Ibara-Hime mata wa Nemuri-Hime or Briar Rose, Sleeping Beauty is an alternate retelling of the classic fairy tale. If it’s possible to turn a fairy tale into a gritty and realistic feeling drama then this short film succeeds marvelously.
The story is told through stop motion animation using dolls and puppets and is narrated by the lead character, the young princess. At first it seems almost exactly like the classic story and the narration brings us up to the current events. The unnamed princess was cursed as a baby by a strange one legged man that she will die on her 15th birthday from a spinning wheel needle. This curse is altered by gentile spirits into putting her to sleep and not killing her. The princess grows up and fatefully discovers the lone spinning wheel left in the kingdom. Instead of being pricked her fascination with the wheel leads her to discover her mother’s old diary. Thus she learns of her mother’s past, the identity of the mysterious man, and the sad betrayal that lead to him cursing her.
The way things unfold is never how you expect. The princess seeks out the man who cursed her and makes amends by offering herself as a sacrifice for her mother’s misdeeds. I found it interesting how it paints a realistic picture of what kind of life this type of people is likely to have lead. It’s a bit cynical, which is not all that uncommon when it comes to Japanese storytelling and romance. When the story comes to a close, and the princess has found her prince charming I found the princess' commentary to be quite poignant and memorable.
As I mentioned the entire story is told through the princess narration. None of the characters are given names. The cast is small and all our impressions and observations are through the princess. She is a very practical girl and her experiences in the story eventually make her quite a cynic. By the end she has resigned herself to her life. Is she happy? Not really but given her situation she has made the best of things she really never had any control over.
This is not typical "anime" as most people are used to. It uses stop motion animation featuring puppets. I was quite impressed though with it and with how much emotion and feeling was brought out with something as lifeless as wooden as a puppet. It reminded me a lot of those old Rudolph and Santa Christmas stories that were made with an identical type of animation. It’s definitely different and unique but I thought it was excellently done. There is very little sound to speak of. Since there is no acting save for the princess' narration and the only music is to speak of is soft background music to fit the mood.
Overall I found this to be a fascinating short film with a unique take on a classic story. I feel it’s realistic and gritty story and interesting animation style make it a must watch for anyone in the mood for something different.