In Another Dream

This world is your oyster

Welcome to In Another Dream, a one page shrine dedicated to the short manga Chikyuu wa Boku ga Mawasu (The Earth Is Turning by My Hand) by Nawo Inoue. As the shrine is a thorough examination of the manga, there are spoilers from the start. The current layout was optimized for Chrome and desktop view.

Chikyuu wa Boku ga Mawasu is a psychological one-volume manga that was first serialized in the josei manga magazines Mugen Anthology and haruca between 2012 and 2014. As it has not been published in English, this shrine’s content is based on the English translation provided by the scanlation group Lovely Strange Dark, which is also where you can read the manga. (More specifically, login to Batoto.)

Though this is a shrine to the manga itself — the story’s narrow scope necessitates addressing it in its entirety for my purposes — the focus will be on the sidekick Inoru. Look, the entire motivation behind this shrine is to show off Inoru’s comfy hoodie! (Give me all the female manga characters with casual ensembles and pretty stockings. Give me the wardrobe I’ve never had. /sobs)

If there’s anything you'd like to say about this dedication, I’d be delighted about any feedback in my guestbook! Thanks a lot for your visit.

listed at: AmassmentEmotion
last update: October 2016

Landscape of Alienation

Story & themes

Lovely Strange Dark Shuhei Kurata is stuck. Going to a new school where he doesn’t fit in, standing still as his old friends leave him behind. Watching silently as the woman he loves slips further and further away. He feels detached and out of place, as if maybe it all might be a dream. Perhaps it is…

Chikyuu wa Boku ga Mawasu is a very quiet coming of age story. As is typical of those, the protagonist struggles with a changing world wherein he has to redefine himself: Just as his relationships and environment cannot forever remain as they were, so does he have to adapt to a continuously evolving reality. Failing to do so results in a standstill, which, in this story, means reliving the same dream over and over, doomed to repeat the few days that make up the time loop.

While the manga has its shortcomings and its emotional moments remain subdued throughout, its themes and mood do speak to me: The clean art style — the pure black and white aesthetics, the scarce use of backgrounds — goes well with Shuhei’s emotional detachment and bleak outlook; the dream setting and the disorientation that comes with not knowing what’s happening underline his physical and mental isolation. Running away from a reality where you lack control and feel left behind, desperately trying to avoid pain, creating a parallel world where you can give shape to your desires: These are all things associated with adolescence and narratives thereof. In that context, the dream setting gives literal meaning to retreating to your innermost in order to confront your flaws and self-doubts, and waking up to pursue a new path in your growth.

Shuhei The town as I knew it has changed— All the familiar sights, gone. This is not the same town where I told her I loved her.

Change can be so immensely hard and painful. It makes you question the structures and bonds that were, doubt their sincerity; it forcefully ejects you from the world you thought you knew; it robs you of all that was once certain, and makes you hesitant to place your trust in anything new (why bother if nothing is designed to last?); it isolates you because you feel all alone with your struggles; it strips you of any power you thought you had as you realize that you can’t make things go back to how they were.

I think that the manga beautifully captures the desolateness of that state. Perhaps it is its unexpected quietness that drew me in (ending spoilers ahead!): Shuhei feels lost and drained, struggling with his own indecisiveness to the very end, but the end of the story doesn’t come with any big revelations. Shuhei doesn’t find a miraculous solution to his emotional entanglements, and there is no external impetus or internal ambition that makes him decide to wake up. No, he decides to leave the dream because he understands that he can’t run away forever — it’s as simple and as monumental as that. And that, I think, says a whole lot about the strength that goes into the act of living on, facing a reality that doesn’t wait for you.

Wanderers of the In-Between

Characters

A boy who escapes into his dream

Shuhei initially struggles because he can’t find his own place, but comes to realize that it is him who is putting up walls, afraid of letting others in. His personal stagnation is portrayed in the increasing distance to an old friend and the one-sided love he harbours for his brother’s fiancée. He is left to experience particularly strong memories over and over, and though he understands that he’s seeking refuge in his dream, he still can’t manage to change the course of things, whether to find a way out of the dream or to grant his own wishes.

Author’s Postscript Somehow, the main character turned into an indecisive, pathetic boy. When I was writing the story, I didn’t think being in a wish fulfillment dream would make him a badass hero all of a sudden. That was fine and all, but he was pathetic up to the last chapter. Sorry, main character.

A girl who lives in dreams

Inoru is a dream eater who resides in Shuhei’s dream, suddenly appearing in front of him one day and demanding to move in. Though she provokes him at first, her disposition switches to one of cooperation after observing him for a while. She inserts herself as an anomaly into his repeating everyday life and takes on the role of a guide, intent on helping him figure out what his wish is so that he may wake up. As a dream eater, she neither has any memories of her own nor any knowledge of the world outside of the dream.

Author’s Postscript I like that girls are mentally stronger than boys, so the heroine (?), Inoru — like any other girl — has nerves of steel. Even though she lives in dreams, she’s both pragmatic and selfish. Not the type of girl boys fantasize about. Maybe I should have made her more likable, but I do love tough girls… so it all works out, right?

My Dream Girl

Fashion sense

What are you waiting for? Go on, talk to her!

Click on the different outfits to ask her out get to know her better by revealing extremely self-indulgent mini-galleries, accessed via the black squares. The gallery can also be navigated with keyboard arrows and the mousewheel. Leave the last two outfits for later to avoid spoilers.

Why are you getting worked up?
I’m kinda seeing you in a new light.
What are you doing?
See something you like?
It’s ok.

Night Terrors Begone

Dream eaters

In Japanese folklore, the Baku is known as a dream eater: a creature that visits sleeping dreamers at night to devour their nightmares. It is said that the Baku can be summoned either by asking for its protection prior to falling asleep, or by calling out to it three times in the wake of a bad dream. The Baku would promptly appear to devour the evil spirits at the source of the nightmare, allowing the summoner to drift back into peaceful sleep. Caution must be exercised when imploring its help, however, for if the Baku’s hunger isn’t satiated, it might eat any hopes, ambitions and desires within the person as well, leaving behind an empty shell.

The Baku has its origins in Chinese folklore; legend has it that it was created from the leftover pieces used by the gods to create all other animals. Depictions of it have changed over time, ranging from chimera to tapir.

For more information regarding its history and appearances along with different depictions of it, head over to Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.

Below are some creatures inspired by the Baku in other media! Click on them for more info and further sources.

In Digimon, Tapirmon (Bakumon in Japanese) is believed to have been generated from a medical computer used to detect brain waves, using the data humans send in REM sleep as nourishment. Befitting of its Vaccine attribute (Digimon of this attribute tend to have a strong sense of justice and fight against evil; the opposite of the Virus attribute), it is capable of purging nightmares and malignant computer viruses and converting them, which is why it is regarded as sacred. Tapirmon is among those with a Holy Ring: worn only by Holy Digimon, it bestows them with great power relative to their holiness. Its Nightmare Syndrome attack drowns opponents in terror as all of its captured nightmares are released at once. In the anime, a corrupted Tapirmon without its Holy Ring infects the characters with bad dreams in order to manipulate their actions; once purified, Tapirmon thanks them with a good dream.
In Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, Dream Eaters are either allies or enemies: Spirits are guides and protectors that eat bad dreams and can be recruited to fight at your side, whereas Nightmares, born from the darkness, eat good dreams and plant bad ones. As Spirits replace set party members in this game, raising them comes with quite some depth, complete with synthesis, affinity levels (involving petting and feeding), and different personalities with corresponding ability sets and behaviour in battle. There’s a wide variety of Dream Eaters, and for every Nightmare, there’s a corresponding Spirit. The ones above are Magik Lapins.
In Pokémon, the Psychic types Drowzee and Munna (and, to a lesser extent, their evolutions, Hypno and Musharna) were inspired by the Baku; according to Pokédex entries, Drowzee is even said to be directly descended from it. Both of them eat good and bad dreams alike — whether of people or Pokémon, and with preference for good dreams — which are then forgotten by the dreamer. Beyond that, Munna is linked to incenses, whereas Drowzee is heavily associated with sleep itself, holding vast powers related to it. Drowzee also sports the Baku’s characteristic trunk, in case you were wondering why its nose is mentioned so often. (Wow, it creeped me out in the past — still does? — due to Hypo’s appearance in the anime, but its ambiguous nature and humorous traits would make it a lovely partner Pokémon. Those powers!)
In Yo-kai Watch, Baku puts humans to sleep before feasting on their dreams. Her evolution, Bakulia, is able to find out what’s on people’s minds by entering their dreams. Aside from sleep-inducing abilities, Baku can help the player in several ways: By assuming the player’s appearance (as one of the few Yokai capable of transformation), she can take their place in bed, which allows for them to escape their parents’ watchful eyes at night; by eating the player’s dream, she removes all of their exhaustion, leaving them full of energy. As the player needs to explore the town at night and Baku’s ability is unique, befriending her is crucial to progressing in the game. In the anime, Baku is in search of an incredible dream that will fulfill her, and can show dreams not immediately devoured to other characters. Also in the anime, Whapir (Haku in Japanese) — a rare white Baku that blesses others with good dreams — has the ability to project memories.

In My Time of Need

Wishes & prayers

I fell in love with Inoru’s design and whimsical nature at first sight, but what truly fascinates me is the ambivalence of her role, as her ever-changing motives are beyond Shuhei and the reader’s grasp: In the beginning, she’s a question mark who appears every now and then to get a rise out of Shuhei while also being the only person who knows what’s happening. Next, she provokes him into living out his wishes within his dream, which, to me, gave off the impression that she was trying to trap him in that world. After all, it’s easy to let go of the real world if you can get anything you want in your made-up fantasy.

Inoru, however, isn’t a malicious figure. When Shuhei lets go of the woman he loves once again, choosing to respect her wishes even within his dream realm, Inoru teases and laughs at him, but also takes an interest in him: the part of him that doesn’t use dreams as wish fulfillment only to drown in them. It would seem as though she has never met anyone quite like that before.

From then on, she actively tries to make his wish come true by offering him support and guidance. More than just a guide, I would say that Inoru also becomes his friend, fooling around with him, listening to his stories and cheering him on — all of that during the time he feels the loneliest.

Shuhei You said you didn’t change anything by showing up. But you did. It wasn’t much, but I could feel it.

When Shuhei finally regains some of his suppressed memories and understands that reliving and altering events within the dream won’t change what happened in reality, he confides in Inoru: He admits that he knows he ought to wake up, but that he’s afraid of doing so. And that’s when Inoru’s motivations change once again:

Inoru If you’re afraid… why not just stay in your dream world? If you want to get away from pain and sadness, it’s all right. I’m a dream eater. I’ll eat your bad dreams for you. I love it, too — your dream. I can’t live outside people’s dreams. If I’m going to live, I want to live in a dream I enjoy. If you’re staying, I want to stay with you.

I believe that the fluctuations in Inoru’s motivations can only be fully grasped if you understand the origins of dream eaters, namely the Baku in Japanese folklore. The Baku is a benevolent spirit, but inviting it also comes with an element of risk. As a dream eater, it is Inoru’s duty to remove harmful elements from Shuhei’s dream. In this story, that begs the question what constitutes as harmful: Is it the dream itself, or is it the events that led him to escape into his dream? Does he want and need to wake up, or should he remake his world within the dream?

Inoru has a clearly designated role, one that demands of her to comply with Shuhei’s wishes. However, the Baku of folklore doesn’t act purely out of altruism: It feasts on dreams, and if you summon it only to leave it unfulfilled, it might decide to take more than what was intended. I do believe that Inoru tries to help Shuhei to the best of her abilities, and she’s shown not to judge him for any of his decisions (nor does she ever call him a loser when he’s being self-deprecating). But it’s important to see that in this scene, she’s bringing her own perspective into this, thus confounding what he wants with what she wants for herself. No longer is she a neutral guide.

Inoru’s changing motivations throughout the story are thus a reflection of Shuhei’s own indecisiveness, their evolving relationship as well as her own sense of self.

All Dreams Must End

Amulet

As said above, Inoru’s support is genuine, but that’s not all there is. While the story’s focus is on Shuhei’s struggles and he himself admits that he barely knows anything about her, there are occasional lines of hers that, to me, hint at her own loneliness: truths that come with her existence as a dream eater.

One instance of this is when she clearly enjoys browsing Shuhei’s photo album, calling him lucky and mentioning in passing that she has no memories to claim as her own; another is when Shuhei asks her what’s going on in real life, to which she has no answer as she doesn’t exist outside of dreams. Neither of them dwells on those statements, but it feels lonely to me.

Close to the end of the story, when it seems as though Shuhei has made up his mind to remain in his dream world rather than face the painful reality, Inoru takes him out on a date. Realizing that he’s having a good time with her, Shuhei takes it as an opportunity to forget about real life altogether. Again, I wouldn’t see this as Inoru trying to trap Shuhei, but as her helping him in her own way.

More importantly though, by this stage at the latest, Inoru has come to care about him in a very personal way — perhaps beyond her function as a guide, as she becomes physically affectionate and is curious about what he thinks of her. Her teasing now has something coquettish to it, and even Shuhei notices how her expressions are much more vivid than before.

Throughout the date, voices from Shuhei’s life call out to him as he tries to tune them out. His internal monologue consists of his attempts to convince himself that he has made the right choice, something that Inoru must be intuitively aware of. She invites him to a kiss, but he breaks away, and she brushes it off. Hiding her true feelings, she asks him what he wants to do the next day, and tells him that every day would be fun in the world they’re in.

As the voices in his head grow louder, Shuhei understands at long last that he has control over his dream, and that it’s ultimately up to him to continue or end it. He tells Inoru that he has decided to go back after all — not so much because of the people who care about him, in my opinion, but out of a sense of personal responsibility for his own life.

To his astonishment, Inoru breaks out into tears. The Inoru up to this point has only ever showed unconditional support, but now, for the first time since Shuhei entered the dream world, Inoru allows herself to give voice to her selfishness. Much like the Baku, her own hunger — for company, for friendship, for love — hasn’t been satiated.

Inoru It doesn’t hurt, does it? Because this is a dream. You guys run away from a reality that pains and hurts you. But you always choose to go back. When you wake up, you’ll forget all about your dreams. Why do I even exist?

It’s in this moment that the reader finally and truly sees Inoru not just as a function, but as a person of her own with her own desires. Inoru guides dreamers through their issues, fully knowing that that will make them leave, and she has been doing so all in good spirit while holding back her own wishes.

Shuhei I’m sure Inoru has had to say goodbyes over and over and over. When we wake up, we leave her behind. She’s been alone all this time.

Even so, Inoru’s existence is necessary: Though she is “only” capable of supporting and not leading, her presence serves as a guide to lost dreamers. Inoru is very much like an inner voice that helps them sort out their troubles at their own pace, keeping them company on their journey of introspection. She takes the role of therapist and friend, lending ear and shoulder to those who lay bare their pain to her — even if it comes at the cost of her own identity and wants.

Though goodbyes are painful and Inoru will inevitably disappear from Shuhei’s memory, that doesn’t mean that her existence has made no difference. Inoru’s impact shows in the Shuhei who has gone on his journey, and who is now ready to emerge from his dream as a person ready to face life once more, a person capable of maturing. He doesn’t have life all figured out, he can’t change who he is right away, and he knows he still has his flaws and that he’ll still mess up in the future — but due to what she has given him, he is able to go on.

This matured Shuhei leaves Inoru with words of gratitude and hope, surprising her with his genuineness one last time.

Shuhei You do have a purpose, you know. I don’t know what I should say, but… I’ll come back and see you. I’m a total loser. Maybe I’ll give in to my weakness again. But I won’t be running away from real life. I’ll see you in another dream.

All she can do is seeing him off with a smile, even as the tears don’t stop.

Inoru You’re the first person to ever say that to me. Thank you. See you again.

Dawn of a New Day

Afterimage

Back in Shuhei’s reality, he has started to make small steps toward his future, his changed attitude not going unnoticed by those around him. It’s not a drastic change, but he is now able to move forward with new determination. He still wavers, but there’s an air of certainty around him regarding the small steps he has to take next. Rather than running away, Shuhei is indeed trying his best to face reality as it comes — and that’s what matters: trying.

The story ends with him being the last to leave the classroom, right after waking from an unintended nap. On his way out, he bumps into a girl wearing his school’s uniform. He apologizes to her, she assures him that she’s alright, and he leaves. The girl looks on as he slowly walks away, then picks up the career counselling sheet that he dropped.

What a jerk. You forgot all about me. — Hey, it’s all blank. That’s right. We’ll start with a blank canvas. For your future, and… your new dream!

It’s a bittersweet open ending, especially as Shuhei’s sincere “I’m really sorry” carries meaning beyond his knowledge. Inoru’s appearance raises several questions: Has she always been a student attending the same school, one with the supernatural powers or duty to counsel others in their dreams? Is she real, or was that apparition merely a remnant of Shuhei’s dream? In the end, the reader is left to wonder — but it’s not as though the answers to these questions are of importance: Whether or not Inoru is “real”, she has made a difference, and though dreams are intangible experiences, they are capable of leaving their mark.

The Ones Left Behind

Phantasms

Endings of stories involving memories of events not real to anyone but the dreamer (or, in the case of parallel worlds, the traveller) have something very melancholic and lonely to them that I appreciate. Characters in roles like Inoru’s stay with me: companions, guides and friends that stay behind or fade away, and whose existence will be forgotten or replaced in some way once the protagonist has reached the end of their journey. This is very specific, and it overlaps with some other tropes that I enjoy (companions that sacrifice themselves during the last legs of the journey; doors to parallel worlds that are forever closed off; mirror images of someone dear to the protagonist), so it’s rare for me to come across it.

The following are three such instances that left big impressions on me, and that I connect to Inoru in one way or another, making them a major motivation behind this shrine.

Click on them for more info. Be warned that there are ending spoilers for Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, minor spoilers for an early part of Angel Sanctuary, and vague spoilers for Steins;Gate.

On forgotten promises

In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Naminé wields the power to manipulate Sora’s memories. Among the “Nobodies” in the game, her existence is considered special due to the circumstances of her birth, heavily linking her to both Sora and Kairi (the person dear to him) while leaving her without memories of her own. During the events of the game, she inserts herself in Sora’s memories by taking Kairi’s place in them — partly under orders, partly due to her own loneliness: the loneliness of not existing inside anyone’s heart.

These false memories become Sora’s primary motivation to fight through the Castle Oblivion. When he eventually learns the truth and sees Naminé’s remorse, he forgives her and tells her that even though the memories were lies, they still feel real. That’s actually what a lot of substories in Kingdom Hearts are about: Things may be fake due to the way they have come about, but the way they have existed and how they affect the present — especially present feelings — is real. Because of that, even the fake, the replicated and the forgotten hold value.

After all battles have finished, Sora is given the choice to lose his memories of the castle in order to reclaim his old ones, or to give up those old memories so as to keep the new ones. He asks of Naminé to restore his memories — a heartbreaking decision, as it means that her existence will be forgotten, but one that she understands nevertheless. The game ends with Sora entering a deep slumber, a requirement for Naminé to rearrange the links in his chain of memories.

Before falling asleep, Sora promises Naminé to find her once he wakes up so that they may become friends, without any lies. Though she replies that he’s going to forget making one such promise, he follows up with her explanation from before: Just because something is not remembered, it doesn’t mean that it’s gone; the chain of memories may come apart, but the links, and thus the memory of the promise, would remain somewhere inside of him.

Their final moment together is one of my favourite endings ever:

Naminé Don’t worry. You might forget about me… but with our promise, I can come back.
Sora A promise is a promise.
Naminé Yes. One day the light— it will be ours, and it will bring us together. Til then— I’ll be in your heart.
Sora Right. Forgotten — but not lost.

On exiting the dream

In Angel Sanctuary, a devastating chain of events early on leads to Sara’s death after she sacrifices herself to save Setsuna’s life, whereupon Setsuna decides that a world without his loved one is meaningless. He “wakes up” in a dream, a world where everyone is still alive and any traces of the supernatural that have been haunting him are absent. The things he remembers from reality aren’t the same in the dream, including the nature of his relationships to those originally close to him. These confusions throw him off repeatedly as he navigates the new “reality”, yet he’s eager to accept all of the new facts as truths, even as flashbacks of the event he’s running away from are present in his subconsciousness.

In a quiet moment with his beloved, he gently catches her and tells her about the “very sad, very long, and incredibly real dream” he had, and recounts the things they went through together therein. When he reaches the point of the actual Sara’s imminent death, he stops; the Sara in his dream reassures him and tells him that the nightmare is over. As she waves her ruby ring in front of him, however, he remembers the toy ring that was so dear to the real Sara, and it finally triggers his suppressed memories.

At this point, Sara’s dream image suddenly seems to gain self-awareness: She tells him to cease talking about his “dream”; as long as he doesn’t say it out loud, he could stay in that simulated reality forever. As Setsuna’s voice becomes more and more determined, the dream image’s pleas grow more and more desperate, until finally—

Setsuna This is here is not real. You are not the real Sara! You are nothing but a phantasm, pieced together from my feelings for her. I knew that this world wasn’t real… But still I wanted to stay with you.

Tears fall from Setsuna’s eyes, and — in one of the most haunting manga spreads in my memory — the phantasm dissolves, taking the dream world with it and throwing him back into reality.

On partners in time

Time-travelling narratives often come with someone who supports the protagonist as the latter is scrambling to prevent a specific event from happening while trying to solve some underlying mystery. In Steins;Gate, for example, that helper is Kurisu, a young accomplished scientist who joins Rintarou’s hobby laboratory. Without spoiling things too much (the game won’t be mentioned again after this paragraph), once Rintarou finally starts to jump back in time as well as across different timelines, Kurisu becomes the one person who will always help him out — no matter where and when, in any reality, and even in the most despairing situations.

Something that always makes me wistful when it comes to time travel stories is the temporary nature of these “time-travelling partners”. As it’s usually only the protagonist who has the ability to time travel, the partner they interact with is often a very specific incarnation: a person at a certain point in time, from a certain timeline, from very specific circumstances. When the protagonist alters events or jumps to a different timeline, the person they meet again in that altered reality is usually not the “same” person that experienced all those struggles with them — experiences that can be very extreme, and that usually connect the people who live through them together.

Stories of time-travelling in particular, but also stories of parallel and dream worlds (sometimes involving reincarnation too), have a tendency to end with the traveller or dreamer coming back to their own reality, where they then meet the “real” counterparts of people they’ve met in a different time or place. Sometimes, this is bittersweet: for example when the two people end up walking past each other as there is nothing in that reality that connects them; though they used to matter a lot to each other, one may now be incapable of recognizing the other. Other times, this is set up as something hopeful — as a chance to get to know the other person, as they are already “familiar” from events lived through in a different time or place.

Truth to be told, I have conflicting feelings about that hopeful scenario: Part of me appreciates those uplifting endings — the chance of characters you loved seeing together becoming close once more — another part adores the feeling of nostalgia, but yet another part of me doesn’t like them all that much. Those reunions, to me, are motivated by sentimental selfishness, and carry expectations with them; their aim is to rebuild the relationship to that person, even though the new relationship can never be the same as the relationship that has already been experienced (due to scenarios playing out differently). Yes, the foundations of that other person are still the same — but the memories of the time together are missing. As someone who thinks that it is memories that make up a person, it feels… cheap and insulting to that one special incarnation to “settle” for someone who doesn’t have those memories, even though it is the same person at their base.

Still, I understand that such endings are compromises to give both the characters involved as well as the audience their happy ending. Perhaps what’s actually an “issue” is that endings tend to cut off at that point — as open endings — rather than showing how that new relationship is built up over time, leaving it up to the audience to use their imagination. (Don’t get me wrong; generally speaking, I love open endings.) I, for one, would enjoy canon epilogues and bonus scenes that show how the new relationship differs from the one that came before. Rather than focusing on what’s the “same”, or miraculously transferring all the memories, I’d like to see how the characters address and reconcile those differences, and still manage to value that new relationship, independent of what came before.

I associate these three scenarios with Inoru for various reasons. In the first case, Shuhei and Inoru’s goodbye scene heavily reminded me of the final scene and promise between Sora and Naminé right away. (I was ecstatic.) Both girls are very isolated and become attached to the protagonist due to never having had an encounter of that kind before, yet both of them understand that the things and people truly important to said person aren’t them. By the end of the stories, the two protagonists make a choice that will lead them to forget those shadow girls — but not without leaving them with words of comfort: sincere promises filled with hope, however improbable they may sound.

In the second case, the scene from Angel Sanctuary quite obviously bears striking similarity to the entirety of Chikyuu wa Boku ga Mawasu. Like Shuhei, Setsuna doesn’t escape into a dream world simply due to things not going the way he wants in his reality: Neither of them is what you’d call a coward, their actual issues being that reality is crashing down on them, and they need that time to collect themselves (see the next section). Both dream worlds feel unsettling to the reader from the get-go, although for different reasons: Setsuna’s ever so slightly differs from the reality he experienced, whereas Shuhei’s harbours the mysterious Inoru who shows up all of a sudden. The fake Sara and Inoru mostly seem to play along at first, then speak up in the protagonists’ interests, telling them that it’s alright for them to remain within their fantasies. In the end, however, both girls reveal that they, too, have their own interests in mind, even if they firmly come second. What haunts me about the dissolution of Setsuna’s dream world is the fake Sara’s facial expression: an expression of pain and hurt, even though she is only a dream image. In the same vein, the reader doesn’t know with full certainty whether Inoru is “real” or whether she’s a phantasm in Shuhei’s mind only, yet she has very real emotions of her own.

In the third case, Inoru is very much like those time-travelling partners: a temporary go-to person within a certain setting and during a certain time. She can’t truly exist outside of that frame, yet does her best to offer Shuhei support. And when his journey is over, when he’s done reliving his days from the past, he leaves and forgets about her. When they meet in his reality, they walk past each other, no sign of recognition on his side — just as in typical time travel endings.

To take this even further, wouldn’t you agree that all the partners from these examples can be regarded as some kind of dream eater in their own right? All of them act with the protagonists’ well-being in mind — sometimes, what’s “best” for someone isn’t just a single thing, but multiple conflicting options — while guiding them through some very dark times and trying to protect them from any harm, even if the narratives around that darkness differ.

Speaking of which, there are two poems at the end of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories that are very dear to me, and that I link to the theme of this entire section in particular. I’d like to share them with you here:

There is always sleep between part and meet
with our usual words on the usual street.

So let us part like we always do
And in a world without you
I’ll dream of you.

When I come to, let us meet
with our usual words on the usual street.
Beyond the path without you
is a forgotten promise to keep.

We may have walked side by side,
but now we go on back to back.

And though our paths may not cross,
all paths are connected somewhere.

When I arrive at where you are,
we may not appear to be as we were…

But we’ll make another promise to keep.

Stay Awhile and Listen

Dream journeys

Coming across dream worlds in fiction is something that always strikes a chord in me (if you couldn’t tell by another shrine of mine, Setting Sun) — they fascinate me, just as dreams fascinate me.

Dreams are in-between worlds, all the more so when the dreamer is, on some level, aware of the fact that they’re dreaming. Even if events seem surreal and unsettling, they may still unfold, and even if the dreamer knows that certain things can’t possibly be happening, it doesn’t make them feel less real, whether or not they are desirable or pleasant. Due to that, dreams always come with a loss of control and the feeling of helplessness.

I particularly love it when a narrative in its entirety revolves around the state of dreaming, and ends with waking from that dream. That is not to say that I enjoy fantastic and gruesome experiences being erased the moment the protagonist wakes up — inconsequential stories rarely impress me. No, the reason dream narratives hold my interest is due to the way they are capable of shaping the reality after the dream, that is to say, when the things someone goes through in a dream have a lasting effect.

I am someone regularly haunted by dreams, especially in times of stress. These dreams often hurt me, sometimes deeply so, but they also help me figure out what deep-rooted issues and troubled thoughts are still buried within me. I’d like to think of myself as introspective, someone with a good grasp on the thoughts and feelings that currently govern the mind. I do, however, realize that because of my tendency to think that I have myself figured out and that everything within me is under control, I also have a habit of suppressing certain things until they eventually spill over. In my sleep, dreams would, without restraint, show me just how much of an issue something truly is; by holding up a true mirror of myself, they spell things out to me so that I either stop downplaying the issues — as that means invalidating my own feelings — or so that I can consciously process such thoughts.

Though I don’t know anything scientific about them, I believe that in dreams, I digest what happens in reality, and that dreams are capable of helping me grow in that way. When I wake from a dream, I may not remember it in its entirety, but the mood that it conveyed may follow me the entire day: from nostalgic to warm, from anguishing to comforting feelings.

Shuhei The whole time I was asleep, time went on without waiting for me. I had to face facts. The dream I kept having had no lasting effect. Reality is hard, painful, and sad. Sometimes I just want to get away from it all. When I try to move on, I look back. Again and again.

In stories such as Chikyuu wa Boku ga Mawasu, dreams are a respite, even when they’re painful: They form an inner world that allows the dreamer to retreat from physical reality with its consequences, providing them a temporary space for their recovery. By facing themselves and their own uncovered and visualized memories, the dreamer obtains the chance to go through a “trial run” in how to deal with their problems. Dreams are, in that form, a stepping stone to their new self: Though without immediate consequences, the actions that spring from what is carried from dream to reality may very well make a difference.

As eager as we are in the pursuit of accomplishments and improvements, it is of utmost importance to understand that rest and retreat are just as important, and that everyone goes at their own pace, taking the time they need to absorb their own reality.

Prayer Through the Night

The Site

This shrine was created in October 2016, released on Halloween: a liminal time during which the boundary between the worlds is blurred.

This layout’s alternating colours are meant to reflect the back-and-forth between sleeping and waking: the realm of dreams. Lucas’ latest network layout must have inspired some of it, namely with regard to the unbridled usage of inline-CSS (don’t judge me ok) and the enhanced borders around the manga panels. Who’d have thought that simple black borders could be so lovely?

On 24th October, I came across Lovely Strange Dark, a scanlation group whose mission statement and releases just happened to be exactly my aesthetic: What followed were two days of reading all of the group’s completed releases, all of them being unique — strange indeed — and whimsical, which is particularly pleasant as seinen and josei manga rarely see international release. Among them, Chikyuu wa Boku ga Mawasu spoke to me on a personal level, as I had only just begun to rise from several very dark and debilitating weeks. I spent the entire week after that obsessively working on In Another Dream as a means of recovery, hoping that by reliving Shuhei’s experiences, I would find the strength and courage needed to crawl out of the black pit.

Depression and hardships come and (hopefully) go. When I think back on some persons from earlier periods in my life who helped me through very hard times, I become sentimental. There’s something melancholic about relationships that are intended to be temporary from the very beginning. One’s own relationship to tutors, nurses and psychologists is an example of that: people who are there for you during a certain period of your life, people who help you face difficulties you may not have shared with anyone else, and who are aware of the weaknesses you’ve been struggling with. In some aspects, they may even know you more intimately than anyone else — yet, despite that intimacy, you have always been meant to part.

It’s sad, beginning something only to have it end — knowing all along that it would end — but those encounters are the ones that we need during that time; they are what may help us grow, so we must never be afraid to reach out. In many ways, the same can be said about any relationship that we start. At some point, we may even no longer remember those faces, those names — and still they will have contributed to the person we have become.

Shuhei resonates with me because he fumbles his way through the dark without finding any definite answers, yet finds the strength to go on. Inoru touches me because she’s a phantasm, yet so very human and real. Chikyuu wa Boku ga Mawasu leaves an impression on me because it says that even though dreams may be something you live through multiple times, there’s an end to them… and the same (hopefully) goes for the darkness that visits us from time to time.

There may be no dream eaters in our reality, but their role is filled by others: professional helpers, those close to us, and our friends that hold our hand when we wake in the middle of the night, trembling from unspoken fears, and who listen to us as we expose our weaknesses to them, and accompany us as we relive the pain so that we may make it through the night.

Don’t wander through the darkness alone — remember, the dream eater is only a few calls away.

Credits

All manga scans are from Lovely Strange Dark, a scanlation group whose projects I strongly recommend, miscellaneous scans are from Minitokyo. Textures used are from Webtreats. Fredericka the Great, Crimson Text, Sail, Droid Sans, Droid Serif and Fira Sans serve as content fonts. Scripts used are fancyBox, Animated Collapsible DIV, jQuery Tooltips and shapes polyfill.

Special thanks to Font Wizard Masao for summoning the gorgeous heading fonts out of thin air (based on a description as vague as ”god idek wtf I'm looking for, something surreal and dreamy but also like the world is crashing down on you” at that) as well as input on various coding issues, to resident Yo-kai Watch Enthusiast Destinie for feeding me supplemental information on those quirky spirits, and Partners in Time Andrea, Elysa and Larissa for beta-reading the time-travelling part for me! Lastly, thanks to all the lovely folks at Amassment and Twitter for expressing interest and cheering me on as I was working on this shrine; I am very moved by how many of you are sincerely interested in the things I create, and how much love and support I receive from you. Thank you for being my friends.

Linkage

If you would like to link this shrine, feel free to use one of the following buttons and direct it to http://six.oubliette.nu/dream! Please do not direct link buttons.