Dream Walker by Yeo Hui Xuan: Magical Girl and Singaporean Performance Anxiety

Dream Walker Comic Series - Singapore Comics
Dream Walker Comic Series - Image from tczstudio.com

Official Synopsis:

Bizarre incidents have stirred this city and victims die in their sleep.
Like any other regular student, Yume led an ordinary life.
However recently,she has been plagued by the same nightmares everyday.
After her encounter with Muca, Yume’s hidden dreamscape power is activated in the face of danger…

Tags and themes:

#schoollife #action #adventure #fantasy #drama #romance #comingofage #youths #shonen #femalelead #magicalgirl #mahoshoujo #manga #cats

What’s it about and why should I read it?

Beyond the typical depictions of CMIO characters in HDBs, lonely elderlies guarding a vanishing trade in hawker centres, and superheroes possessed by the spirit of the Merlion, what makes a comic particularly “Singaporean”? At first look, Yeo Hui Xuan’s Dream Walker [DW] manga series does not seem like the usual sort of material fitted for national education curriculums where teachers spoil the fun of reading comics by asking one to write reflections… Nevertheless, a closer reading to the sub themes tackled within the guise of high school magical girl fantasy unveils underlying thematic concerns every Singaporean is too familiar with – the never ending anxiety with competition and underperformance, the fear of an uncertain future dictated by one’s academic ability, the lack of space to dream and the opportunity costs of dreaming, spiced up a dash of class and family struggles. 

The female protagonist, Yume, is a failing secondary school student who transforms into a demon-fighting magical girl protecting the Dreamscape at night, inducted by her cat mentor Muca who turns into an incredibly handsome young man only in such dreams. Such transformation from a failing nobody to one of the chosen few with special ability and responsibility did not make Yume any less stressed, as even in her dreams she had to learn and grow from scratch, while competing with her extremely talented peers. Yume’s psychological perspective come from the author’s authentic personal experiences, and therefore the depth of her struggles extends beyond that of the the usual magical girl gender trope: in DW, personal growth and social responsibility is the key to the character’s development, whereas romance is only given the slightest hint, and most of the time are obscured by moral doubts and underwritten as the source of frustration. This counter-romance, pro-growth narrative offers a fresh take and some realism to the fighting magical girl fantasy.

Dream Walker Volume 3 pg 8 & pg 10 - Singapore comics
Dream Walker Volume 3 pg 8 & pg 10 - Image from tczstudio.com
Dream Walker Five Pillars pg 8-9 - Singapore comics
Dream Walker Five Pillars pg 8-9 - Image from tczstudio.com

The issue of class struggles, familial privilege and limited success is certainly another key theme in DW: Yume hails from a family line of Master Dream Walkers, but still somehow managed to disappoint and underperform most of the time. Since the story is set in a vaguely Singaporean environment, the characters must also precariously balance their day jobs and public facades with their nightly superheroesque persona which is to be hidden at all costs. As the narrative unfolds, Yume and other characters mature and persist in their quests, while not necessarily succeeding. While one takes on the extra responsibility of guarding the Dreamscape, there are great opportunity costs in sacrificing one’s sleeps…

Where can I get it?

Read some chapters for free online at the publisher’s official website:
https://tczstudio.com/ftr-dw/

Purchase physical books, illustration albums from here

Also, you can find the books in public libraries!

Format:

Ongoing Manga series. Physical publication. Available in English and Chinese.

  • Series I Dream Walker (2009–13) complete: 6 volumes. 160 pages per volume. Monochrome inner pages.
  • R.G.B Side Story(2014) complete: 1 volume, 84 pages full colour.
  • Series II Dream Walker -Dreamscape 5 Pillars (2014–15) complete: 2 volumes. 142 pages per volume. Monochrome inner pages.
  • Series III Dream Walker ~ The Reality World (2016–18) complete: 3 volumes. 116 pages per volume. Monochrome with coloured pages, full-colour chapter dividers and pull-out poster.

Series III side story Dream Walker ~ Future Goal (Yume’s Story) (2020) on-going: 1 volume. 55 pages. Monochrome with coloured pages.

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