Dream Eater Merry
Yumeji is a high school student that has the special talent that he can see what kind of dreams people are going to have by the colour of their aura. The problem is that in his own dreams he is under attack from a vicious group of anthropomorphic cats with an unknown agenda. He then meets a mysterious girl in a gloriously fetishised outfit who falls on him from out of a tree who also has a strange affinity for dreams and just wants to get home. Stuff then happens.
It is always a risky business going into an animé when you have a certain fondness for its source manga. There is always the risk of adaptations being too loose (or sometimes too faithful), voice acting that just is not how you imagined it, changes in design, etc. I will admit that I have a habit of choosing one or the other when it comes to those sorts of things - I rarely watch/read both at once. That all said, I could not help but have my interest piqued when Dream Eater Merry got itself an adaptation. One of the main reasons I enjoyed the manga was because of its lovely designs and art and I was looking forward to seeing that in full colour - the dream sequences in their fully animated glory - and on that account, Dream Eater Merry comes out successful. On other accounts not so much.
Dream Eater Merry definitely looks good. From the varied and interesting dream demon designs to some gorgeous background art, there is plenty to drool over in terms of eye candy. The whole aesthetic, especially in terms of the dream worlds, is reminiscent of Soul Eater, though certainly not to a plagiaristic degree, and I say that to its credit, if you are going to take inspiration then it might as well be from some of the best. I will also make special note of Merry's design that is a wonder in itself. Not a wonder in sophistication or outright beauty but a wonder in paraphilic design, a harem and a half's worth of fetish in one character that blend seamlessly and almost beautifully. It is almost art that a design can be so pandering yet still remaining so eye-catching and genuinely pretty. If several decades' worth of terrible erotic visual novel adaptations have taught us anything, it is that to make designs that are pandering and actually pleasing to the eye at the same time is much harder than you might imagine.
The characters, as they are, are quite good. Yumeji is earnest and kind even when he has those aspects of himself challenged and Merry is a pleasantly nonviolent tsundere with a cute tomboy streak that comes out strongest in the fight scenes. Characters like Yui, Isana, and Saki to a degree are empathetic; interestingly normal for what is essentially a shounen fighting animé and very charming in their own ways - mostly avoiding the common clichés and niche roles that more minor characters have a habit of falling into in animé. They are normal decent people and it works even with the show's outlandish premise. Even the dream demons have easy to grasp motivations and it adds an element of moral quandary when Merry and Yumeji have to consider their enemies feelings and the long-term consequences of their goal to get Merry home and the means by which they do it.
The show starts off pretty well. The OP (not a feature I am in the habit of talking about normally) is very enjoyable, along with the majority of the music, and initially the series is quite interesting. The dream aspect is well done, the side characters are quite charming and filled with potential, the initial fight scenes are choreographed well (Merry's combat movements are elegant and unusual) and the general concept set-up is certainly interesting. It all seemed like it was going well at this point but then the show's first and fatal flaw rears its head: it goes on to do practically nothing with this potentially interesting set-up.
I was perhaps a little generous in my synopsis where I said that stuff happens. It does not. The problem with Dream Eater Merry is nothing happens. For some reason the writers quickly decide to pad out an already short series with filler and a non-manga plot arc while only hinting at a main plot that never gets addressed in the show's runtime. Worst of all, the filler arc is not all that interesting or well done. We get episodes upon episodes of build-up and suspense, hinting at a coming event that either never comes (in terms of the manga's main plot) or that comes and goes in the most anticlimactic fashion. It feels like the writers got through the first couple of episodes and then immediately realised they had no idea what they were going to do from there and proceeded to stall for the next ten. It's true that we have a big fight in the end and a few fights in the middle but even they felt clueless and the interesting choreography (obviously taken from the manga initially before they abandoned it almost completely) was all but gone. It is not always a mistake not to follow the manga you are adapting to the panel but why leave it when you obviously have no real ideas of your own? It felt like two thirds of the episodes were filler and while that would be unforgivable in a long series, it is deadly to a short series like this one. It has left potentially interesting characters (of which there are quite a few) painfully underdeveloped and it has lost the one thing that could have saved it. The series ceases very quickly to be fun.
After that, what can I say? Nearly everything positive to be said about this show is found in its source manga without the majority of the bad, so if you like what you have heard and seen in terms of concept, characters and aesthetics then hope for a full English translation of the manga and go read that instead. Dream Eater Merry the animé is not a satisfactory substitute.
Wasted potential and a very disappointing adaptation but even so, its filler is not so bad that I would want to give it one star and they still retain the mostly endearing cast and lovely art. Remove a star if you do not like the designs. There is truly nothing here for you in that case. — Aiden Foote
Recommended Audience: There's plenty of fighting and death with some mild fanservice thrown in. The animators seem to have a fascination with Merry's rather well defined abdomen.
Version(s) Viewed: Pre-license digital source
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Dream Eater Merry © 2011 Yoshitaka Ushiki / Houbunsa / Dream Eater Merry Production Committee
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