As much as I love Arina Tanemura’s colorful, huge-eyed art, I have to admit that it has been a while since I picked up one of her series. I think I may have actually missed everything after Fullmoon wo Sagashite, actually. And it’s not because I don’t like her series, or anything! I am just easily distracted as there is so much manga out there. I finally realized that I was missing out on some fun stuff, and picked up the first volume of this new series. I’m glad I did~ As always, Tanemura-sensei’s art is so detailed and sparkly. While she still does suffer a bit from same-face syndrome (telling her characters apart from one series to the next can be a challenge) the art itself is so lovely to look at, I don’t mind!
31 Ai Dream (or thirty one idream or whatever you want to call this series) is the story of an office lady named DEGUCHI Chikage. As the title implies, she is 31 years old. When she was young, she was elegant and beautiful. In fact, in junior high, she was even considered to be her school’s beloved ‘Madonna.’ Everyone admired her. Unfortunately for her, most of that admiration was done from afar, and she only actually received any love confessions at really awkward times like graduation ceremonies where people part ways. She went on to an all-girls high school were romance options with boys were limited, and so her already serious personality grew more reserved and shy. Time passed, and now at 31 she has become an ‘old maid.’ She has never dated or even kissed anyone before, and her serious personality prevents her from being the outgoing, cutesy type that attracts the guys at her office. Her life is lonely, and while she isn’t outright unhappy, she has some vague regrets about never having the nerve to confess to Haru-kun, the boy she liked back in junior high.
But now she has that chance! Her junior high class is having a reunion, and Haru-kun is sure to be there. If Chikage plays her cards right, she can finally confess, and maybe her status as a 31 year-old virgin will be over! Alas, such good fortune was not meant for Chikage. The reunion turns out to be a disaster. Aside from the pleasure of meeting her old friend Tokita-kun, Chikage’s evening could not have gone worse. A blabber-mouth jealous former classmate reveals Chikage’s single status to the crowd, and to Chikage’s horror, Haru how actually snickers at Chikage’s discomfort! How humiliating! With all the magnified drama of a junior high student, Chikage imagines her life is surely over.
Chikage’s bad mood spirals even lower when she spots Haru later on actually out on a date with her blabber-mouth classmate! Even worse! Thankfully, Tokita-kun prevents Chikage from doing some serious harm to herself and instead offers her a miraculous solution — would she be interested in trying a youth-restoring pill that his pharmaceutical-company employer has developed? The pill will supposedly transform someone so they are young again, almost like magic. Each pill lasts a good 5 or 6 hours. While this offer sounds too good to be true (and she really should be wary of people offering pills) Chikage is feeling very low and agrees. Amazingly enough, the pill works, and in moments her body is transformed back to her beautiful state from when she was 15.
It’s the fountain of youth! Young again, will Chikage be able to take advantage of this chance? Things didn’t go well for her during her first time around, can she correct her past mistakes? This pill is not a time machine, but perhaps, with a shot to live again as her younger self, she can change herself, her older self, for the better.
This effort to change mainly involves agreeing to do the opposite of everything she would have refused to do before. This leads her into some amazing situations. Right off the bat, Chikage’s younger self is spotted by a talent scout and she is recruited to be in an ad with none other than Hibiki, the country’s hottest young star and leader of the immensely popular boy band, VALENTINE. Talk about a teenage dream right there! But Chikage has the mind of a 31 year-old. A serious, timid, 31 year-old. Her reactions to everything that happens to her newly 15-year-old self are put through that filter. Hibiki is hot, but he’s only 15. It is only his resemblance to her beloved Haru that has Chikage interested in him.
Armed with a supply of pills from Tokita-kun (who, in spite of having a girlfriend, may have long-unrequited feelings for Chikage), Chikage embarks on discovering and changing herself through reliving her youth. She will become an idol! Will there be a love triangle with Hibiki and Tokita? That would be super awkward, what with the mental age difference there, but this is Shoujo Manga Land, where things have ways of working out. I personally don’t see anything wrong enough about Chikage that she should need to change anything about herself in the first place, but I still look forward to following her as she works to become the idol “Deguchi Akari.” I also wonder if the reason Hibiki looks so much like Haru may be because he is Haru’s son? That would add yet another great layer of awkwardness if true!
As I write this, only volume 1 is out. Volume 2 comes out in another month and a half, and let me tell you, I am feeling mighty impatient here!