If I See You in My Dreams OVA

The embarrassing situation is the linchpin to modern romantic comedies. Girl likes guy, guy likes girl, they can't admit it, and before they can plumb the depths of their emotions, one of them (normally the guy) gets into a compromising predicament that the love interest sees. Chaos results until the offending party makes good in various ways showing how much the one loves the other, at which point all is forgiven and the story ends. Frankly, I'm a little tired of it. It in no way reflects any real relationship I've ever known. But people watch movies and television to get away from reality, I guess, except when they watch reality shows that are still too unreal to be taken seriously.

Having said all that, If I See You In My Dreams is a 3 part OVA series from 1998 that starts off as a believable romance, and its first half hour was one of the most enjoyable I've seen in a while. The quality of the characters and animation continues through the second and third episodes, but the plot machinations delve into the realm I mentioned above. I really enjoyed the show quite a bit, but I couldn't help but wonder if there wasn't some better way to keep the appealing one-on-one relationship going without throwing rival love interests and the aforementioned awkward dilemmas into the mix.

But on to the plot. Misou is a hard-working 24-year-old who's never been kissed. Never held hands, even, and after a fortuneteller confirms his worst fears, he expects to be alone forever. But things change one rainy night as his briefcase and a pile of work wind up splattered on the ground when he takes a spill. A young woman with a red umbrella comes to his aid, picking up a few loose papers and giving him a handkerchief. Before he knows it, she's gone. However, through some happy coincidences, he learns where the girl works, and he eventually winds up befriending Nagisa. She's a couple of years younger, but she's had no luck with men, finding the few who've shown an interest to be brutish louts. Misou might be the right guy for her, but stunning high school teacher Kaizuka also plans to woo Nagisa. And when another gal decides she has feelings for Misou herself...let the misunderstandings begin!

If I See You In My Dreams is a really great-looking anime; although not as flashy as some of its cohorts, its softness is a great asset. The backgrounds are particularly beautiful, and most of the character designs are very nice. But beyond the animation is the execution, which is flawless despite some scripting issues I'll discuss in a moment. If I See You... is short on the goofiness that has stunted the whole genre of romantic anime recently. It involves people that are flawed but completely understandable. It's also a relief to have main characters who are out of their teens and actually in the working world! The setting makes it all a bit more important and a bit more believable.

One of the most enjoyable aspects for me was that there's no dead space or filler here. Shows like Love Hina have extended love triangles out for 12+ hours by adding all sorts of stuffing that has nothing to do with the central story. If I See You... makes for a fun afternoon of it instead. (I can only hope that the forthcoming TV series of If I See You... takes the high road rather than devolving the relationships built here.)

But I still can't completely recommend If I See You In My Dreams for one reason that's very simple. It still follows the formulas. For a brief moment in the first episode, I thought the genre had finally perhaps evolved. But it hadn't. Its old features had merely been hidden for a while. The second and third episodes are still done well, and the endings of both are touching. But I've seen the plots for these two episodes done so many times that I found myself predicting them. There's no uniqueness to them, though I do compliment them on being expertly handled and directed.

The OVA version of If I See You In My Dreams is nothing more and nothing less than an anime version of a good chick flick. No real surprises, no brain activity caused, but a few laughs and a solid smile result. Although I still hold out hope that real and touching stories might completely invade this genus of anime someday, I solidly recommend this show if you are looking for an alternative to watching Sleepless In Seattle or You've Got Mail for the umpteenth time.

If I See You in My Dreams OVA -- mild fan service, mild adult situations -- B+