Princes, this show has so far only had one sleeping prince and seems only interested in telling one story.

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I’m going to skip to the end of the episode, because it is about the only part of any significance. The black butterfly guy gives Kihel a push and so Kihel borrows the time watch to recover his lost memories. It isn’t entirely successful but we get enough of it (as do the Princess and Avi) that the direction for the final pretty much set in stone. We kind of know what happened between Setiq and Kihel though we still don’t know why or what happened to Kihel after that and before he met up with the Princess and Avi.

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The rest of this episode is mostly just the cat taking Alice various places and dialogues between characters that really fail to be engaging. We get another fight against some dream eaters but they seem less a threat than ever and more just a distractor or a reason for Kihel to be facing black butterfly guy alone.

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Pretty much motives for the main cast remain murky or unexplored. The other princes encountered in this particular story were uninspired and served little to no purpose. The resolution of the stolen watch was at best bland. So all and all this anime that started out as an okay fairy tale romp has mostly just become a chore. Now I still actually want to know what is going on with Kihel so I will finish it up but there’s not a lot of fun to be had at the moment with this show.

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100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams Episode 9: What If Wonderland Were A Modern City?

100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams - Kihel

The concept is raised as the Princess and the two Princes find their way into a modern city-scape but we very quickly abandon this line of questioning as the characters find themselves onto a rooftop garden and from there it is all pretty standard antics for an episode focusing on Alice in Wonderland style tropes.

100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams - Cheshire Cat

I’ve mentioned before that episodes and stories based on Alice in Wonderland are very hit and miss, and a lot of the issue is they rely on you just accepting weird stuff is going to happen because ‘wonderland’. This episode of 100 Sleeping Princes isn’t an exception. While the idea of a wonderland in a world of mostly pre-industrialised countries being a city full of skyscrapers most definitely could have potentially been interesting, nothing was done with this in the end and other than Avi getting some coughs and the momentary fun of watching him freak out in the elevator, this somewhat unique setting was horrendously underutilised before it got scrapped by a time reversing watch reverted the city to a forest.

100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams Episode 9
That’s what they all say.

Similarly, the characters we meet in this place are all caricatures of Alice in Wonderland characters and in the brief screen time they get they don’t do much to break the mould or make themselves in any way memorable. About the only point of interest is the black butterfly is in wonderland and joins that party for tea dropping a few hints about Setiq before disappearing again.

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And that’s where this feels like filler. We’ve more or less established that Kihel’s story is the only one this anime actually cares about. We’ve never addressed who the Princess is or what she was doing before she appeared in this world. She doesn’t even ask if there’s a way to go back. She’s just kind of existing for us to follow along with. Avi, despite initially suggesting he was going to return to his kingdom, has just strapped in for the ride. He has no actual story of his own that we’re aware of (and barely any personality). So Kihel’s story and finding Setiq has more or less become the only goal and other than a few minor titbits, this episode contributes nothing toward that.

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100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams Episode 8: It’s All About Kihel

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We seem to be closing in on the mysteries around Kihel’s missing memories. What I can’t figure out is whether this is going to be resolved next week or whether this is actually going to be an arc that takes us to the end of the series. Either way, it doesn’t seem like the anime is interested in dealing with its premise with the Princess appearing from another world as she doesn’t seem even vaguely concerned about that.

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As an episode, this one was pretty dull with the main characters spending the entirety sitting beside a lake and talking or sleeping. However it did fill in a substantial amount about Kihel’s background and set up a fairly compelling oncoming confrontation and we finally got a bit more insight into Setiq so it isn’t as though this time was wasted. They could have found a better way to integrate this into some kind of story, but I guess 100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams has long since proven it isn’t really all that sophisticated in how it rolls out its plot.

100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams Episode 8

This episode does its job in that it leaves the audience feeling like they are getting closer to something while leaving us with a huge number of questions which will make us watch on. What it doesn’t really do is deliver any of this in an engaging way, unless talking and flash backs are your thing. And that’s literally all there is to this episode so I’ll just leave it here.

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100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams Episode 7: This Was Not A Well Thought Out Plan

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If we forget for a moment that other than Avi none of these princes are sleeping and that the dream eaters no seem to be some sort of controlled minions, I still have to ask what the villain actually thought was going to happen this week. That was one terribly planned out kidnapping.

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While the general fairy tale nature of this story continues to be one of its more positive traits, everything else is kind of just doing what it does. The butterfly finally took form this week mostly to taunt the characters but giving the villain a voice in the action actually made it worse. Whether he was mocking the Princess or teasing the Princes, he came off like a silly child and as soon as Frost showed up he bailed. About the only noteworthy part of this character’s appearance is that he was clearly controlling the dream eaters which just makes you wonder what they actually are anyway.

100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams Episode 7

This part two does quite a reasonable job of dealing with the three brothers and we see Frost and Graysia kind of come to an understanding of sorts, but it is at the expense of anything of note happening to our main cast. you could argue that Graysia was only kidnapped because of the Princess, but if we just remove the Princess, Avi and Kihel from the story, we could more or less run the same plot with Graysia getting trapped and Frost having to search for him and ultimately save him. It is never a good sign when the main cast can be utterly removed from events without altering them in any way of note.

However, this story came to a close and the trio have headed off again so I guess we’ll meet yet another kingdom and Prince next week.

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100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams Episode 6: From The Ocean to the Snow

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Leaving the pirates and other Princes behind, we are now travelling through the snow. I’m glad the characters reminded us they were travelling to defeat Dream Eaters because I’d almost forgotten the main plot point from episode 1.

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This anime has kind of meandered about and while each episode is still kind of okay to watch, I’ve more of less given up on the overall ‘plot’ given the show itself doesn’t seem interested in addressing it. This week we are introduced to three new princes in a frozen kingdom who are having some social issues (rather there seems to be some middle child syndrome going on). The oldest prince tells the Princess and her companions  that there are no dream eaters in the kingdom but then invites them to the castle anyway to given them information, before he offloads them onto the youngest prince to find the middle prince. No information given. It’s all just this happens and then this happens with little reason to care about anything going on as you kind of suspect it will all sort itself out anyway.

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And even though the plot is wholly unsatisfying, the characters themselves remain bearable though not remarkable. The new princes introduced this week are perfectly fine even if their issues aren’t really particularly interesting, and overall I’m still kind of curious about Kihel’s past and the Princess and a few other points that the show just doesn’t seem to want to get to anytime soon.

So yes, watchable but there’s not a whole lot of point at this stage.

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100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams Episode 5: A Ghost Ship with Friendly Ghosts?

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After the build up last week, episode 5 was mostly a let down, unless you are watching this just for the Princes, in which case there were many here and they had plenty of screen time.

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This show started out with a pretty simple premise; Princess is summoned to wake up the sleeping princes and fight the dream eaters. Except, other than Avi, none of the princes have been asleep (unless they are technically asleep even though they are walking around) and the dream eaters have kind of disappeared entirely out of the last two episodes. Just not sure what the objective is at the moment or what’s really going on.

They do continue to build some intrigue around Kihel’s character, but the more build up it gets, the more concerned I am that it is mostly just going to be a giant let down when we finally find out what is going on with him. Much as the ghosts on the ship and the storm ended up being.

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If anything, this episode really suffered from being overly cluttered. Too many princes and other characters with too little actual purpose. And then the pirate guy thanks the Princess for being the one to help him change and I’m just not sure what exactly she did (although she did actually save Kihel by herself for once so that was probably a step forward).

The shine might be coming off of this one. We’ll see what next week brings.

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100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams Episode 4: Not All Dreams Are Good Ones

100 Sleeping Princes Episode 4

Despite the Disney like fairy tale narrative being spun here, episode 4 kind of shows us the darker side of the dream land with pirates, mermaids, death at sea, and a past that seems determined to resurface.

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No surprise that I started getting a little concerned as soon as I realised they were about to get on a ship because it seemed very likely our nameless heroine would get swept overboard at some point. Fortunately this anime has so far shown that danger is fairly swiftly overcome so I wasn’t too worried about an actual drowning. The closest we really get to it this episode is a reference to the flowers around the ship being there in memory of those who have died at sea. It’s about as tame as a fairy tale can get while still claiming a slightly darker edge.

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Kihel’s story continues to develop and while the whole amnesia with flashes of memory thing has been done to death, in the context of this show it kind of works. What works less well is that fact that other than Avi, none of the other Princes appear to actually be trapped inside rings so I’m not entirely sure why the Princess is needed at all here or why that was a thing in the first place. The rings were super important for all of one episode and now they aren’t even mentioned. It kind of breaks the overall world building going on here.

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That said the Princes we meet this week are an interesting group, whether human or not. Plus we ended on a fairly dramatic cliff-hanger once again so we’ll get to spend more time with them next week and hopefully have a bit of fun.

They have gone to a lot of effort to not name the heroine though. At one point she was asked point blank who she was and before she could speak Navi jumped in and said she was the Princess of wherever. After that, all the characters she met just happily called her Princess and seemed to forget even caring what her name was. Despite the fact that almost all the other characters are Princes of somewhere but still have a name. It’s a little bit weird, though kind of shows the source loud and clear.

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100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams Episode 3: No One Is Really Bad, Just Possessed By Dream Eaters

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There’s a definite trend in some stories to strive against making anyone a real villain and providing them essentially get out of jail free cards for being a jerk. Three episodes in and 100 Sleeping Princes definitely seems to be taking this path.

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Apparently this anime is absolutely against the idea of anyone actually being responsible for doing bad things. The Queen isn’t spending the kingdom’s money and starving the people because she’s a selfish-cow, she’s possessed by a dream-eater. She wouldn’t actually curse the older prince so that her son could become the ruler or try to kill him, she’s just possessed. So while the dream eaters are apparently evil without a single redeeming feature, they just need to get cut down, all the humans are apparently inherently good and all evil is caused by possession.

I’d mock this show more for it accept that this is something I’ve come to expect from a range of anime over the years. I wouldn’t mind this particular trait so much accept that it is either all or nothing. They never let some characters just be horrible people who whether they were possessed or not are going to do bad things. As a result, there’s very little tension because we’ve already got a formula. Bad things happen, identify who is possessed by a dream eater, princes run around waving shiny sticks (okay, swords) and then the princess does her little prayer and the dream eater emerges to be instantly cut down by the princes.

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Maybe this anime will be the one to shake things up and won’t go down this strictly formulaic path, but right now I’m thinking this is about all it has on offer. There’s certainly a minor plot line being clumsily laid out in final scenes involving one of the party members, but I’m not all that inclined to be interested. Still, the fairy tale feel and the general lack of stress watching this causes might see it through the season so I probably won’t be dropping this one but nor would I recommend it from its first three episodes.

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100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams Episodes 1 + 2: Fairy Tale Logic At Work

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There’s something kind of fun about reliving a fairy tale even if it isn’t exactly thrilling. 100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams is more of less what happens when you blend an otome game with a book of childhood fairy tales.

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Our heroine has no name and is only referred to at the Princess. She’s been summoned from another world (clearly ours) to awaken the sleeping princes. The only twist on this generic set up is apparently she was originally from the Kingdom of Dreams and was banished and they’ve simply brought her back. That would be a neat twist if she had any memory of it, but she does not and so we just have a fairly clueless girl getting dragged into a fantasy setting where she simply prays so that the Princes in the party can have a power up to defeat the dream eaters. Honestly, the heroine annoyed me to no end in this and the basic set up more or less assures us that she will do nothing of note throughout the series other than become the damsel in distress and occasionally show signs of grim determination to encourage those who follow her.

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The two ‘princes’ we meet in the first episode are a nice contrasting pair, though repeated dialogue is already wearing thin and we’re only two episodes in. We could definitely play a drinking game that every time Kiel says ‘probably’ we should take a drink and every-time Avi threatens to stab him we should take a drink and by the mid-way point of episode two I’m pretty sure even the most hardened drinkers might be falling off their chairs. The prince/princes introduced in episode 2 seem kind of interesting and I guess we’ll find out what’s going on with them in the next episode but given the title, I’m guessing we’re going to end up meeting a lot of guys as the story goes on (and why does every kingdom have a prince but there’s only one princess).

Navi, the ‘butler’ is also already a little on the annoying side and his repeated joke is to speak and surprise the other characters so that they exclaim that the stuffed animal spoke so that he can deny being a stuffed animal. Hilarious.

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The visuals go from being breathtakingly beautiful when they focus a lot of attention on a particular scene (such as the Princess using her magic) to being truly ugly when they seem to have taken a short cut with the animation. Characters running and sometimes talking look particularly hideous at times and some backgrounds are less complete than others.

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Despite all of that, if you enjoyed basic fairy tales as a kid, this is pretty much like walking through an extended fairy tale. Honestly, you could pick it apart really easily or you can just settle back and enjoy the ride. While the quality isn’t great, it isn’t unwatchable and I was kind of in the mood for it so despite all my complaints above I’m going to keep watching for a bit.


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Karandi James

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Cinder Book Review: Can a Cyberpunk Take on Classic Fairy Tale Work?

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Overview:

Cinder is a gifted mechanic and cyborg is new Beijing, a city literally falling apart with an ill king, political enemies, and a plague tearing through the population. However, when she finds herself increasingly entangled with the Prince, she is going to have to start making some hard choices.

Cinder is the first book from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.

Review:

There’s something comforting about fairy tale reworkings. Mostly because, regardless of the trapping, the plot is going to follow a certain series of events until you get to what might be a twist at the end to give it a new spin. So cue the wicked stepmother (though in this case neglectful or abusive may be the better descriptor), the Prince falling in love seemingly at first sight, and the eventual ball in the final act. However, when you throw in plagues, Moon Queens and political alliances, while the story is familiar enough you won’t be feeling like you’ve read this version of it before.

There’s a lot to like it this gritty tale of romance and betrayal. Certainly the fact that the conflict extends beyond a single kingdom makes the scope of the story far more impressive from the get go. In most versions of the story there is very little known of how the Kingdom sits in relation to other countries/kingdoms so the Prince’s choice to marry a girl far beneath his social class has little overall impact other than to allow us to believe love conquers all obstacles. Even Ever After, barely addressed the issue even though technically the Prince there was betrothed to the Princess of Spain and they simply made his near wedding a comedic scene where that Princess pulled out of the ceremony, thus saving France from suffering any real consequence of the headstrong Prince’s choice.

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However, Cinder is different as Kai’s choices are going to have some fairly major consequences further down the line and you definitely wonder whether you should be supporting the two getting together or not given how terribly that could work out for the Kingdom and the people. I really liked this aspect of it as it made the entire situation of a commoner and a Prince coming together seem far more grounded in reality than such a romance usually is, and yet still allowed us to get swept along as the two interacted. We always knew it wasn’t going to be so easy so the ending of this book is not exactly a let down, but it makes for a more impressive story.

I also genuinely like Prince Kai as a character. He’s young and uncertain about some things, stuck in a horrible situation, suffering from the loss of his father, and he is having to make some really tough choices. In his shoes I probably would lock myself in my room and hope it all went away (okay, maybe not, but I’d certainly want to). Yet, despite a few choice moments, Kai deals with it admirably. He may not manage to wave his and magically make things better fairy godmother style, but he’s certainly trying to find the best path through the thorns and all things considered he isn’t doing too bad a job.

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Despite that, Cinder is a little bit harder to take seriously in this story. We’ve seen Cinderella in Disney form where she’s just too sweet for words. We’ve seen the sassy modern takes on Cinderella with Drew Barrymore in Ever After or even Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. We get that Cinderella doesn’t need to wait around for the guy and can make decisions on her own (but if the guy shows up and its on her terms then go for the romantic and happy ending).

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But in Marissa Meyer’s take on Cinderella, we have a girl who is dejected and has all but surrendered herself to the awfulness that surrounds her. It is understandable, but it hard to get behind her as a character. Almost all of her plans and schemes are motivated entirely by self-interest and quite a few of her problems come about because she just doesn’t pay enough attention to those around her as she seems oblivious to the problems of others. By the time she decides to make a noble gesture and attempt to save Prince Kai at the ball it is very hard to care particularly for Cinder as a character and by this stage you know how badly that rescue is going to go so you mostly just sit back and wait to read how it all fell apart.

Which leads me to my other issue with the story. While it is a fast read (a day or two at most to read depending on distractions) and its relatively easy and flowing to read with a more young adult audience in mind, the writing is pretty ordinary. By that I do not mean it is bad. It flows well and moves you along. The world building is fine and you can visualise what is being described. What I mean by ordinary is that I got to the end of the book and couldn’t recall a single line of note. Not one description that I just loved and wanted to read again. Even while reading, there were no passages that made me pause after reading them and want to go back just to take in a good turn of phrase. So maybe ordinary isn’t the right word. The writing is unobtrusive, but that also makes it fairly unremarkable.

That said, the plot is pretty addictive and I am desperate to know what happens next for our cyborg mechanic and the Prince so I will be hitting the book depository sooner rather than later to pick up the next book in the series.

If you’ve had a read of Cinder, I’d love to know your thoughts.


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