What’s it about? After years of peaceful coexistence between humans and demons, the Demon King suddenly kidnaps Princess Syalis of Goodereste and locks her in his castle! While the Hero of Goodereste embarks on a quest to rescue her, the princess embarks on a quest of her own: to get the best night’s sleep ever.
Content consideration: Slapstick violence.
Trapped inside with nothing to do, Princess Syalis can’t even get in a decent nap thanks to her noisy roommates and cheap bedding. Caught between boredom and insomnia, she decides to take on crafting projects to improve her life in little ways and help her pass each day.
Folks, we’ve had some Peak 2020 anime this year in the form of post-apocalyptic hellscapes, but Sleepy Princess might be the most relatable yet.
As that intro probably tells you, Sleepy Princess is a comedy, and thus far a mighty well-executed one. Director Yamazaki Mitsue hasn’t worked on a full-fledged comedy since the magnificent Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, but directing goofs must be like riding a tandem bicycle, because she certainly hasn’t lost her touch for pitch-perfect timing, matter-of-fact delivery, and clever sight gags.
This series is built around riffing on fairy tales and fantasy RPGs (complete with quest titles, point damages, and option menus), mining a lot of humor from reversing the expectations of the genre. Instead of following the hero, we’re following the kidnapped princess. Instead of crafting warhammers and breastplates, our heroine is crafting fluffy pillows, cute headbands, and high-thread-count sheets. And, perhaps most importantly, instead of the sad princess being tormented by demons, this little shit is the one tormenting them.
Yes, Sleepy Princess is part of that proud anime subgenre I like to call Cute Girls Behaving Badly, which is to say that Syalis is an absolute trash child and I love her very much.
After bribing her adorable prison guards, Syalis can now leave her cell pretty much whenever she wants, so she spends most of this episode wandering around the castle, both intentionally and accidentally wreaking havoc on its many residents. Right around the time she straight-up dismembers a dude to obtain luxury sheets, I began to suspect the show’s central joke wasn’t “Syalis is sleepy,” but “Syalis is the real demon,” and that more-or-less bore out for the rest of the episode.
Trash protagonists don’t work for everyone, I know, but I found her likably terrible, thanks in part to Minase Inori’s growly line delivery and in part to Syalis’s Disaster Energy causing almost as many problems for herself as it does others. It also helps that the comedic violence is totally weightless, given that there’s a demon cleric in the castle with resurrection powers, so there’s never any worry of serious lasting damage.
The biggest concern with Sleepy Princess is if it can maintain its energy for an entire cour. As much as I enjoyed the episode, there’s a definite sense of disjointedness to it, as the (presumably) short, gag-driven manga chapters are stitched together to fill 22 minutes. I caught myself wondering more than once if the series might not have been better-served as a 10-minute short rather than a full-length series.
The other potential issue is the supporting cast, who make brief appearances here but are all pretty much straight-men to Syalis’s fool. She’s a strong comedic lead, but she’s going to need other endearing characters to bounce off of, or the jokes are going to wear thin sooner rather than later. The manga is 16 volumes and still running, so I have to assume the cast and story will both expand, but it’s unclear how that’s going to happen just yet.
Concerns about staying power aside, a comedy’s chief goal is to make you laugh, and in that regard Sleepy Princess’s premiere succeeded with flying colors. I love Yamazaki Mitsue’s direction, I’m a sucker for a fantasy comedy, and I have a perpetual soft spot for trash heroines. I’m more than happy to stick around and see how this one shakes out.