Yume Tsukai tells the story of the Dream Masters (yume tsukai), who combat the effects of nightmares that cross the boundary between dreams and reality and erupt in the real world. Dream Masters are named after the seven stars in the Pleiades cluster, which in Japan are named for the seven days of the week.. The most experienced is the Sunday Star, Mishima Touko, age 17. She is a recluse and sleeps for 12 to 16 hours a day. Her younger sister is the Tuesday Star, Mishima Rinko, age 10. She is super genki and confident and calls herself the Super Elementary School Student. They are joined in some episodes by the Friday Star, Tachibana Hajime, a lolicon who regards anyone older than a teenager as ancient history; the Saturday Star, Sagawa Satoka, a relative newcomer who lives in Kyuushu; and Touko’s Aunt Misako, who is 29 years old and still a virgin.
The show is episodic, although there is an underlying background mystery about the fate of Touko’s father, who was killed while fighting a nightmare. In most episodes, Touko and Rinko are commissioned to investigate a baffling phenomenon which turns out to be a nightmare erupting in the real world. They must locate the dreamer, gain his or her consent to end the nightmare, and then fight its effects. They do this with shaman sticks known as Broom Gods, into which they place various toys. The toys transform into weapons to combat the nightmare, which is eventually returned to the world of dreams.
This summary makes Yume Tsukai sound formulaic and action-centric, but in fact, it's a series of character studies focusing on the troubled dreamers and their reasons for unleashing nightmares on the world. The dreamers include unhappy children, divorcing couples, bereaved lovers, and depressed teenagers – people who are experiencing real-life situations beyond their ability to cope. (In many ways, Yume Tsukai uses nightmares as a metaphor for the effects of mental illness.) The Dream Masters’ intervention can combat the effects of the nightmare, but the dreamer must choose whether or not to hold on to feelings that led to the nightmare. In some cases, the dreamer is able to resolve the underlying conflict, and there’s a happy ending; in other cases, not so much.
While the stories in Yume Tsukai are interesting, and the characters are engaging, the animation is problematic. Even though the show was produced by Madhouse in its prime (the same year as Nana and Death Note, among many others), it was clearly made on a low budget. As a result, whole scenes, particularly action sequences, are repeatedly recycled. The climactic battle in episode 3, using the Dream Cyclone, is reused more or less verbatim in episodes 4 and 5. The climactic battle in episode 8 is simply not animated at all. In medium shots, the characters' faces are often distorted beyond recognition. These shortcuts, combined with the wispy character designs, can be rather off-putting.
I had been looking for DVD sources for Yume Tsukai for years but never found any at full 480p resolution. Eventually, I bought a complete set on a Japanese auction site and had them shipped to the US (shipping was three times as much as the DVDs themselves). bananadoyouwanna encoded the show. The source was mostly progressive, but occasional scenes were interlaced, requiring careful attention to detail and multiple tries to get the encodes right. Yogicat hand-transcribed the Arienai-Ureshii subtitles, and I OCR’d the AonE-Ayu set. In addition, I had the C1 scripts from ten years ago. Orphan’s scripts are mostly Arienai-Ureshii, but I’ve used the other groups where the phrasing is better. I edited and typeset, Iri checked the translation, ninjacloud timed, Juggen contributed the karaokes (the OP and ED are terrific), and Calyrica and I did QC.
The fansub scripts date from an era when it was fashionable to leave Japanese terms untranslated and supply copious on-screen translation notes instead. After some discussion, the Orphan team decided to translate terms wherever possible, while still preserving honorifics. So yume tsukai is translated as "Dream Master," Nichousei as "Sunday Star," asobetatmatsuru as "play offering," ikai as "another world," tensou as "transform," Tsuburame Oo as "Round-Eyed King," 3-chome as "Third District," and so on. If you prefer untranslated terms, the original fansubs are readily available and quite watchable.
Some other translation notes, mostly from the original Ureshii-Conclave scripts:
- Ep01 – The girls' school is Hanabirazaka Jogakyuin, so "Hana girls" is a nickname for the students.
- Ep01 – Madoromichu means "Sleepy Town."
- Ep01 – A Teru Teru Bouzu is a paper charm shaped like a little ghost. When hung under a window or roof, it's supposed to keep rain away.
- Ep01 (and others) – "Reality is but a dream! Our nightly dreams are the true world!" Based on a line from an Edogawa Ranpo story.
- Ep03 – "Sway gently" is an ancient Shinto resurrection spell.
- Ep03 (and others) – Clinamen bullet. Clinamen is the name Lucretius gave to the spontaneous microscopic swerving of atoms from a vertical path as they fall. According to Lucretius, without Clinamen, nature would never have created anything. This theory is a part of Epicurean physics. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinamen)
- Ep08 – The kanji for Wakaba means "young leaf."
- Ep09 - The chant "Kuwabara, kuwabara" originated as a farmer's appeal to the god of lightning so that his fields would not be struck during a storm.
- Ep09 – "Grief, happiness, they don't exist to me." A death poem for Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1436-1490), a Shogun of the Muromachi period.
- Ep10 - "Pai Pai" is a play on oppai, the Japanese word for breasts.
The lead voice actors are well-known veterans. Kawasumi Ayako (Touko) has had a prolific career, including Lafiel in Crest/Banner of the Stars, Saber in Fate/Stay Night, Ohno in Genshiken, and my personal favorite, Nodame in Nodame Cantabile. Seki Tomokazu (Hajime) has overlapped with Kawasumi Ayako in many series, playing Gilgamesh in Fate/Stay Night, Tanaka in Genshiken, and of course, Chiaki in Nodame Cantabile. Shindou Kei (Rinko) has also appeared in many shows, most recently Boku no Hero Academia. Hisakawa Aya (Aunt Misako) has had an active career as well, including Sailor Mercury in the Sailor Moon franchise and Skuld in the Ah! My Goddess properties. The music is by Terashima Tamiya, who also wrote the opening song. It supports the show’s mood well, with a "spooky phenomenon" theme that seemingly riffs on the main Harry Potter movie theme.
So enjoy Yume Tsukai in this new softsubbed version, and sweet dreams.