Mike wonders aloud which anime would be a good fit for the prestigious Criterion Collection.
Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Dec 9th 2003
Yume Kikuchi has finally reached the age where she can work as an apprentice mage in Tokyo. Originally from the country, Yume must overcome insecurity and confusion over her new big-city surroundings, an agency management frightened of her amazing magical powers, and a mysterious new mentor named Oyamada. Yume's journey through personal and public crises will change her life forever.
You can almost smell the genre emerging during Someday's Dreamers; this, along with Yokohama Shopping Log (the latter being a more extreme example) seem to be taking anime storytelling to a much more sedate place, concerning themselves more with quiet environmental details, a minimum of conflict, and a calming atmosphere. Whether or not that sort of thing is your coquettish cup of Chamomile will determine your enjoyment of Someday's Dreamers, which boasts a promising premise but very little excitement.
The underlying premise of Someday's Dreamers is a solid and original concept. Basically, magic use has become commonplace in Tokyo, but there's a ministry set up to govern the actions of the various mages around town. Mages perform all manner of social tasks. They've become doctors, rescue workers, firefighters and policemen, and everything they do is closely monitored and controlled by the government. From here, the story sort of droops. We focus on a fairly uninteresting girl named Yume who's unsure of herself and her powers (of course, as per the current "anime story bible", Yume's powers are ten times more potent than anyone else's, solely because she's a cute young girl). She struggles with daily life, makes mistakes, apologizes too much, gets in trouble, pisses people off, etcetera and so forth. She interacts with a cast of characters who are all as sedate as she is. Add in repetitive, slow piano music, and you have an instant cure for insomnia.
It isn't that nothing of interest happens, it's that the show's pacing and tone are so laid-back and relaxed that it minimalizes any impact the plot events have on the characters. The first two episodes are dedicated entirely to Yume apologizing to some kid for insulting him with her powers, an event that happens in the first five minutes of the first episode. That's an hour of story time used for one minor event, showcasing a character who never reappears in the series. It's story choices like these that make the entire production sag under the weight of its own half-lidded atmosphere. They tried a little too hard to make this thing seem laid-back; the result is a string of uninteresting things happening to uninteresting people.
From a production standpoint, Someday's Dreamers is a marvel. The animation is top-notch. Clearly a lot of money was spent bringing Yume's world to life, and the result is a beautiful show. The various CG effects blend in beautifully with the animation, and the character designs are wonderful. Each character is given a solidly different design and you can tell who's who instantly, which is a hallmark of excellent character design. The music, while extremely repetitive, still fits the show's mood perfectly. You'll want to tear your hair out around the eight millionth time you hear the show's main piano theme, but at least it's a nice piece of music, so that helps.
The English dub is, unfortunately, completely mediocre. There are a lot of strange, halting pauses in the speech; it's clear they were trying to match the mouth movements, which admittedly have odd pauses in them, but the script doesn't really flow naturally and everyone sounds like they're trying really hard to sound natural, which of course, winds up sounding artificial and awkward. Though clearly sincere in her efforts, Yume's English voice actor fails to supply any depth to her decidedly bland character; even a master thespian would struggle to bring Yume to life. Oyamada enunciates a little too much. Angela is a conundrum; she's supposed to be British. I have no idea if her voice actress actually is British, but the accent sounds completely fake. Most of the background characters are fairly mediocre as well.
Overall, Someday's Dreamers is absolutely perfect if you're a big fan of shows that are slow and dainty for the sake of being slow and dainty. This show is chock full of slow pans over background paintings of flowers and shots of water drops hitting a puddle. They'll spend a few extra seconds showing characters standing around in the rain for no reason other than to increase the 'coquettish and sedate' feeling of it all. If this all sounds like an oh-so-delightful time, then by all means, rush out and snag Someday's Dreamers right away. Otherwise, you may want to spring for something with a little bit more excitement in it.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C-
Animation : A+
Art : A
Music : B-
+ Excellent production design and animation
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