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"Diamond Daydreams:" Nothing New, Yet Still Enjoyable

When I heard of Diamond Daydreams‘ premise, I could have sworn I’d heard it somewhere before: a series comprised of relatively short vignettes about women searching for true love in the face of adversity, or at least that’s a good byline for it. Then I remembered where I’d heard it – Sunrise Studios’ Sentimental Journey, a quirky favorite of mine. To be fair, there are some considerable differences between the works: Sentimental Journey sports twelve women rather than Diamond Daydreams‘ six, and Sentimental has one mysterious love interest for all twelve women unlike Diamond where the characters’ only ties seem to be that their stories all occur in Japan’s Hokkaido province (at this point at least). However, the result is pretty much the same. If anything, Diamond Daydreams‘ stories and outcomes (or at least what I’ve seen off the three episode screener ADV sent me), seem even more telegraphed than the stories in Sentimental Journey, a feat considering that Sentimental is based off a dating sim game.

Yet, Diamond Daydreams isn’t a bad show because of it. In fact, it’s a pretty good show, or at least it’s been handled pretty well, not only by the original Japanese staff with the solid direction and glossy animation, but by ADV’s dub team as well.

The first story in the series is that of Atsuko Akanagi, a clumsy, 20-year-old girl with a penchant for classic Jazz music and who helps her mom run the family business – a seafood store – since Atsuko’s dad passed away. She is arranged to be married to Minoru Jinguuji, a well-to-do young man who is to inherit the local inn, and who is a pretty nice if not bland guy when he’s not being an overbearing jerk. The situation only gets worse when she begins to fall for Jouji Kurata, a middle-aged fellow with an affinity for Charlie Parker and a less than stellar past. Adding to the equation is Atsuko’s mom who is pushing to have the marriage with Minoru expedited so that Minoru’s family can pay off the debts of the family business. The resolution is pretty interesting, when it’s not getting a little too soap-opera drama for its own good.

The next story is that of Karin Shiraishi, a 15-year-old girl who has been hospitalized for the past two years. Her condition is worsening and while a surgery could save her life, she can’t bring herself to go under the knife due to losing her dad to a botched surgery. Her only experiences outside of the confines of the hospital are her dreams which she relates every day online via her website. A new resident doctor at the hospital, Dr. Amakasu, decides to try a coax young Karin into getting the surgery by trying to show her, in what ever limited fashion, that there is a big world out there in Hokkaido to explore. Though at points Dr. Amakasu’s a little too gruff and brash for his own good, at other turns Karin wonders if he’s the Prince Charming who has been showing up in her dreams as of late. Around about the same time, she starts corresponding with someone who has been reading her website and feels that he’s seen the locations she’s mentioned in her dreams, even attaching pictures of certain spots in Hokkaido that mirror her dreams to an eerie extent. However, when she sees similar pictures posted in Dr. Amakasu’s office, she doesn’t know what to think. Whether Dr. Amakasu is playing the mystery man just to try and get Karin to get the surgery, or if is he genuinely concerned for the girl, and is thus her real Prince Charming, I don’t know as the episode ends on a cliffhanger. By the way, this show happens to be loaded with two parters.

Diamond Daydreams is definitely a bit cliché; however, it is certainly entertaining when it’s not going soap opera like I mentioned earlier. Maybe that’s because it was guided by a guy who knows how to walk the line between hokey and entertaining, namely Bob Shirahata, the director of the seminal shonen-ai anime, Gravitation. Some how, between solid pacing, good visual work (both in the boarding and the final animation, and especially the compositing), and a great attention to detail, he manages to make it work. It’s not something that’ll be life changing or anything, but it’s cathartic in its own way, and it manages to capture Hokkaido beautifully too.

More surprising is the dub work ADV puts in on Diamond Daydreams. Maybe it’s just a side-effect of ADV VA’s doing a ton of work at Funi, or maybe ADV’s picked up on Funi’s technique of putting everything they’ve got into the shorter series to ensure that the dub is engaging, but regardless of how it came about, the VA performances on this show are just delightful and pleasing to the ear. It was one thing when the intellectually-zealous Princess Tutu received a great dub from ADV, but Diamond Daydreams is the kind of show I’d almost expect to get half-baked work on it, and yet it’s great, especially Jessica Boone, who has come a very long way from her work on Angelic Layer. It really makes me look forward to future short ADV titles, a real change for the better and something that will reaffirm ADV’s role in the industry.

Anyway, Diamond Daydreams is definitely not a show for everyone. It’s sappy, sentimental (no pun or reference intended), and really obvious in its progression at points (though I am admittedly jaded on that kind of thing, so don’t take my word for it), but I’ve got to admit that it’s a darn fine production, and worth the MSRP if you’re into that kind of stuff. If nothing else, rent it to see how far ADV’s come in the past decade. You’ll be surprised, and happy.

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