Dreamless is a short romance comic with a unique twist: the two people in love have never met. How can this be? Well, the title explains it all. Neither one of the two main characters dreams. Instead, while asleep, they see and hear what the other person is doing.
Eleanor is growing up on the west coast of America and Takeshi is growing up in Japan. The story follows Eleanor most of the time as she and Takeshi grow up and fall in love. Sadly, they’re growing up in the 1930s and early 1940s, when commercial air flight is prohibitively expensive and Japan is on the brink of war with the United States.
The story is good, but there are several unfortunate implications lurking just below the surface. After Eleanor’s mother’s suicide when Eleanor is about eight-years-old, Eleanor starts sleeping for sixteen hours a day. She becomes so involved with Takeshi’s life that several problems crop up. For starters, her presence gives him virtually no privacy, which starts to grate on him and temporarily drives a wedge between them. This happens when he turns eighteen, suggesting that she’s been watching him for ten years (except when she’s been working hard to save up the money for a long distance call to Japan). She also has no other friends and has an unhealthy dependence on him and his life, to the extent that she fails to notice World War II starting until Takeshi gets conscripted. Finally, the romance angle of the whole comic is a little odd, given that they (essentially) have grown up together and have a relationship more akin to what one has with a sibling than with a romantic partner. It makes the happy ending fall a little flat and feel a little creepy.
Despite this, the story is interesting and well thought out. The characters are complex and interesting. And even though it’s a fairly short comic, nothing feels rushed or ignored.
The art is beautiful, with lots of curvy lines and done in beautiful watercolor. The colors are muted, but that’s good both because it makes the rare moments of brightness all the more special and because the comic has a mostly pessimistic or depressed tone.
With suicide, attempted suicide, alcoholism, arson and the blatant depiction of prostitution (although not to the point of being explicit or vulgar), this book is firmly in the sixteen and up category. Dreamless is also available to read for free online as a webcomic.