31☆idream is an on-going series by Arina Tanemura, first published back in 2013 and still going. The latest volume released was released last year in November, seeing that I tried out Akumi ni Chic x Hack, I thought I may as well try this one.
It seems like the publisher for this series, Melody, asked Tanemura to make a “magical girl manga for adult readers”, limiting Tanemura from the stuff she’s well know for and the result of all that is this series. There are subtle themes/tropes that you’d find in the magical girl genre, like having an alter ego, transforming into someone else, the dual personalities one has to balance as well as their lifestyles, but rather than being pure fantasy, it is a bit more grounded and realistic than the average ‘mahou shoujo’ manga. No talking animal mascots here lol.
There are a few moments at the first two volumes where it becomes painfully relatable, especially for me seeing that the heroine is too similar personality wise haha.
Chikage Deguchi has no social life, always working hard at her office job despite having a few slip ups. Even at 31 years old, she never had a boyfriend and cannot be calm around guys unless they’re married or have a girlfriend. The followers on her twitter are bots, female co-workers talk behind her back and to top it all off, she has been labeled as a “喪女” (a woman who is not liked by men, not attractive) because she lacks the sex appeal/femininity as the women around her age has.
But back when she was 15, she was well loved by all as the class president, considered the Madonna of the classroom and on the day of her middle school graduation she received dozens of confessions from guys, especially from her crush whom she was never able to find the right words to reciprocate his feelings and left him hanging.
After going to her middle school reunion, she meets an old friend, Tokita, and a female classmate, Yumiko, who accidentally announces to the whole crowd that Chikage is still a 処女/shojo (a virgin) at 31 years old which grabs the attention of her crush from middle school, Haruki, and embarrasses Chikage that she goes and try to drink her sorrows away at home (with a small beer can that still somehow gets her drunk).
She posted it on twitter while drunk which becomes office gossip with her female coworkers that she overhears and runs away to the streets to see that Haruki dating Yumiko. That’s when Chikage snaps, attempts to drown herself in the river when Tokita finds her and stops her from taking her life.
Chikage tells Tokita that she wishes she could go back to being a 15 year old and fix her life so she won’t be a 喪女/mojo. Lucky for her, Tokita has been working on this experimental drug that makes people younger called “i dream”, but only lasts for 5~6 hours per pill. Not knowing if the drug will be lethal or not, Chikage still takes it and turns into her youthful 15 year old self.
And so begins Chikage’s double life between a 31 year old office worker and a 15 year old aspiring idol…
31 years old. Parents were strict with her which resulted in her focusing only on her work. After graduating middle school, she was put into an all-girls school which made it hard for her to get used to men.
She’s clumsy, hardly smiles and doesn’t dress too flash nor takes any risks. She’s not girly at all and very weak when drinking alcohol.
31 years old. Works at a pharmaceutical company and is the only one who knows ‘Akari’ (Chikage’s alias as a 15 year old when taking i dream) is actually Chikage. He finds anyway to help her to grant her wish to fix her life as a 15 year old girl. Also has a girlfriend.
He was friends with Chikage and Haruki back in middle school, they were the only ones who talked to him. He was bullied by his classmates.
31 years old. A business man, he began dating Yumiko after the middle school reunion party. Back in middle school he was also class president with Chikage.
As described by Chikage, he is very friendly/gentle and was an honor student. He had a crush on Chikage but it is unknown how he feels about her now.
15 years old. Chikage when she takes the i dream pill. She is bright, clumsy like Chikage, and whenever she tries to smile she always does it with a peace sign.
Chikage somehow found herself taken to an idol agency to fill in a missing idol’s spot for a photoshoot. After some thought, Chikage decides to balance life as an idol as ‘Akari’, the alias she uses for her 15 year old appearance, to help improve her life and herself.
15 years old. Bears a strong resemblance to Haruki, however has the exact opposite personality. Acts like a brat sometimes, calling Akari ugly, but has his own way of caring for people.
He is called a prodigy because he’s so talented as an idol, that some can’t seem to catch up with him, creating the rumor that he sucks away the talent from others to become a top idol. He raises his four siblings by himself as his parents died, using his idol income to support them
15 years old. Nickname is Ruu-kun (or Roo-kun because his head is like a mushroom). He is part of an idol group with Hibiki called “Valentine”. Almost quit one time because he seemed to be falling behind and not performing well.
He’s the quiet type and seems to be brooding sometimes, but when he gets close to someone he’s able to smile and have fun.
When I first read the synopsis of this manga (which is much shorter than mine and got to the point 😆 ), I thought that when she took the drug she’d be transported to the past where she could change things when she was 15 and that there wouldn’t be a lot of segments where she’s an adult.Then during reading it I thought, wait what if Hibiki is actually Haruki who is also taking an i dream drug. But then I was wrong about that too and Hibiki is just his own character. This manga made me jumping to assumptions on how things will be resolved with this love triangle thing (Chikage, Tokita and Haruki), but every time I think it will go one way the manga just slaps me across the face and go “Nah bruh, we’re going in this direction” 😂 Sometimes its for the good, sometimes its for the bad… which I’ll explain later.
I enjoyed the first two volumes and a bit of half of the third volume overall, it explored a lot about Chikage and shows the different aspects of herself that solidifies why she’s called a mojo. Props to Tanemura for drawing Chikage so plain and almost androgynous, which is prolly something hard for Tanemura to do because she loves making everything so pretty and fashionable. So when Chikage does dress up, which took a while for her to take risks with her choice in what to wear, you can see a bit of a difference between plain Chikage and Chikage getting ready for a date with Haruki (plus Tokita who is a third wheel lol).
But she’s still the same old timid Chikage haha.
It kinda took me a while to realise why Chikage wants to keep being a 15 year old, like she wants to live through Akari and do the things that she never thought of doing. I kinda liked how Hibiki and the idol career is helping her realise a few things about herself and trying to learn how to be bright and take a few risks. Hibiki and Tokita was really well developed in the first two volumes, giving some backstory to them, ambition and reasoning to their actions. But then things get a little bit messy when Haruki enters back into the picture and then something really ?? bizarre happens that made me tune out as I read the fourth volume.
[Spoilers, highlight the empty space below to read. If you’re on mobile you won’t be able to read the spoilers]
So in the other half of Vol.3, Haruki invites Chikage over to his place, which ends up being a sleep over at his place because Chikage misplaced her keys. They confess their feelings to each other, he about to pull some moves on Chikage and she tries to stop it by mentioning shit that Tokita likes and then Tokita rings the doorbell and cockblocks (which I was kinda happy for lol, Go, Tokita, Go!). Then they drink beer until Chikage passes out and they discuss about their feelings towards Chikage and Haruki decides to back down for now because Tokita seems to have feelings towards her and he’s not sure if Chikage even knows if she really loves Haruki because she hasn’t been in love before.
NOW THIS IS WHEN THE ARC DOES THIS WEIRD 180 TO SOMETHING I WASN’T EXPECTING.
So Haruki texts her in the morning saying to forget what he said last night and she takes it as a, Oh he dumped me, thing. Gets a bit bummed down and then some events happen where Mashiro is like, “yo, I think you should go out with me” to Akari and Akari/Chikage is like ‘I don’t think I like you the way you like me’ and he’s like “Just try it out”. And she does, partly because she wants to forget about Haruki, tho maybe another part is because she wasn’t able to have a boyfriend as a 15 year old so may as well do it now in a 15 year old body but a 31 year old brain. Yeah. That’s when it lost me.
Wouldn’t someone in their right mind in this situation go like “yeah this isn’t right to fool around with a 15 year old’s heart when I’m 31 years old in a 15 year old body”. But nah, this goes for the rest of the fourth volume and I totally zoned out because it didn’t feel right. They go on a date, but it seemed more like friends going out to the amusement park rather than lovers, it was pretty innocent so at least it didn’t go down that shitty path where it becomes romantic, so I guess I’ll give credit to that.
Anyway in the end, having Akari as a girlfriend made Mashiro overwork himself to try to impress her, which was good for his popularity but also hurt him physically. So Akari/Chikage had to make the decision to break it off with him when he collapses and goes to hospital, but by doing it the most brutal way possible by setting a trap for Mashiro to find Akari kiss Hibiki and then act like a bitch to him so then he’d hate her and break things up with her.
GIRL! She even acknowledges, afterwards, that it was a pretty shit move, but I guess that’s how things can get resolved. But it makes me think, what was the point for all of that arc if the relationship was gonna end after a volume and almost felt meaningless. Maybe as a stepping stone for Chikage to realise stuff about love and what it means to like a person? I dunno. Now I gotta say this before misunderstanding happens: Chikage does not see Mashiro or Hibiki as romantic interests, seems like she just wanted to try out what its like to be in a relationship but it was pretty dumb lol, I guess the manga isn’t ready to resolve the romance/pair Chikage up with someone permanently just yet. Anyway, I tuned out when reading vol.4 because of this, it kinda spoilt the manga for me haha.
That’s just my beef.
I’m interested in seeing how this will end, but I’m not even sure which direction vol.5 will take. The relationships between Akari and Hibiki/Mashiro makes me wonder how will that end happily, seeing that Hibiki may seem to have a crush on Akari but considering she’s not really 15 it might end as a one-sided thing. Unless the other 15 year old idol girl, Yuko, ends up with him because she seems to be crushing on him lol. If this was a normal manga about idols with no de-aging drug where Chikage/Akari is really a 15 years old trying to get into showbiz and not really a 31 year old trying to relive the glory days of being 15 years old, then I would be cheering for Akari and Hibiki lol.
For sure I hope Chikage will end up with Tokita because they seem much closer than Haruki is with Chikage right now. But too bad Tokita has a girlfriend that he also loves so there’s no winning with this (unless it does end with Chikage with Haruki). I dunno if this could end with a polyamory relationship, who knows what Tanemura has in store for this manga lol.
The parts when it explores Chikage dealing with adulthood was where things were grounded/realistic and I enjoyed, the parts with Akari and dealing with being an idol and trying to improve one’s self was the fantasy part/where Chikage would go to escape and can be kinda fun to read (if only my brain would stop yelling ‘yo she’s 31, why she playing around with kids half her age’). For the start, the way these parts are placed into the story were nicely balanced and didn’t drag out for long. Tho it would be nice to see the two ‘worlds’ (being an adult and being a teen idol) blend together at some point to make it feel like they’re both happening in the same world. As for the heroine, I like her as her adult self and her 15 year old self. Tho it seems like her 15 year old self acts way cuter than her adult self would behave. I wanna see her grow a bit more, tho I don’t wanna see her miraculously become this bishoujo lol. Also I hope she doesn’t do any more stupid decisions like in volume 4 lol.
I’ll try thinking about buying future volumes, I can’t help but be curious about how it will end. Then again it will take a while until another volume releases, so I’ll just wait until then to make my decision. Also, I’m kinda kicking myself for not buying the special edition of Vol.3 that has a character song CD attatched to it where Kitaro (voiced by Ryohei Kimura) sings. There was also an audio drama part in the CD too (about 15 minutes?), oh Ryohei Kimura how I missed your voice lol. Anyway, that’s my lose.
I hope this post was insightful. As always thanks for reading!
Enjoy this panel of Akari/Chikage being adorable.
If you have any shoujo manga suggestions that are a bit unique, please tell me! I’m looking for recommendations to read and practice my Japanese.