Someday’s Dreamers seems to be another example of a trend I’ve noticed in a couple of other anime series that I’ve seen recently. Before I detail that trend, I’d like to say a bit about the show first.
Yume is a “mage,” a person who, for want of a better term, can do magic. Mages can change physical reality (what they do most often), or they can create a mental realm for people (a sort of parallel dream-world that to all intents and purposes, is real to the experiencer). This is not an uncommon talent (indeed, during the course of the series, it seems like almost everyone we meet either is, was, or will become a mage) but given the vast power a mage can summon, society has very carefully created a beauracracy to deal with the licensing and training of mages. Can’t have superbeings running around doing what they like, can we?
The story we’re told here is of Yume’s training, over the course of a summer, to become a licensed mage. She’s already got the power–in fact, a huge amount of power; when she’s nearly hit by a car in the story’s opening minutes, she sends all the cars nearby–dozens of them–about two hundred feet in the air. But she also has pretty good control over this power; she’s able to bring all the cars gently back down to earth without so much as nicking a fender. The training she needs is not developing her power, but putting it to appropriate, i.e. licensed, use.
Anyway, she meets her teacher and begins her training, and over the course of the first two DVD volumes she learns how truly to be a mage, as well as what that will entail in terms of how she can act–what she’s allowed to do and not do, despite what her feelings tell her. The series has a gentle, lolling pace which makes it just sort of so-so as treadmill food but it’s otherwise engaging without being vital. Everyone we meet is an interesting, likeable character and there’s a fair amount of hot mage action.
Because it’s so unhurried, it took me a while to go through volumes one and two, because there weren’t the kind of hooks that a more pace-oriented story leaves in the viewer. In a way, it’s like the music of Erik Satie (which the soundtrack strongly resembles)–very pleasant, fun, likeable and well-crafted but not leaving much visible trace when it’s over.
Ah, but that was volumes one and two. The third volume is where it exhibits the trend I mentioned earlier–I can’t think of a good phrase for this, and I hate to think that “Third Volume Notch-Kick” is what I’ll end up using. (Hell. That sounds like something a giant robot pilot would scream before punching an alien monster.) The last volume begins with what Yume thinks is a botched request (a “request” is when a normal person asks a mage for some magic). The request itself goes perfectly, but the reaction from the requester casts doubt on everything Yume has done over the course of the series. The story then becomes far more emotional, far deeper, far more riveting, and I watched it with rapt attention.
Yume wonders what she’s doing, and questions if she really wants to be a mage. (She never doubts her power, only the usefulness of it as applied to others.) After spending a very sad night in the rain, knowing she’s forbidden to act, and meeting an old friend the next day, she knows what she has to do.
And she does it–magnificently. With a such a mature grasp of the situation that you know the “simple country girl” Yume began in our eyes is truly, now, one of the great mages of the world.
It’s a wonderful story and recommended. Just don’t let volumes one and two lull you into a false sense of expectations. But don’t let what I tell you here make you impatient during those episodes–they’re very important to the ending.
The only question that still nags me is Master Ginpun. He looks like a woman but talks like a man. I kept waiting for somethng to be revealed about him…but it never was. Luckily, it isn’t important anyway.
Another series watched because of Steven’s review. And well done.
As mentioned way up there, this is a trend I’ve seen in other series. This Ugly Yet Beautiful World also had a pretty lax pace during volumes one and two (the title should tell you why that was appropriate, though), with only hints of the darker story to come in volume three. Najica Blitz Tactics and Hanaukyo Maid Team La Verite followed the same plan.
So if this IS some kind of storytelling trend, I really need to come up with a better phrase than “Third Volume Notch-Kick.” Damn it, you see? Even when I typed that, I looked around for an alien monster to punch! Good for them they were in hiding! Or I would have punched them.
As for Someday’s Dreamers, I’m sure you don’t have to ask what I did at the ending, with all my precious feelings. We’ve all been over that, right? No need to go over that again, okay? Please? Now that I have the soundtrack CD (on sale for $5 at Bob’s Anime Corner Store) the same thing happens when tracks 2 and 12 play. (Good thing I’m a pretty good driver.)
It’s times like these I’m glad I don’t have a job as a paper bag–I’d barely be able to hold any jelly beans.
I think about this as series executing a mid-series turn. Somedays’ Dreamers is not an extreme case. It sort of balances between the “one final arc” and the turn. The “one final arc” is a confrontation of some kind, where everything comes together (like in Mahoraba) or attempts to (like in Excel Saga). The final arc takes from 3 to 5 episodes, and due to the short length of SD, it’s hard to pigeonhole. An archetype of a turn can probably be found in Witch Hunter Robin, which starts as Monster of The Week kind of show (very much like Big O and countless others), then executes a sharp turn in the middle and becomes strongly plot-driven.
As to Ginpun, I was interested to note that in the manga Ginpun is clearly a woman. But there are a lot of differences between the manga and the anime.