animefringe october 2003 / reviews

If I See You in my Dreams OVA & TV series
Format: bilingual DVDs (sold separately) / OVA: 3 eps., 90 min. / TV: 15 eps., 120 min.
Production: Media Blasters / TBS
Comments: Down-to-Earth Romantic Goodness.
Animefringe Reviews:
If I See You in my Dreams OVA & TV series

I couldn't think of a way to justify splitting this review into two separate pieces, since the OVA and television series for If I See You in my Dreams are both so similar to each other. However, since I saw both, I figured it'd be nice to offer a comparison to help you decide which one you should go for - if not both.

If I See You in my Dreams is an extremely solid romantic tale detailing the relationship between Masuo Fuguno, a 24 year old salary man, and Nagisa Shiozaki, a 22 year old school teacher.

The OVA was produced first, so I'll start there. But first, I'll provide a general overview of the story: On a rainy night, Masuo is feeling particularly down after being told by a fortuneteller that he's destined to never find a date. Wallowing in self pity, he is suddenly snapped to reality when a woman offers him an umbrella. He falls in love instantly, and of course, fails to get the woman's name.

This isn't the last time that If I See You in my Dreams will take a turn for the predictable. However, much of the predictability of this series stems from the fact that there really is only one path for the writer to choose that makes sense and adds the proper amount of drama. While you may see things coming a mile away, the wait is most often a pleasant one, for you'll want the predictable things to happen most of the time.

As you can guess, however, Masuo eventually tracks down the woman (named Nagisa - surprise!) and starts the process of getting into a relationship with her. Of course, nothing helps a dateless guy attract scores of women more than falling deeply in love with only one person (take note, those of you looking for dates!), and one of Masuo's coworkers, Miho Hamaoka, instantly begins competing for his affection.

The OVA is only three episodes long, so it doesn't have time to drag out the various potential conflicts, introducing problems only long enough to solve them and move on, and I actually enjoyed that aspect of the show. By the end of the third episode, everything is wrapped up rather nicely, and if that was all I had to experience for the series, I'd be content, if a little eager to read the original manga.

However, for those of us who'd like to see more of these characters, the TV series is also available. Consisting of fifteen seven minute long episodes, it doesn't really continue the story from the end of the OVA so much as retell the whole thing. Yet, this gives us an opportunity to see everything in greater detail, and certain story arcs stand out significantly more than before. Miho is far more intrusive and even threatening to Nagisa and Masuo's relationship, though she's also a bit more likable, as well.

Perhaps it's because there's more time to develop her character, but Nagisa seems more passionate in the TV series. She's given more opportunities to express her feelings, and I appreciated the increased details in that respect.

Though, just as there's more time for character development, there's more time for the viewer to get frustrated with the predictable crises that Masuo's bound to experience. His town must only cover four square blocks, for every time he decides to go somewhere with Miho, he runs into Nagisa. He also has the legendary bad luck that only a male anime character in love can possess, for he's usually hugging her or touching her in some way to make Nagisa hate him forever when she sees them together. My only suggestion to him would be that if he plans on going out with Miho, he should leave town. Though, this being a romance, I'm sure she'd appear wherever he'd try to flee.

One of the reasons this show is so enjoyable is the fact that I really liked the characters. Unlike Kyosuke Kasuga in Kimagure Orange Road who gives mixed signals to Madoka and Hikaru, Masuo only loves Nagisa. He's as honest with Miho as he should be, and most of the awkwardness results from Miho's love for him, not misleading behavior on his part.

Visuals for both releases are impressive, with the OVA understandably getting a bit more attention in the animation department. For the TV series, there are significantly more sight gags (such as characters shattering, turning into piles of sand that get blown away by the wind, or other quick funny fantasy sequences) and I never grew tired of them. There are no jaw-dropping fight scenes or backgrounds of awe-inspiring beauty, but this is a title that lets the plot carry itself rather than rely upon superficial qualities.

The cover art for the OVA series suggests that there's quite a bit of fan service in the release, but by most standards, the three episodes are rather tame in that respect. Oddly enough, the more conservative illustration on the keepcase for the TV series is equally misleading, for there's multiple counts of outright nudity in the television incarnation of the show. Nothing is gratuitous, though it is unexpected to find nudity on the television version of a show instead of the OVA release.

Voice acting is solid on both discs, and the same actors were used (for the Japanese version, at least) for the OVAs and TV series. The music was rather good, as well, with the OVA's opening and ending themes performed by Mami Kanezuki (Nagisa's Japanese voice actress). Halo performs the songs for the TV series, and while I'm not familiar with the group, they're pleasant to hear. The sound effects work well in the series, though I could swear the developers of Toejam and Earl III on the X-Box had access to the same audio library. Maybe it's just me, though.

There were a few obvious errors with the subtitle track, such as a sentence that read "Love will be awaken," and a mix-up of "this" versus "that." I'm usually a stickler for grammar, so these things stand out even when I'm not paying too much attention to the subtitles.

There are, sadly, no extras whatsoever on either disc, so viewers eager for an art gallery or liner notes may be disappointed. I know I was.

Either one of these discs should satisfy any anime fan seeking a nice, realistic, romantic story. The TV series is longer, but there's just as much emotional impact from the OVA release. Personally, I'd suggest getting both to fully appreciate the tale, and with a lower than average MSRP of $24.95 each, it's not too hard to pick up these titles together. If I See You in my Dreams may not have mecha turtles or exaggerated characters, but it does offer a realistically pleasant diversion for a time, which isn't too common lately. It is a romantic comedy, but the focus here is more on the romance than the comedy. With interesting characters, plausible suspense, and pleasing production standards, this is a title I feel very comfortable recommending to someone seeking a romance that differs from most other romances by being...relatively normal.