.Itsudemo Yume o article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 5, No. 1, December 2001
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.

Ever dream of being a comic artist? Tadano has. He's the lead of Hidenori Hara's Itsudemo Yume o (Always Dreaming*). Tadano also dreams steamy dreams of Michiru, the girlfriend of Kotaro (both o's long), a friend who is much cooler than Tadano will ever be. The title's double meaning hints at the complex issues awaiting Tadano and the audience.

Perched atop his school's roof, Tadano is so engrossed with his pulp manga it takes Kotaro (both o's long) three attempts to get his attention. What? "Nothing," is Kotaro's (both o's long) reply. Tadano returns to his story, and a succession of expressive panels depicts his satisfaction with the experience. When he's done, Kotaro (both o's long) comments on Tadano's comic-inspired bliss, "Must be nice that just a manga can make you happy."

If only that were true. While Tadano derives a great deal of enjoyment from reading manga, he is also a sexually unfulfilled youth who must cope with his desire for his friend's girl. In Tadano's eyes, Michiru is like a heroine from a comic, and it's in comic form he expresses his desire for her -first in sketches, then in a story. Alone in his creativity, Tadano almost has a coronary when Michiru playfully snatches his sketchbook. Despite sharing the heroine's name, she doesn't seem to make the connection. She thinks it would be awesome if Tadano became a famous manga artist and encourages him to go for it. Thus inspired, Tadano polishes up his manga and takes it to his favorite publisher. His hopes of impressing Michiru with success are dashed when the editor he shows it to casually rips it to shreds.

Life gets worse when Tadano's dramatic plan to garner Michiru's sympathy fails. Later, he accidentally walks in on Kotaro (both o's long) and Michiru having sex. Oops! Eventually it occurs to Michiru to ask about the manga she stars in. Although their conversation is interrupted, she figures out Tadano needs some help from his friends. When Kotaro (both o's long) and his cohorts start calling him Tadano-sensei, all it does is embarrass him, but when Kotaro (both o's long) presents him with a costly stack of screen tone, Tadano's enthusiasm returns.

Kotaro's (both o's long) boisterousness has an unexpected side effect --Kojima, a cute manga enthusiast, overhears and decides to invite Tadano into her circle of creative friends. It's more sour grapes for Tadano when Kojima wins the comic contest he'd had aspirations of entering. By this time, Tadano's fallen so far behind in his studies, he figures he might as well keep at it. His second submission gets a positive reaction. Once the ball starts rolling, Tadano's life becomes more and more entangled the high-pressure world of manga publishing. With help and hindrances from the believably unique characters he meets, Tadano must learn to overcome the adversities in his life in order to succeed. The lesson is a long, slow, painful one.

Like Hara's other romantic comedies --read about Fuyu Monogatari (Winter Story), in Animerica Extra vol. 2, no. 5-- Always Dreaming takes its time to unfold, baiting you with a deceptively simple beginning only to spiral into something more complex and meaningful. Also like his other Young Sunday anthology titles, this series is aimed at adults and doesn't have furigana (the syllabary characters seen above or next to kanji in some manga). With Hara's careful pacing and expressive artistic style, this is not as great an impediment as it is with other adult comics. Besides, Always Dreaming is worth it just for its interesting portrayal of the world of manga publishing, let alone the drama and comedy of Tadano's life.

*I know you used Dream Your Dream in the Winter's Story article, so change the translation if you like.