The List
6 Times It Was All Just A Dream

by Lynzee Loveridge,

Considered one of the cheapest writing tactics in the book, "it was all dream" is so notoriously denounced that it occurs more often as a punchline nowadays than as an actual plot device. Classic examples include The Wizard of Oz and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari while American live-action TV shows like Dallas and Newhart showed how mixed results can be when characters, scenarios, and even deaths are no longer "real."

Anime has more often used the scenario as one-off comedic episode filler instead of retconning an entire show's plot as fake. Sometimes both intertwine so real events become dreams to springboard the second half of the plot, similar to The Matrix.

6. Bleach Episode 287 When this side episode opens up, it's immediately apparent that something weird is going on. Ichigo awakens in a vast desert dressed in Middle Eastern-style clothing, Yoruichi Shihōin is a normal black cat, and his friends insist his name is "Chigo." The cast heads into town where they reveal a plot to steal a valuable artifact but come to find Aladdin's lamp. The characters continue to encounter more oddly-named counterparts in skirmishes over the lamp. Eventually Ichigo wakes up only to find himself at the beginning of the dream again before Isane Kotetsu wakes up,

5. "Toys in the Attic" (Cowboy Bebop) Named after an Aerosmith song, the episode's title alludes to a different kind of toy, in this case a sentient, lobster-based food mold that grew in a forgotten fridge. Initially the creature is only shown from a first-person perspective as it attacks rats and eventually the Bebop crew from the shadows. When Spike finally manages to send the fridge into space, the episode cuts to show Ed awakening. She reaches for something implied to be the poisonous monster and eats it before going back to sleep. The following episode shows Spike lurching forward from a seemingly heat-induced dream. Miraculously, the rest of the crew are no longer poisoned.

4. GunxSword There were plenty of clues laid out that the story of GunxSword was not all it appeared to be. The characters traverse the "Planet of Endless Illusion" searching for a clawed man that killed their loved ones. At the forefront of this quest is Van and Ray, a condiment-loving mecha-piloting cowboy and another mecha pilot seeking revenge for the death of his wife. In the midway point of a series, titled "Dream in Progress" while the third-to-last episode is "End of a Dream." The episode content muddies the water of where reality stops and Ray's dying hallucination starts.

3. Get Backers The series Ban Mido and Ginji Amano, two super-powered guys that return lost things. Ban's power allows him to cause hallucinations merely by making eye contact with his victim. As it turns out Ban's powers, and those of his friends and foes are the result of a Matrix-like environment created by the "Brain Trust" group of powerful individuals inside the "Infinity Fortress." The world the characters know is merely computer data held within the "Archive" computer bank. What happens next diverges between the anime and manga with Ginji either recreating the world from his own memories or copying the data onto another computer.

2. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Part 6 (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya uses the trope to cast ambiguity on supernatural events that took place the night before. Haruhi, ever in denial of her feelings for Kyon, creates an enclosed space for just the two of them after she becomes jealous of his interactions with Mikuru. Kyon manages to escape with and return to the previous reality, or so it seems when he abruptly falls out of his bed. He thinks it's some kind of dream but Haruhi admits to having her own bad dream. Kyon's left with questions of whether they returned back to their own world, Haruhi opened the new one so their friends could get there, or if it really was just a weird dream.

1. Episode 25/26 (Neon Genesis Evangelion) The at some points barely animated final episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion are the result of a giant culmination of issues, from the director's own depression to financial strain. Both episodes turn inward on the characters and especially the protagonist Shinji so he can resolve his hedgehog dilemma. The final episode shows Shinji awaken in bed and begins like a normal school age rom-com. Were all the giant robots, aliens, and government conspiracies a dream? Then the episode pulls the rug out from under the viewers and returns to Shinji's head, with the school sequence being nothing more than a "what-if" hallucination.

The new poll: Of all the supposed Hollywood live-action anime adaptations (in progress or stalled), which would you most want to watch? I'm sure DiCaprio, Keanu Reeves, Cameron, and ScarJo are waiting anxiously for our results.

The old poll: What was your favorite work by the late, great Satoshi Kon. Here's the full results:

  1. Paranoia Agent (TV) 25.8%
  2. Paprika (movie) 25.3%
  3. Tokyo Godfathers (movie) 24.2%
  4. Perfect Blue (movie) 23.0%
  5. Millennium Actress (movie) 18.5%
  6. Magnetic Rose (movie) 3.2%
  7. Good Morning (part of Ani-Kuri 15) 0.9%
  8. OPUS (manga) 0.5%
  9. Dream Fossil: The Complete Stories of Satoshi Kon (manga) 0.3%
  10. Tropic of the Sea (manga) 0.2%
  11. Seraphim: 266613336 Wings (manga) 0.2%
  12. World Apartment Horror (manga) 0.1%

When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as the Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her son on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.

discuss this in the forum (55 posts) |
bookmark/share with:

this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history

The List homepage / archives