Review: Oniisama e…, “Into the Dream” and “A Fleeting Game”

Nanako's cigarette dream begins

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Oniisama e…
Episodes 18 and 19: “Into the Dream” and “A Fleeting Game”
Original airdates: Nov. 24 and Dec. 8, 1991

So not only is Henmi’s buddy, Takashi, the brother of Rei and Miya-sama, but we see how Nanako handles being in love, and how immature she can be about it.

I must be clairvoyant. 

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One of the real pleasures of the series as a whole thus far as been its delicate handling of these girls’ emotions, and neither of these episodes disappoints in that regard. Last week, I was eager to see Nanako in love, and both episodes this week demonstrate the challenges that Nanako faces. Rei is still closed off, “chained” to that “princess,” as Kaoru puts it. Nanako may have that opportunity to break into that world that Rei has constructed for herself, to possibly be more than that cherie la poupée, but it’ll take more than a tearful confession of love to do it.

“Into the Dream” is really spectacular in this regard as it demonstrates the challenges both face if they ever want a relationship with anyone, let alone with one another. It’s telling that so much of the episode’s final action takes place under a tree, not unlike the elm tree in the Seiran suicide legend. While I don’t think the series will end in both their deaths (well, not Nanako’s anyway. I’m less optimistic about Rei’s chances), it should be a clear signal that Nanako’s love is doomed from the start. Her cigarette-induced dream/hallucination should all but confirm this. Any dream where the face of the person you love is swapped with that of an oni is real warning sign. (Likewise, the person you love manically shoving a cigarette into your mouth and not letting you exhale is kind of not something you should encourage, either.)

But I love that Nanako goes forward with this anyway. She behaves like a jealous brat as she begs for the cigarette, acts overly concerned about the spoiled potato salad (I certainly hope they didn’t eat the eggs then), and then hides from Rei as she struggles to cope with the intensity of those feelings. We have discussions about teen shows circulating around this site, and Oniisama fits into those discussions as well. While it’s heightened and more melodramatic than some other teen shows, there’s a honesty that propels the emotions.

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A lot of that is in the writing, but it’s also due to the flexibility that animation affords the series. While the dream sequence would’ve been possible in a live-action series, in animation, the dream sequence is all the more ethereal, and the show’s use of the pastel stills only enhances its dreamy nostalgia. The series director, Osamu Dezaki, knows what he’s doing here. He gets the material, he gets the girls’ frames of mind; the animation he oversees is integral to achieving Oniisama‘s tone. It’s so spot-on that, honestly, a live-action version would simply pale in comparison.

Random bits

  • Less seriously, those must be some damn special cigarettes to induce that kind of a trip.
  • Normally, I go by ANN and Wikipedia when it comes to the episode title translations, and even Viki had adopted these titles on its videos. They all list episode 19 as “The Transient Game.” The subs on Viki translate the episode title as “A Fleeting Game,” which I thought sounded better, so I decided to use it instead. (This ended up seeming appropriate as the English teacher in the episode discusses how a literal translation isn’t always the best one.) Apologies for any confusion.
  • Seiran’s French teacher is a very attractive lady. I’m shocked that she hasn’t appeared before now, and that none of the girls have crushes on her.
  • Henmi and Kaoru? Errr?
  • Viki’s adding a few more commercials ever since I said that they have fewer commercials compared to Hulu, and they’re choosing the worst times for them, too. 

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