#1 A hero for your dreams
Rem Ayanokoji is a young girl who operates a detective bureau with a curious specialty. Instead of dealing with regular crimes like robberies or murder, she deals with matters related to dreams. Monsters, demons, and evil spirits, they can all invade your dreams to cause harm or even death. Since no conventional scientific or medical aid can combat these creatures, it falls upon Dream Hunter Rem to sort them out.
Rem has the means to literally enter and manipulate people’s dreams, which she uses in combination with her investigative skills to defeat the evil villains haunting her clients. While fighting in the dream world, Rem is able to use psychic powers and transform into an agile warrior princess. Meanwhile, in the real world, she prefers solving her problems with a revolver and various other heavy weapons. She is also backed up by her familiars Alpha and Beta, a kitten and puppy who can transform into feral beasts when accompanying REM into battle.
It’s a cool idea that lends itself to some imaginative mysteries. Each episode tells a standalone and complete story, with my favorite being one where Rem infiltrates a strange school to investigate a string of macabre deaths. It’s a proper ghost story with some unsettling twists and imagery, particularly when the violence spills over into the real world.
#2 Remarkable violence
On that note…
The idea of a little girl and her pets fighting against bad guys to protect the world of dreams sounds kinda cute, doesn’t it? Well, there is some light comedy sprinkled throughout the show, but Dream Hunter REM is a gruesome action series first and foremost.
That may sound needlessly edgy, but Dream Hunter REM actually handles its subversive content quite well. Its violent in an unsettling way, rather than relying on extravagant gore as so many other OVA series of the past would. There’s a sudden brutality to these scenes. Violent decapitations, the impact of a hatchet embedding itself in a skull, spontaneous impalement —it triggers the part of the brain that goes “OH JESUS!” rather than the easily-desensitized parts that get a kick out of gory explosions. Is that how brains work?
#3 Hentai no more
Not only is the story within the anime itself interesting, but so too is the tale of its creation. Dream Hunter REM first saw the light of day as a hentai OVA quietly produced by a small studio under an otherwise unknown director. It garnered unexpected popularity, so the IP was fleshed out further by a more veteran staff.
Mere months after its initial release, the series returned with a reworked episode 1 that stripped out the sex scenes, but added a lot of new content as well. It would then go on to run for several more episodes and received a sequel, New Dream Hunter REM, in the early 90’s. Tie-in products like manga and light novels were plentiful as well and the series enjoyed a final moment in the spotlight when Rem starred in the 2014 cross-over RPG Super Heroine Chronicle.
Its interesting to watch the series unfold and the animation improve over time, which I doubt would have ever happened under the original direction. Those who seek out VHS copies of the original first episode will find it very mediocre. Already held back by its inconsistent animation quality, the few sex scenes sprinkled throughout are clumsy to the point of becoming incomprehensible. I have no clue what I am looking at here and I am most certainly not aroused.