Taking another foray out of my comfort zone (I admit, my zone is pretty limited to rom-coms and the occasional K-melo) comes Akumu Chan. Nightmare Chan, or My Little Nightmare, is a bizarre little original drama about an elementary teacher and her student who have prophetic dreams. Throw in some science fiction technology that makes dreams viewable via a 'dream card' on a TV screen for perusal once a subject is awake, and you’ve got the makings of a what’s sometimes a creepy thriller-paced storyline. Yes, it’s a Jdrama and therefore episodic, but the overall arc is terribly fascinating and each character just nuanced enough to make their growth appealing, and their pasts gripping.
Kitagawa Keiko (Buzzer Beat) plays Ayami-sensei, a cheery faced teacher who behind her smile hides a thorny personality and general distaste for her profession, kids, and of course love. But she’s destined be a mentor for transfer student Koto Yuiko (child actress, Kimura Manatsu). This child’s eyes literally wobble inside her head when she ‘connects’ to another person’s subconscious, and she sees the future. They’re almost always foreshadowing dire consequences, but to change future she needs a dream interpreter.
|And.. is he the hero or the villain?|
Rounding up the cast was a new face for me, but very recognizable I'm sure to a few people: Gackt. He's a bit weathered now, and those curls... Ack! But as the male lead in our drama here he is quite something. Is he the Dream Prince, who literally appears in Ayami's dreams riding a white horse? or is he a sinister, ambition driven scientist who only wants the secret to the dream card? He's alternately creepy and endearing, and so makes it difficult to guess. Props to Gackt. And his curls.
Read on for more non-spoilery thoughts, Episode Guide and Episode Reviews.
Akumu Chan attempts to melds Sci-fi with human nature (which indeed, what Sci-fi doesn't do this?). The drama therefore is half dream-world fantasies, half real world consequences and the characters bounce around between the two as they develop ways to live in the world as depicted. It has a limited scope, which means the existence of prophetic dreams and the dream card, though hinted as having larger, public consequences, are mainly kept within the known characters, and the outreach of a few school kids per episode.
The intros explain it thus:
"A person's consciousness is at the tip of an iceberg. Within the soul, there is an infinite unconsciousness that spreads. Inside is where all the emotion, all the behavior and even time sleeps. This little girl's unconsciousness can connect with other people's unconsciousness. And when she sleeps, her soul awakens. Other people's ominous future becomes her nightmare and materializes in the real world."
It's a nice little worldview and in the context I think it works out well. The overall story arc and character development take some time to build up momentum, and once it does Akumu Chan is pretty fascinating. I started off disliking the stereotypical detached-from-love teacher, but it must be said that her role once it was fleshed out was anything but boring. Her relationship, both work related and personal with Gackt's 'Dream Prince' Shiki was more interesting than I expected (and I usually don't expect much from these types of Jdrama leads).
|Makes swoony faces in dreams, glowers in the real world.|
Conclusion: Give it a chance, because the characters and story are worth your time, even if the episodic plots aren't always the most useful or thrilling.
Akumu Chan Episode Guide
- Obligation Dream
- Team Dream
- Cream Dream
- Wicked Dream
- Discarded Dream
- Child Dream
- Wrong Dream
- My Dream
- Everyone's Dream
- Malice Dream
|Wait just one sec! Who said I had prophetic dreams now??|
Episode One "Obligation Game" starts off with some cheesy CGI but otherwise introduces us well to the cast and characters. This prophetic dream-of-the-week synopsis begins with a random grandparents' home on fire, but will Ayami-sensei be quick enough to understand her dream interpretation to save everyone? Fair
Episode 2 "Team Dream"'s plot involves a brother-sister relationship, a duck and a snake and a cruel alcoholic father. It's not the most thrilling thing in the world, but it's fun seeing the characters mesh as they react to one another, particularly the nurse. Meh
Episode 3 "Cream Dream" features an invisible child, or at least that's how the dream goes. There's a plot involving a girl's hand cream, and a seemingly prophetic manga. The child in question's backstory is for once very interesting, and has some stunning results in Ayami's reactions: she stops smiling, which is literally code for announcing herself as a psychopath. Good
Episode 4 "Wicked Dream" shows the first day after teacher's revelation and the students are now out to discover more. Dream Prince Shiki is acting more like a charming butler to Ayami, but whatever his motivations, it means trouble for Ayami. Good
Episode 5 "Discarded Dream" has two kids, a hole and dream zombies. At least I hope they were just dream zombies. Ayami starts to remember something, but she can't exactly figure out what, Shiki looks to be a little darker than previously suspected, and the nurse is now in collaboration with him. Good
Episode 6 "Child Dream" has dueling ballerinas and dueling swans. Apart from the child drama, Ayami-sensei's begins realizing bits of her past and the secret trauma she couldn't remember. Also, the dream cards are out! Good job Shiki, revealing it to the world What could this mean about his character? Good
Episode 7 "Wrong Dream" in which Shiki steps up his game and forces Yuiko to dream up witnesses to a crime. After feeling like a burden, Yuiko tries to help another teacher with her dreams, only some things are just too painful to deal with. Good
Episode 8 "My Dream" starts out with Ayami-sensei wanting to resign, however the grandpa reveals what her real role was a child actually was, and that she used to be childhood friends with Yuiko's now deceased mother. Outstanding
Episode 9 "Everyone's Dream" has school children disappearing from every classroom as a mysterious organization hunts down the child with prophetic dreams. We're closer to the final end game, and those nuns over at the orphage are starting to look more and more suspicious. Also, despite Shiki's seemingly evil evil intensions, Ayami protects Yuiko with her life. Outstanding
Episode 10 "Malice Dream" reaches a near climax when Ayami has to take matters into her own hands. Yuiko dreams of her own kidnapping, and of a dire future. With the help of the nurse, who's finally starting to act reasonably, they set out to save all the kidnapped kids, and attempt to change the future. But will it be enough to change Shiki's fate? Outstanding
Episode 11 "Dreamland" is a slow wind down, and mostly done through dreams as Yuiko lays unconscious. Ayami realizes her role in the child's life and a teacher, plus Yuiko's dad is revealed. Well well well. Good