Children often start out life with a very myopic view of the world. They can only see things from their viewpoint, and can’t understand when someone else has a different opinion about something. But once they realize that person can have different reasons to like or dislike something, the child comes to understand, accept, and appreciate what other people think. It’s a nice little epiphany, as that emotional growth makes the child a bigger part of the world at large. But some children have trouble with that transition, and a situation like that is the core focus of Yoru Sumino and Idumi Kirihara’s manga, I Had That Same Dream Again.
Nanoka Koyanagi, the lead character of our tale, is a 4th grader who receives a tough assignment in her Japanese class: what is happiness? Nanoka struggles with the question, looking for answers, but her peer group is a little odd. Nanoka doesn’t really consider anyone in her class as a friend, and due to tough work schedules, her time with her parents are limited. But she does have two close confidants. One helped Nanoka rescue an injured cat on a rainy day, and thanks to what was scrawled on her door, Nanoka has just called her “Skank-san.” The other is a kindly old woman who she calls “Obaachan,” spending her later years relaxing at home in solitude. Nanoka typically spends time after school with them, enjoying snacks and talking about the day.
Nanoka’s question comes into play when a series of events starts to shift her worldview. It all begins when she explores an abandoned building and discovers a high school girl cutting herself. The girl, who Nanoka dubs “Minami,” based on what’s written on her uniform sleeve, starts to open up to Nanoka about her problems. Nanoka discovers that Minami is extremely shy about her writing, a situation that parallels Nanoka’s classmate Kiryu, who himself is afraid to show off his artwork. Nanoka, thinking she’s got everything sorted out, decides to try to get both of them to share their talents with the world, but it’s not that simple…
With I Had That Same Dream Again, Yoru Sumino does a fascinating study of why people feel the way they feel, and how they cope with their challenges. Nanoka is a surprisingly deep character for a 4th grader, not realizing her own emotional flaws as she struggles to be the best person she can be when the situation just needs her to be there. It’s encouraging to see her friends try to help her see things from a different angle, rather than merely being an echo chamber for a kid’s opinions. Skank-san early on explains that while kids like simple, sweet foods, as they grow older, they learn to appreciate bitter flavors, too, and it’s a great allegory for comprehending other people’s viewpoints. And as Nanako realizes the effect she has on the people around her, you see her world change around her as well.
Idumi Kirihara brings a softness to help ease Nanoka’s rough edges, giving her wide, expressive eyes to better convey the complex emotions she has to deal with as the story progresses. Nanoka beams with energy when happy, but breaks your heart when she feels down, and Kirihara’s art helps to bring that emotion to the forefront. The other characters, while a bit more even in tone, still are easy to read, whether it’s Minami’s sullen calm, Skank-san’s happy-go-lucky smile or Obaachan’s gentle warmth.
In I Had That Same Dream Again, you ride along with Nanoka’s journey to define happiness, and learn how integral it is to involve others in that journey. She struggles and hits a few low points on the way, but realizes that sometimes you have to accept and appreciate the bitter parts to truly enjoy the sweet ones. It’s a heartwarming read that I highly recommend you check out.
An unhappy girl who engages in self-harm, a high schooler ostracized by her classmates, and an old woman looking to live out her twilight years in peace–what could three such different people have in common? That’s what grade schooler Nanoka Koyanagi is trying to find out. Assigned by her teacher to define what “happiness” means to her, Nanoka tries to find her place in the world by exploring her relationships with these three strangers, and through them, comes to know herself.Add to CartLearn More