This is review number two hundred and one. While I wait for the Spring 2013 anime lineup to end, I’ll be going back to the Winter 2011 lineup. This is a short lineup so I’ll be quick with this one as I prepare all the anime people are requesting I review and the anime of the Spring 2013 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing though is called Yumekui Merry or “Dream Eater Merry”. It’s a thirteen episode anime about a girl that kicks ass in the dream world. Oh if only the anime was as straight forward as that. Let’s read on.
The anime is about a girl named Merry. She has no memory of her past self and has since wandered aimlessly hoping to find a way to “go back home”. One day, she meets a guy named Yumeji who is freaking out when he realized he has crossed the boundary between the world of dreams and reality. Yumeji is being chased by some evil creatures trying to take over his body so they can cross over the other world as well. Merry was able to save him but it seems that Yumeji might be useful if she plans on going back home. The two then set out on a journey to hunt down other evil creatures that plans to take over innocent humans so they can leave the dream world and enter the human world. The two will soon learn though the exact scope of the world they are involved with and the consequences of their actions.
Taking the Pants Off
I remember watching this anime back when it was first released. It was in the same lineup as Madoka Magica and that was when my interest with anime reignited. It shriveled right back down when I saw this anime. This particular show was just a mess. The idea is seriously there. It’s entertaining to a degree and it has potential to be amazing. For some reason, the execution is really just the whole thing that destroyed this anime. I’m not saying the execution is a flaw. No, no, no. It’s the sole reason this anime was horrible. The botched execution was the thing that destroyed this anime. It doesn’t grab your attention at first even though it has every means to do so and then it takes six episodes to actually get good. The biggest mistake though was to have this anime, that is clearly character driven, rely on the story. The story of this anime doesn’t matter past the premise and the characters pretty much carry the anime all the way. JC Staff made it needlessly complex by presenting the story as something profound and deep with a great theme about hope and dreams in a pretty dream-like setting drowning in dead silence. It isn’t. It’s not an anime about dreams with a cute protagonist. It’s an anime about different people involved with dream and reality with their own deep personal conflicts that nicely highlights the nihilism of life but with the great notion of hope tucked between the darkness. How did something so conceptually amazing turn into something mediocre and bland? Someone deserves to burn for this.
The first episode doesn’t really seem much. It was as underwhelming as it can be. It doesn’t catch your attention nor does it offer anything intriguing to make you watch the rest of the anime. Most anime would present the premise in the first episode. It doesn’t really matter if you f*ck it up along the way as long as you clearly present the premise in the first episode. Some anime takes up to three episodes which is doable still. For some odd reason though, the anime took five episodes to clearly present the premise. The problem was pretty simple. The entire anime is executed badly. It was too busy trying to establish a creepy dream-like setting that feels intriguing but actually just muddles the whole experience. It also keeps focusing on Merry as if she was the sole focus of the anime. She was just a character that doesn’t really do much but the first half pegged her as the most important in the anime and the entire show revolves around her. She was bland though and her entire personality is disjointed. This basically summed up the problem of the anime. I personally feel like they were trying something artistically complex with the anime but ended up just ruining the whole thing. They put too much emphasis on the mood and the visuals without establishing the premise clearly first then focused a lot of time on a character that they feel is intriguing but is actually a side character at best. This worked against the show because the premise is pretty complex to begin with.
The anime is really about the real world and the dream world. It’s stated that when you dream, you actually enter another world with its own inhabitants. These inhabitants want to cross to the other side and the only way to do that is to use the humans as “vessels”. The anime presented this as a bad thing at first. They take control of humans and make them do their bidding. That’s a bad thing. Yumeji and Merry was actually attacked by a bunch of evil inhabitants at first. Merry actually believes that she belongs in the dream world but somehow got stuck in the human world. She now plans to return home but the only way to do that is to ask the inhabitants that cross over. Merry thinks that if she defeats an inhabitant, they would crawl back into the dream world and she can slip back in. The problem is looking for people already used as vessels though. This is where Yumeji comes in. He has this ability to see the potential dreams of people and black colored dreams means that something bad will happen. If they look disfigured then that human already has an inhabitant inside them. Merry would then activate a dream-like barrier where inhabitants can take form. She beats them enough to ask if she can find a way to go back home. This is the premise of the anime.
The anime can present this whole thing in just one episode. Heck, they can do this with one of the characters just narrating the whole thing. They didn’t do that. They made it stupidly hard to grasp the concept and even harder to enjoy the anime. The director must’ve been riding on the notion that he can make something profound with an anime about dreams. This anime honestly had a “Serial Experiment lain” vibe to it because of the dead silence and the painted background. Pulling a psychological twist on a goddamn Shounen manga has potential to be disastrous though. The proof is right here. This anime was more of the School genre with bright cheerful characters and some comedic romantic entanglement that eventually appears come the second half. So the whole first half was about a director that doesn’t know what he is adapting which is embarrassing and a bit insulting to its original material.
Once the anime presented its premise, it then slowly focused on the important characters. As the anime progressed, it was revealed that when a dream world inhabitant takes a human as a vessel, they actually give the human a reason to pursue their dreams. It’s like they were the motivation that drives a human to doing something they love. Forcing these inhabitants to leave also robs the humans of their dreams and they become shells that no longer want to dream nor pursue anything. The humans soon become an empty sack with dead fish eyes that is a bit lethargic and uninterested in anything. This becomes a crushing blow for Merry because everything she’s been doing up to this point was actually doing more harm than good. The anime had nice themes of nihilism and hope at this point. Merry was actually chasing something that doesn’t exist and she has been wasting her whole life with nonsense. At this point, more characters are introduced. Other people with inhabitants in them are featured. These characters have their own personal conflicts and agendas that were slowly revealed in the anime. I honestly think the idea of nihilism was strong in the anime but it wasn’t featured much. It was presented to a degree but the characters were pretty bland that it wasn’t able to hit strong with its potential message. The idea being that dreams can be easily crushed by almost anything and humans can spend the rest of their life aimless and miserable but something easily lost can also be easily gained. I honestly got that from the anime during its f*cking beach episode and it can honestly drive the anime in the direction the director was trying to push it- the psychological side as oppose to the Shounen side- but again, it was handled horribly. The execution was so awful that I actually will spend more time talking about what should’ve been instead of the actual anime.
In the second half though, after all the important characters are introduced, the actual story soon focused on one rouge and powerful dream world inhabitant victimizing others and mercilessly killing fellow dream world inhabitants. The characters are soon dead set on stopping this evil bastard before he hurt more people. There was also a small subplot about an actual evil dude building an army aiming for world domination but it leads nowhere. Instead, the anime was focused on another equally threatening villain. Even though it took the time to set up the story of the other villain and the army he was building, the anime decided to throw that idea out the window and just focus on the other villain that had little build up but, again, equally threatening. The whole show eventually became a Shounen at this point with a lot of fighting that was the actual point of the anime buried because of all the nonsense JC Staff threw on top of it. The show wasn’t able to recover till the end and the lack of direction was prominent up until the end of the anime. It was a damn shame because this show seriously had some strong potential.
The characters are all bland. Some of them are generic and bland. Either way, they didn’t really stand out in any way and they didn’t have time to develop. Merry was confusing and pretty much reflect the absurdity of the anime. She was presented as a girl going through existential crisis but then she would have cute moments like blushing and going chibi while she eats a donut. What exactly was her role in the anime and why was she heavily presented in the first half? Majority of the episodes was about her yet even now after I finished the anime, I am still not sure exactly what her role was. Was she an awesome character with strong fighting skills? Was she the anime mascot that gives the necessary eye candy? Was she a romantic pairing for Yumeji? Was she sort of like “The One” who is special and powerful yet surrounded in mystery? Or is she just a plot device for an anime with a horrible story? Or is she a combination of all of this that results in a clusterf*ck of a character?
Yumeji is pretty easy to figure it out. He was just a normal guy thrown into a world new to him. He’s like any other Shounen character that has a strong will and a persistent attitude. The anime manages to botch this simple character as well though by not clearly defining his role. Is he a main character, the most important character in the anime? Or is he just a supporting character after Merry? Or is he just a bland plot device like the rest of the characters? I’ll stop with the questions after this. Obviously, you dear readers don’t have the answers. The creators don’t seem to have the answers as well though. The rest of the cast is pretty normal. Yumeji’s friends don’t do much but take up space. They do help in giving the theme of “following your dreams” a decent idea. The rest of the important casts are the ones with a dream world inhabitant inside them. The anime gave them a decent background and fleshing out to make the viewer’s emotionally invest in them. When the intentions of the anime became clear then their roles were easily identified but I honestly felt that it was too late to give the anime a decent finish. If the anime was structured clearly then I’m sure the cast would’ve been a whole lot stronger than how they were presented in the show. At some point, I did appreciate the various melodramas of the characters but it honestly was at a point where I personally no longer care for the anime.
A part of me wanted to love this anime. It has a strong idea to present and I feel bad that the execution was the sole reason it wasn’t able to be something more worthwhile. I felt that the premise is pretty incredible and the various characters were interesting enough to carry the anime. The theme was pretty interesting and really you just need to present it clearly. It’s something JC Staff could not do. If you managed to finish this then I want congratulate to you. I don’t blame you if you drop this though. The first half was uninteresting and the second half is a convoluted mess. It’s just bad. It really shouldn’t be though but it is. It’s bad.
Sight and Sound
The character design is pretty decent. The humans are pretty normal. They don’t really stand out much but they still had some great details on them. The decent hair colors and the unique outfits made the characters look interesting but the lack of a strong personality really made them look weak. Merry’s outfit is pretty good though. It has the shameless fan service angle with the short shorts and the expose belly but the design is still good. I love it. The school uniform is pretty normal but I do like the teacher’s outfit with the blazer and the tie. The characters of the dream world are all pretty awesome. Their design has no boundaries and their filled with imagination. From normal people to monsters and animals, there is a lot to love about the dream world inhabitants. One stand out that I personally love is the woman with the angle wings. She has a nice sword with her and she is dressed with white. She looks pretty regal and menacing. I also love the character named “Sea of Trees” because she dresses pretty wild with leaves adorning her outfit and the addition of the white hair was a nice touch. There are also cute characters though like some cats wearing boots and a chibi looking magician. There is no template for the dream world characters and that’s a wonderful aspect of the anime.
The background of the anime is a mix of stiff CG and painted scenes. The anime was going for a dream-like world with little humans in it and it’s drowning in silence. It has an eerie vibe that does come out of the scenes but doesn’t necessarily fit the anime. The painted scenes are nicely done though. It has some great details and the color combination was wonderful. It stands out magnificently and I love how the characters move about in them. The stiff CG is pretty noticeable and it looks cheap. JC Staff has a fetish for this back when CG was cool. They have long since made their CG blend with the normal background. The dream world is pretty outstanding. Like the characters, there are no templates for the sceneries and the world is driven by the imagination. From simple fields of grass to gothic looking castles, the sceneries are very much complex in the dream world.
The animation is decent. It doesn’t stand out but it’s enough to make the story move forward. The fight scenes are horrible though. JC Staff has this thing of having fight scenes drown in dialogue and senseless pacing that does make the overall story look good but the fight itself is bad. In the final fight scene, the movements were limited and it’s just a back and forth scene with the characters just flailing their arms around. It doesn’t look good and it had too much talk than biting. The flow was pretty simple with a strong character overpowering weak ones then the weak one fight back, gets crushed again and then some dialogue, more dialogue and then some melodrama sh*t. It’s forgettable at best.
The anime’s OP is “Daydream Syndrome” by Marina Fujiwara. This is a pretty decent song and Marina’s voice does sound lovely. It isn’t anything special though and the song just doesn’t sound as great as it should be. The song is a bit dark though and the theme nicely compliments this subplot about Merry and her past. The OP sequence features all the characters but most importantly, Merry and Yumeji in a montage focusing their relationship. It’s suggested that they knew each other when they were kids but it was never explored by the anime so I don’t know where that came from. The OP was just as confusing as the anime itself so check it out to get a firm idea of the show.
The anime’s ED is “Yume to Kibou to Ashita no Atashi” by Ayane Sakura. This was sung by Merry and I love her voice. The song is a cute Jpop song with a nice theme of hope. It tells of a bubbly song about waiting for tomorrow in a positive light. It’s a nice message the convoluted anime missed in portraying. The ED sequence features Merry covered in roses. It’s nothing special, really.
3/10 “This show was just handled badly. It’s like watching a bird fly but upon leaving the branch it was sitting on, the bird forgot how to fly and desperately flails every part of its body before it broke its neck in a miserable descent to the ground below.”
Look, I’m making bad analogies to summarize the anime. The show certainly had potential and I cannot believe how mishandled the entire thing is. It has some decent ideas along the way but the overall experience is just bad and unfulfilling. If you enjoy watching convoluted anime with no decent payoff then you should try this one. If your gut tells you to drop this after the first episode then do it. It’s bad.