The wind blows gently over an idyllic countryside. Tall mountains pierce the sky. The long grass rustles in the gentle breeze. Beautiful flowers curl around rounded stones, showing their colors to an empty world. As far as they know, two wolves, Alex and Nathen are the only creatures that live here. Having woken up here one day with only each other for company, they have dubbed this mysterious but calm place “Dream” and now wander it peacefully. But is this place as real as they’d like to believe it is? And can this peace last forever?
Dream is just one of BishopStarz’s many animations, with the first episode released on April 18th, 2017. Even though the show is just one three minute long episode, it sets up a really peaceful and mysterious atmosphere, focusing primarily on the environment and the aesthetics of the world as opposed to any heavy plot. The shots frequently focus on inspiring mountains, delicate flowers, and various pieces of the scenery that the characters find themselves surrounded with. The animation is raster based (as far as I can tell), but quite smooth in how it moves from keyframe to keyframe, implying the use of some tweening.
The pretty, dreamlike aesthetic of Dream belies its dreamlike plot as well. We don’t get to find out a lot about the characters or why they’re here, and in a way Nathen and Alex don’t seem that concerned about their situation, only adding to the sensation that nothing here is quite real. After all, while we’re asleep nothing we do feels out of place or wrong. It’s only once we wake up that we realize how bizarre everything was. The barebones nature of the plot of the show feels more like a trailer for a larger story or a skeleton for the artist to have an excuse to explore an environment he felt like drawing. This is perfectly fine in an animation, in my opinion. If movies like Fantasia are any indicator, it's perfectly fine to animate for the sake of animating, to be able to make visually attractive moving pictures, to draw what you want to draw, and to practice your skills.
However that doesn’t mean that I don’t have my own theories about Dream and the nature of its world. The plot that’s there is intriguing to me, and I do genuinely come away wanting more. Nathen and Alex have just woken up in this world, but they don’t seem too upset about being here. Is this because they don’t remember their old lives (if they had them), and this is all they know? Or is it because their old lives were bad enough to be worth leaving behind? Not to mention, the fact that they called this strange place “Dream” likely isn’t a coincidence. Is this world fake, an illusion that will be wiped away when one or both of them “wakes up”? If one tries to wake up, would the other try to stop them so they can stay in this world? Or are Alex and Nathen just as fake as the rest of the world, at the mercy of some larger being that’s having a dream about them and only existing as long as it remains asleep?
In connection with that last point, I’m interested by the main character, Nathen. There are only two characters in this show, and the story is framed (so far) by his narration. We know who these characters are, what this world is, and how they got there by Nathen’s explanation. Based on what I said earlier though, there’s a lot of ways this could be developed as well. Who’s to say that Nathen is telling the whole, unadulterated truth? Or if he believes he is, who’s to say what he knows is actually true? Is he a dreamer who created this world, or is he just part of the dream and believes otherwise? Having a narrator who is an actual character in the story itself opens up a lot of avenues for plot twists and intrigue.
As you can see, there are a lot of enticing options that could be explored, and I could see a show with a premise this good going in a LOT of interesting directions. While it is perfectly fine if Dream remains as an ethereal journey through a beautiful fantasy world, I could see it developing into a more story heavy show as well. Who knows what fate it could end up with!
I normally try to practice “death of the author” with my reviews and judge a work on what it says in the actual video itself, along with immediately relevant ancillary information like the video description or audition videos for the show. However I think that Dream is one of those shows that you have to take in context with its creator’s other works. BishopStarz’s other webtoons trend toward being very dark and violent in mood and aesthetic, with plenty of blood and death. Needless to say, Dream’s idyllic environment and calm, gentle tone stand in stark contrast with shows like Bitten and The Wolf Inside”. Even the color schemes reflect this. A quick scroll through BishopStarz’s channel shows a lot of thumbnails in stark black, white, and red, in harsh contrast to Dream’s deep, calming blues, greens, and purples. In addition, Dream Episode 1 was released in the midst of a large gap of time between episodes of Bishopstarz’s other shows. Based on the description, it looks like this was due to a conflict with the voice actors, giving BishopStarz some time to work on something else. As a result, this show may represent a ‘breather’ episode, taking a break from the blood and guts to work on something a little more kind.
In my opinion, this was a great idea! Anyone who works with darker types of stories knows that they can be rough on one’s mental health. It’s hard not to get bogged down by the content of the stories one is writing and have it affect one’s real life worldview. As a result, it’s a good idea to take breaks for one’s health, the same as you would do for any other job that requires a lot of time and effort. Dream feels a lot like it was intended for this purpose. It’s gentler nature is quite different from the rest of the shows featured on the same channel, and I think it’s a good call to explore something softer and nicer as a palette cleanser between rougher, nastier works. It helps the audience to take a mental breather too for those binging the channel- a reminder to take a deep breath and relax.
Overall, Dream is an interesting experiment from an artist who isn’t usually known for works of this genre. It does a very good job of setting up a calm, semi-surreal aesthetic through use of environmental setpieces and pacing and even though it is only one episode long, you still get a good idea of what this world is like and the mood that the story is setting up. Even though it’s different from BishopStarz’s other works, I would consider it an absolute success!
Audience: Children, Teens, Adults. While the content of this show is appropriate for all ages, the violent nature of BishopStarz’s other work means that I wouldn’t necessarily show this one to kids if you don’t want them digging through the rest of the channel.
Inclusion: C. Honestly, with such a short run time it’s really difficult to give a rating on stuff like this, especially when the characters aren’t human. There’s at least one female main character, I’ll give it that, but for the most part Dream is… inoffensive. There’s not a lot there, but what’s there is fine.
Best Quality: Compositions and backgrounds. These do a great job at helping to set the scene and mood of the show, and their dark, cool toned color palettes and thick line art make the world feel cohesive and enticing.
Favorite Character: Nathen. Granted there are only two characters in the show so there’s not a lot of competition here to start with, but due to having the most lines Nathen feels the most fleshed out. He is our narrator and the audience’s viewpoint character into the world of Dream. As a result, it’s hard to not feel some sort of empathy toward him and become invested in what he’s doing. I think Alex has a lot of potential- she seems to be the one that wants to actually go out and DO things in this world- but she doesn’t get quite enough screen time or lines for me to get as attached to her.