Movie: While I prefer science fiction anime shows, I'll admit to liking the standard issue Harem Show as much as the next guy. The clichés abound in such shows that typically center on a young male in his teenage years, thrown into circumstances where he is suddenly surrounded by a half dozen or so babes, most of whom want him. For whatever reason, they hang around in order to get into his good graces and the group often ends up in charge of saving the universe. If you're a true anime aficionado, you can likely rattle off a dozen (or more) such anime shows off the top of your head. Well, there's a reason why these shows are so popular in Japan, as well as domestically; guys like them. From seeing a bit of animated cleavage to the erstwhile panty shot, there's something about the fantasy aspect of such shows that seems to have all us male perverts (an oxymoron if I've ever heard one) interested. Today's review is of the latest such show, Yumeria: Enter The Dreamscape, as released by the nice folks at ADV Films. Here's what the cover says about the show:
"Meet Tomokazu Mikuri: Typical high-school freshman. Certifiable loser. Self-admitted pervert. Just an ordinary, unmotivated slacker. In a word: BORING! But when he falls asleep on the eve of his 16th birthday, things start to change – big time! He enters a fantastical dream world, where he's surrounded by a gaggle of gorgeous girls, oodles of otherworldly predators, and an ever-increasing influx of all-out weirdness! (Did we already mention all the gorgeous girls?) It's a test of good versus evil, real world versus dream world, and lots of action-packed, scantily clad battles for the very survival of mankind! Will Tomokazu save the world? Will he finally get lucky? Or will he just die trying?"
The episodes this time were 1) 16th Birthday, 2) Tomokazu Zero Points, 3) Bloomer V (Five), and 4) Operation School Swimsuit. They set up the story well enough but there was a duality of nature here that seemed somewhat of an ill fit for the subject material. In the regular world, Tomokazu is a slacker that all the guys, especially teachers, hate but his goofy charms work on most women. When he goes to sleep however, he becomes a central character in a war between the dream world and our own as some hideous, super powered geometrically shaped buildings/creatures try to kill him. He stumbled onto this plane of existence quite naturally but as the show continues, he finds more of his friends involved (all women of course) in skin tight outfits that leave little to the imagination.
The duality comes in as the show is your generic high school comedy during the day while once our lame lead nods off to sleep, even for a few moments; he is surrounded by attacking enemies and put on the defensive. I think either aspect could work on its own but as part of the same story it tends to fall flat, even though this is one of those "sometimes" parodies (with references to Sailor Moon and many other shows tossed in for genre fans). My biggest complaint was that the characters were so generic yet when pressed into service, they somehow were granted magical insight into how to use their brand new powers, a factor that might've worked better if one of them said something, anything, about it at any point in time during the four episodes. The crazy teacher and secondary roles were kind of thrown in at the last minute too and but for the pretty well done English language dub, I'd have hated it really fast. I'm going to rate it as a Rent It since I enjoy this type of show more than most but better extras might've helped with the replay value for me.
Picture: Yumeria: Enter The Dreamscape was presented in 1.85:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen color and looked very bright and cheerful. While not exactly sporting a cutting edge animation style, it was fairly well made and well within normal parameters of this sub-genre of anime. Don't expect a lot of detail when viewing it (the artists used various shortcuts here) but it was okay in most ways and I saw no compression artifacts or video noise when watching it. One look at the cover will tell most fans what it looked like though so give it a look to see what I mean.
Sound: The audio was presented in the standard 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo with the original Japanese soundtrack and an English language dub as the alternative. This was one of those times when I preferred the dub as male lead Chris Patton was perfect for the role (he's done numerous roles like this one and can probably do it on autopilot by now), with perennial voice actresses Monica Rial, Jessica Boone, Luci Christian among the cast of female heroines (kudos to John Gremillion for his role as the obsessive gym teacher; he made the role spring to life in the dub compared to the original version). The music and special effects seemed to be mixed louder, if not also displaying more separation, in the dub too but this is a personal taste of mine that ADV Films seems to readily cater to on a regular basis. Good work team!
Extras: The only extras were a clean opening & closing, a double sided DVD cover, and some trailers. I had hoped for some commentaries or Behind the Scenes featurettes that ADV has experimented with of late but maybe those will come in later volumes of the series.
Final Thoughts: Yumeria: Enter The Dreamscape didn't do the best job of explaining the basics of the parallel universe (the short bit in the later episode was corny to say the least), didn't develop the characters beyond the most basic of stereotypes, and seemed to be very generic on so many levels that I almost wondered if something was lost in the translation (it was billed as a parody but there were precious few laughs to be had). Frankly, I thought fellow reviewer Chris Tribbey's early assessment of the show (in our Anime Talk Column) might have been a little generous when first watching this one in the original Japanese audio track but the English language dub saved it for me (at least a little bit). I'll reserve judgment on the series as a whole until after I've watched a few more volumes but there was just enough spark of creativity to keep me hoping for the best. Decent production values, four episodes on the disc, and one of the more silly premises I've seen of late sure didn't hurt my opinion of it but it wasn't the best release of the month either.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003 and Best Of Anime 2004 article or regular column Anime Talk