Previously I looked at the best uses of phones in anime and this week I’ve decided to turn my attention to dream sequences. My criteria wasn’t that these were the best dreams but the best use of a dream sequence to serve either the character development or the plot. This is strictly my opinion so as always, I’d love to know what would be on your list.
Please Note – There are spoilers below.
Honourable mentions to Ouran High School Host Club and Card Captor Sakura.
Number 5: Madoka Magica
Madoka Magica uses dreams in a similar fashion to a lot of magical girl stories. Our main protagonist starts by having a dream of fantastical and terrible events before waking in the mundane real world where she is decidely ordinary. However, what sets this particular story apart is the nature of the dream itself. Madoka is seeing alternate realities where she has lived through the events to their conclusion before Homura has rewound time start over to try to change the outcome. This makes the events of the dream fairly significant to understanding the eventual outcome of the story and gives it a bit more weight on rewatching than just a cool battle sequence to start events off.
Number 4: Another
This one is as straight forward as it comes and yet very affective. Kouichi has started to get to know Mei and as a result has been ostracised by his friends (okay is being deliberately and entirely ignored). It makes sense that he is starting to have fantasies and dreams about the one person who is talking to him still. However, other than showing that the two are forging a bond, this dream sequence also gives the audience a space to take a breath. Another is continuously hitting its audience with a dark and gloomy atmosphere with each scene dripping in over the top seriousness, so this brief moment of respite, even though it is a dream, is welcome and also the calm before the horror that follows. All and all, it works well within the narrative.
Number 3: One Punch Man
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the biggest fan of One Punch Man but I did appreciate what they did in the dream sequence where we see Saitama energised and enthused in a way we rarely see him reality. What does a man who can defeat everything in One Punch actually want? Clearly, he wants a decent fight. Seeing his character quite literally come to life in the dream made the contrast with his everyday incredibly flat emotional state so incredibly clear and just made him a much better character because you could see he wasn’t bored and disinterested by choice. He genuinely wanted to feel alive. There just wasn’t anything left to challenge him.
Number 2: Sailor Moon
Like Madoka, Sailor Moon also begins with a dream sequence where Serena dreams of the destruction of the Moon Kingdom as well as the guy she thinks she’s going to fall in love with. However, revealing their past lives isn’t the only thing dreams are used for throughout Sailor Moon. Villains attack characters through their dreams, the dead communicate with the living, future selves send dire warnings, and prophecies for the future all come through dreams. Then again, the entire show is about protecting the dreams of people so it makes sense that the idea of dreams is returned to again and again. Overall, remove the dreams from Sailor Moon and you wouldn’t have much of a show left.
Number 1: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
The climax of season 1 (broadcast order) sees Kyon and Haruhi stuck in a closed space she created where the two characters get to spend some quality time together and may or may not reveal some fairly interesting points about their developing relationship. However, what I like about the sequence is that after it is over Kyon wakes up from a dream but the next day at school Haruhi has her hair up in a pony tail (a direct reference to something Kyon had said in the ‘dream’). They never actually confirm whether this is a dream or an actual alternate reality that was created and nothing more actually needs to be said. Whether it was a dream or a reality, the impact on the characters has been clearly established without further explanations. Also, when you place this story in the appropriate place from a chronological point of view it makes Kyon’s actions and acceptance of some of Haruhi’s worse moments a bit more believable even if the guy is still a little bit of a doormat who really needs to tell her to stop a lot sooner.
So that is my list of top 5 uses of dream sequences. I’d love to know your favourite anime dream sequences so be sure to leave me a comment below.
Thanks for reading.
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14 thoughts on “Tuesday’s Top 5: Uses of Dream Sequences in Anime”
Great picks! I definitely agree here. Another was a good inclusion, I like that scene a lot. OPM is probably the best example of how to do one of these right if you ask me, just from the list you have here. Thanks for sharing 🙂
One Punch Man definitely nailed how to use a dream sequence. It was exciting, it was fun, it was a great way of showing the audience Saitama’s true character and it didn’t go on overly long. All and all, something for all writers to consider when inserting a dream sequence: Why is this here?
Yup, a lot of media leans on dreams too heavy so it is definitely an important question.
Loved the One Punch Man dream sequence, and should be getting to the one from Another pretty soon!
That dream sequence from Another was such a terrific scene. It came completely out of the blue, and as you say it was a very welcome respite from all the doom and gloom that otherwise appeared in the series. There are also quite a number of dream sequences/ visions in the anime movie (and quite frankly a masterpiece) The Wind Rises. Those were so beautifully animated and highly recommended 😀
I still haven’t seen The Wind Rises. I’ll probably have to make more of an effort to get around to that.
The Wind Rises is very beautiful, but also not an easy movie. It’s not a film like for instance Howl’s moving castle. The subject matter is entirely different and certainly won’t be enjoyed by everyone. Still, it was a great film with beautiful animation. Hope you get to see it one day. Would love to hear your thoughts on it 😀
Some favorite anime dream sequences of mine would be:
Paprika: Come on, how can you not put this movie on there when dreams play a major role in the plot? The imagery in all the dreams is just unique. There’s the recurring image of Detective Konakawa floating in a hotel lobby or the scene of Paprika touching some open scenery only for it to collapse. Funny enough, Inception TOTALLY stole those scenes and other parts of the movie. Just sayin’.
Jungle Emperor Leo: The daydream scene where Lune (Leo’s/Kimba’s son) has a vision of the human world is one of the best animated scenes in that movie. It gets psychedelic and multi-colorful while the humans look exactly like Dr. Mustache who’s the guy that rescued the cub early in the film. It needs to be seen to be believed.
I’m going to be honest in that I’m not a big fan of Paprika. Visually it didn’t really work for me do I didn’t actually remember it until you mentioned it.
I see. I just thought Paprika would be an obvious one because of the overt usage of dreams in the plot. It’s okay if you’re not a fan of that movie. I liked it even though I do admit it’s not Satoshi Kon’s best work.
The dream sequence is possibly my favourite part of Another.