Someday’s Dreamers: Ending Thoughts

By Shamus
on May 23, 2006
Filed under:
Anime

My wife and I finally got an evening together and finished off the last disc of Someday’s Dreamers.

Someday's Dreamers - Yume

The story takes the familiar “magical girl” theme and turns it on its head. Yume is a mage. Mages are rare. Unlike every other magical story I’ve ever seen, their powers do not lend themselves to combat. Mages don’t fly around, zapping bad guys with colorful energy blasts. Instead, they perform localized miracles. In the series, we see the girls repairing vandalisim, rejuvenating a worn old house, and (in a moment of foolish teenage passion) bending the Tokyo Tower.

They don’t fight evil. There is no super-evil in this story. Instead, Mages work for the government. People apply for various miracles (Mage actions) and the Bureau of Mage Labor will dispatch a Mage to show up and attempt to solve the problem. In the series, Yume and her friend Angela are both mages in training, and are working towards their certification exam.

As part of their training, they learn that there are rules about how they are allowed to use their powers. Mages are not allowed to use their powers to control life. Making someone younger, healing injury, or curing disease are all forbidden. They are also not allowed to do other magic that may cause trouble, such as creating money.

Magic is hard to understand. In one episode we see Yume try to use her magic and fail. Every other time she tries she succeeds. We never come to understand what makes a particular action easy or hard. I don’t think we’re supposed to.

First, a few nitpicks:

Someday's Dreamers - Angela Brooks

The voice of Angela Brooks in the dub is just terrible. She sounds far too old. She sounds like a middle-aged woman, not at all like a teenage girl. Her sour demeanor made her character a bit repulsive to me, and so her romantic sub-plot struck me as uninteresting. (The Japanese voices are all excellent.)

Someday's Dreamers - Some Jerk

People were a little meaner to Yume than really made sense. Lots of people were needlessly rude to her. Yume is a very, very polite fifteen seventeen year-old girl (not to mention adorable) and I just found it hard to believe so many people were so eager to heap abuse on her. Perhaps there is an undercurrent of cultural mage-hate that explains this, but as I watched it the whole thing made non-mages seem like a bunch of selfish brutes and fools.

Someday's Dreamers - Hocus Pocus!

They call the ability to use magic, and the magic itelf, “Special Power”. As in, “Please! Use special power to do such-and-such”, or , “I wish I had special power”. This exists in both the sub and dub. My problem with this is that “special power” is a bit of a clumsy phrase. Doesn’t the fact that it’s a power make it special? Wouldn’t they have some kind of word for “special power”? It would have been more interesting to leave those words untranslated, and just use the Japanese words for “special power”.

But all of these are trivial issues. The series is quite enjoyable.

Someday's Dreamers - Mystery Girl

(A few mysteries remain at the end of the story. For example, what was the deal with the little girl who only Yuma could see? Who was she and why couldn’t anyone else see her? Why did her hair stop sticking up for those few minutes? I really expected this to pay off later, but it was just left as an unexplained mystery. Steven has notes on this here.)

During her training, Yume doesn’t so much learn how to use special power magic as learn all the problems related to the use of magic. She sees that magic is difficult to use not because her powers are unwieldy, but because problems are often more complex than they seem. Sometimes good people have perfectly reasonable yet conflicting goals. Sometimes people don’t know what they really want. Sometimes people know what they want but ask for it poorly, or don’t ask for it directly. Sometimes people ask for things that will not solve their problems. Sometimes they don’t forsee the full results of the thing they request, and end up with a worse set of problems than the ones they started with. All of this is assuming the Mage even understands the request and performs it properly. Magic is not a panacea. Indeed, it is a lot like money, fame, or influence: It can often do more harm than good if used foolishly.

In the series Yume sees people without magic who wish they had it. She sees people who have it refuse to use it. Even with the power to perform miracles, she sees that many problems can’t be solved because the problem is what is in the person’s heart, and she can’t change that. At least, not by using magic.

The ending was quite unexpected. After the build-up about how powerful her mother is/was, I was sort of expecting something really huge at the end. Something that broke the rules or even redefined the rules. I thought the ending would be something that altered the world, or at least the city. I thought maybe she would somehow grant speical power to people on a mass scale. Or abolish special power. Or at least perform something that could be seen all over the city. I really expected to see the classic supernova of magic and emotion that parts the clouds and beams down from above. I expected a light show and probably some flying. I mean, we’re watching anime here. That’s how these stories end.

They went the other direction entirely. It was her most successful miracle, and it was perhaps the most subtle and understated. Keeping in mind the limitations of magic, and the fact that most problems are in a person’s heart and have little to do with the physical objects around them, this was a very impressive miracle.

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1414 comments. (Fourteen is the sum of the first three squares.)

From the Archives:

  1. I’m going to try to talk around some spoilers by making vague references to them which will make sense to those who have watched the series but won’t really give away anything to those who have not. But if you think I went over the line, could you pink-out those parts for me? (I’ll try graying them out but I suspect your comment system won’t let me.)

    Regarding “special power”, in Japanese the word they’re using is mahou which means “magic”. I think that “special power” is something the English translator went with in order to avoid the Harry Potter connotations (or the Lina Inverse connotations) of the word “magic” with American audiences.

    Yume is 17, not 15. The events of the series take place during the summer vacation of her junior year in high school. (The Japanese school year begins in April and adjourns for the summer after the first term.) Angela is also 17, and so is Zennosuke. I don’t think we were told how old Inoue is, but he can’t have been a lot older.

    There were actually two cases where Yume’s magic failed: the bargirl, and on the windows.

    I’ve got a list of questions and answers about the series here, and one of the things I discussed was the little girl.

    As to the spell she cast for her certification exam, in fact there’s good visual evidence that it really was extraordinarily difficult. When she’s gathering her power before it goes into effect, it doesn’t look like any other spell cast by anyone. She’s really pouring on the juice — and if you consider that she meant to “pierce a barrier” then it’s understandable that she might need that much power. My one regret is that we didn’t get to see the alarms going off in the monitoring center; she must have melted the power meter, or set an entirely new record. And it’s not just that her peak power must have been absurdly high, but that she maintained that level of power for nearly 3 minutes in order to keep the channel open that entire time.

    But what she did was also appropriate, and in fact represented a degree of restraint on her part, which indicated both maturity and good judgment.

    Her final spell is another thing I talked about in that TMW. As you say, the real lesson she has to learn is that she isn’t capable of solving some problems. But she can use her magic to help people solve their own problems, or to give them an opportunity to do so. That’s what she does in the end, and unwittingly it’s what she did for Zennosuke (the high school soccer player). In both cases she forced them to take an honest look at themselves and what they’d become — and in both cases they decided they didn’t like it, and decided to change.

    One thing I really like is that in the 11th episode Gimpun told Yume the answer: “I can’t tell you, because the answer will only help you if you find it yourself.” That is the answer for Yume. Isn’t that nice? And by the time she went back to the bar, she’d figured it out.

  2. Nope, my attempt to gray out my spoilers didn’t work, which is what I expected. Oh, well.

  3. Shamus says:

    Thanks for your thoughts. Anyone can pink-out stuff by using <span class=spoiler>Darth Vader is really Luke’s father</span>

    But that’s not at all an obvious solution. We need a spoiler-specific HTML tag. :)

  4. Well, I’ll try it, but I bet it doesn’t work because I bet the comment system strips out all spans: Is this pink?

  5. Ye Gods! Whatever you changed, change it back!

  6. Pixy Misa says:

    Yeah, that don’t work so goo.

  7. Pixy Misa says:

    “Good”. Don’t work so good.

  8. Shamus says:

    Doh!

    I see. It only lets me use HTML.

    Sigh.

  9. Pete Zaitcev says:

    I was badly repulsed by the depiction and the role of the government in the anime. What’s worse, the problem was framed explicitly by the creators, and they clearly stated that those who do not make themselves willing cogs in the machine are criminals. The lie of a good government where kind Mr. Edo offsets effects of bad regulations with caring selective enforcement was nauseus.

    The most frightening thought is that many people (especially Japanese) may be buying into the concept, and not just taking it as an device of the storytelling. I saw the same undercurrent in other anime as well, but never with such clarity and naked honesty.

    Someday’s Dreamers is a great anime otherwise. I have a boxed set.

  10. HC says:

    It’s a great series.

    I’m not quite sure why you think that Yume’s powers do not lend themselves to combat – think about how she crosses the road at the beginning. Or Angela’s visit to Tokyo Tower. We don’t see them in combat, but I rather expect that mages could be quite dangerous in war through mere exercises of brute force – let alone the more subtle measures for which they are trained.

    As SDB says, the choice of ‘Special Power’ for mahou is quite odd. Maybe they wanted to exclude all implications of the ‘wool of bat, and tongue of dog’ style of magic – but that implication is much stronger in 魔法 (mahou) than magic. That’s the same ma as in akuma (悪魔) or maou (魔王).

    The universal conscription of mages in the service of the government is an interesting choice, and not necessarily as simple as it seems.

    Dubs are rarely satisfying.

  11. Shamus says:

    I’m not quite sure why you think that Yume’s powers do not lend themselves to combat –

    It doesn’t lend itself to the classic anime “energy blast” style combat for which anime is famous. I’m sure they could do it, but even if they did that would be doing things the hard way. Sort of like: Why explode a tank with a beam when you could turn all the tanks into potted plants? But it’s arguable. I’m sure the writers could come up with interesting (i.e. not over in an instant) combat with mages on both sides.

  12. There’s at least one hint in the series that mage-versus-mage combat might well be part of the scenario. It’s in the voiceover for one of the teasers, a conversation between Yume and Angela where Yume talks about various mage police units who have the job of hunting down and capturing renegade mages.

  13. ayanami rei says:

    that’s photo are so nice…..i would more photo’s with yume…

  14. LENI says:

    Yeah I just finished the series and I was really lookinf forward to Inoue and Angela being in a relationship. Awww does Inoue love her back?

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