(Spoilers for Octave in this post)
Hey hey hey! Looks like I’m kicking things off for OWLS for once. Sometimes tragedies do happen after all, it seems.
At any rate, this month’s topic is about “Dreamers.” Hm, “October Dreamer” has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Anyways, here’s the prompt:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?”
Due to recent events that happened in September, this month’s OWLS topic will be on “Dreamers.” Every individual has a goal or ambition that they devote their whole life to with passion and courage—whether it’s landing your dream job, traveling, or finding the love of your life. However, there are those who spent their whole life working towards a dream but it was cut short due to an unexpected occurrence. Those people are left only to dream and wonder about the possibility.
This month’s topic will be dedicated to these characters in pop culture entertainment. We are not going to focus on the individuals that achieved their aspirations but instead, we will focus on characters that weren’t able to. We will explore what happens to characters who had their wings forcefully cut off as well as those who gave up before they even started their journey. We will also discuss what it means for “a dream to be deferred.”
So the series that first popped into my mind after reading this prompt was the yuri manga, Octave. Despite its controversial protagonist, Yukino, many regard Octave as a classic for the yuri genre. Be that as it may, it’s easy to see why Yukino is so divisive. She is initially self-absorbed and prone to running away from her own problems by pushing the blame onto others, wallowing in self-pity, and seeking affection from others as a means of validation. So many negative traits make her easy to dislike.
In my opinion, however, the series is a classic because of Yukino, not in spite of her.
Essentially, Octave is a coming-of-age story for Yukino. While said stories typically feature early-teens or mid-teens, she is actually 18 years old at the start of the series (which is considered old for the aforementioned genre). With her personality defects, Yukino effectively acts a child when she is already considered an adult in regards to age.
The thing is, her behavior is partially explained when one considers her path in life. Yukino had wanted to become an idol ever since she was young. She managed to get scouted during middle school and she ended up dropping out in order to focus on her career. Unfortunately, her dream died shortly afterwards – the four-girl idol group was forcibly disbanded due to being unpopular and she was forced to return back home to the countryside. But being unable to cope with the jeering from cruel classmates, the disillusioned girl returned to Tokyo and was given a job as an assistant of sorts within the same company that had formed her doomed idol group.
This sets the stage for the beginning of Octave – a girl who was given the chance to shine but failed to do so. A woman who doesn’t have any goals in life and who had sacrificed everything, including her adolescence, only to end up with nothing to show for it. As such, it comes to no surprise that Yukino behaves much like a child – an idol is the center of attention and has most of her needs attended to by the company or by her manager. Despite only being an idol for a brief time, the lifestyle has left an impact of sorts on Yukino, who has yet to truly grow up.
Thankfully, Yukino runs into Setsuko, a musician turned into song composer after her music group failed to make it big, and the two find love. But this isn’t like the widespread and mainstream idol anime series like Love Live!, The iDOLM@STER, or even Wake-Up Girls! Yukino doesn’t make a glorious comeback as an idol after having a chance meeting with someone who is talented, who knows how she feels, and who cares. As stated above, her dream has long been crushed and dead and she’s well aware of it despite her immature behavior. She merely fell in love with someone else, which is wonderful but romance can’t solve everything. Even after her life starts to improve through Setsuko’s influence, Yukino remains confused about what she wants to do in life for many chapters.
If that wasn’t enough, she has to cope with what it means to be dating a fellow woman. With such a decision comes hardship – prejudice from someone who she had considered a dear friend, for instance, and the feeling that she failed to fulfill her parents’ expectations once again as Yukino had essentially threw her youth away for nothing and is now unable to have biological children with her partner. Such scenarios are commonplace in fiction to the point of being considered cliche and overdone, I know, but said situations are tactfully done and accurately convey what it means to be lesbian in a society that is unforgivingly heteronormative.
And on top of all that, Yukino had always believed she was heterosexual before she met Setsuko. In hindsight, it seems almost inevitable that she would become attracted to Setsuko since Yukino was always quick to denounce men as gross and bestial in nature due to how their line of sight often strayed towards her chest or how they would quip about onanism and so on. Be that as it may, Yukino had convinced herself she was straight and had fooled herself well enough until her fateful encounter with the stoic composer. As such, Octave is not just a coming-of-age story in regards to maturity but in terms of sexuality. The result is a sincere narrative that isn’t cheerfully opimistic but also isn’t hopelessly dreary. For a series where the protagonist isn’t initially aware of her sexual orientation, such a tone is suitable for Octave as Yukino’s situation can resonate with individuals who are going through similar situations in real life.
Let’s get back to Yukino’s reactions and actions after failing to accomplish her dream of becoming an idol. Her behavior could theoretically be a result of a yearning for a desire that went unfulfilled, as stated above, but she at least consciously acknowledges that her lifetime goal is now out of reach by the time Octave starts.
However, her goal was over due to her own behavior. Unlike Mika, Yukino didn’t strive to continue being an idol. Unlike Nao, she didn’t try to capitalize on Mika’s success by becoming a porn actress. And unlike the fourth member of the minor idol group that Yukino was once a part of and whose name evades memory, Yukino doesn’t return to school. Instead, she came back to the agency that abandoned her and wagged her tail like a dog. And then she lived her life without truly thinking from paycheck to paycheck until she met the love of her life. Plus Yukino had the gall to feel jealous of Mika despite not putting in the work like she did. As a result, Yukino comes across as being out-of-touch, as someone who wants the rewards with minimal effort.
Like I stated earlier, romance didn’t solve all of her issues like magic. While Yukino was given a poor lot in life, she makes terrible decisions even after getting involved with Setsuko, such as infidelity or appearing distant during moments where she should be demonstrating her feelings and affections. Even if one gives Yukino the benefit of the doubt by remembering her past, by considering her as someone who has lost all motivation in life and who never had the chance to actually mature, her behavior as a whole is hard to forgive.
Her road to recovery, however, is marked by two things. One would be that she actually starts trying. She starts doing her best at work and eventually manages to become a manager of an idol. In other words, she starts putting in effort and she is rewarded for it thusly.
The other telltale sign of her improvement would be that she cuts off the harmful reminders of and links to her past. Even though Kamo had supported Yukino for many years as Yukino’s best friend, her reaction upon finding out that Yukino has started dating a girl rather than a man is one of disbelief, of blunt homophobia. Furthermore she blabs it to her boyfriend, who in turn blabs it to everyone at a class reunion. Kamo’s insincere apology was the final straw and results in Yukino deciding to never wanting to see Kamo ever again
It’s also implied that Mika and Yukino also subconsciously decide that they will also be saying goodbye to one another. The idol and her former teammate met a few times during Octave and the two were and was still fond of each other. But they also found out that they no longer shared common ground. The years had changed them too much. Both girls were also jealous of each other to some degree, so perhaps it was for the better that they parted ways. However, Mika really was a genuine friend to Yukino so it was ultimately more tragic compared to what happened between Yukino and Kamo.
I could go on and on about Octave, but I should start wrapping up as this is getting excessive. In short, Octave shows how one can live on after failing to accomplish one’s dream. Different methods used by different people throughout the story, but the focus was on Yukino, a girl who had never truly grown up despite accepting that her dream was dead. After her dream was deferred, she ended up losing all sense of purpose until she met the love of her life. As a result, she became encouraged to start reevaluating her own life and to start setting new goals to strive for.
The fact that romance is the catalyst for her change might make the series sound overly idealistic, but it really isn’t. As stated several times in this post, Yukino has many issues and they’re not automatically solved once she starts dating Setsuko. With the help of her girlfriend, however, Yukino slowly improves. At times she regresses and at times she messes up, but Yukino now has a purpose in life with someone acting as her support. I don’t care that it comes across as cliché because it’s true. Having someone believe in you changes everything. But it all starts with the first step. Make an effort to do something even after your dreams crash and burn. Seek new dreams. Or else you won’t get anywhere.
…And we’re all out of time now, folks! Thanks for staying tuned to the Remy Show! Next up is Matt-in-the-Hat’s post, so look forward to that!
The month has just started so you can expect a lot more posts from other OWLS member to come pouring in. To check out this month’s schedule, click here!