Chiming in on Yumekui Merry and Madoka

The former tries to be surreal but it’s very concrete with standard concepts; the latter tries to be concrete while being clothed with surrealism, but fails to grab me where it hurts…

(Oh, wow, epic fail XD)

Wait, wait, let me back up a minute so you can withdraw that 10 foot pole. All right, let me explain.

My colleagues have already expressed their views on Madoka (see here and here). I more or less agree with them, except from my angle, what I think really fails is the lack of true excitement from it, on top of a failure to work my emotions. I honest don’t think the characters interest me that much; I like the concepts enough and it certainly is pretty new in the magical girl genre. Of course, I never finished Nanoha S2 or Nanoha Strike or whatever. So, I feel that it’s new to show the true nature of a magical girl contract. I dunno, though. I remember that even Sailor Moon hinted and touched upon territories where her friends were harmed because she was involved in the magical girl thing. So, I don’t really find the concept in Madoka that refreshing. It is true that very few anime talks about what essentially the contract in Madoka is, a contract with the devil.

I watched episodes 3 and 4, and the only reason I was feeling anything was because of the soundtrack. You have to understand, I’ve seen so many sacrifices, deaths of friends and other things IN ANIME (thank God not in real life) that a show really has to do its characters right in order to grab me when a character dies. Madoka lacks that. I’ve been lamenting that the problem with shows with less than 26 episodes is the lack of development for characters. In today’s anime world, the lack of budget and our attention span makes 26-episode-shows nearly impossible (though a lot of that is also because the waste of budget on unnecessary fan service episodes). What’s even worse is that a lot of 13 (or sometimes, 11) episode shows waste episodes on fillers that really don’t develop characters.

What I’m saying is that Mami or what’s her name dies too early.

What doesn’t help is the monster that kills her. Surrealism is one thing, ridiculous looking monsters that makes me laugh is another.

Before you accuse me to being insensitive, let me refer you to shows like Gunslinger Girl, or some episodes in Gundam Seed and Gundam 00, oh and Mike’s favorite show, in which there’s an episode where Shinji is forced to crush possibly the only person who really said “love” to him. For that episode, the fujoshis in Japan cried rivers for it not just for BL.

I know Madoka is not the same thing as Gunslinger Girl, but the ability to really create crushing sadness can be done in either genre. I just wanted more.

Now, onto Yumekui Merry.

It’s not a show that really stands out, even with its concepts about a nightmare trying to defeat other nightmares and sending them back to dreamland. At its core, it’s really a shonen show with a hero and heroine fighting and fighting some more. Of course, she finds out something that challenges their belief (in the most recentl episode).

I’m not a good guesser and when other people see something coming a mile away, I often miss it. I think some people already guessed the outcome of episode 5.

That said, my problem with the show is more about it’s presentation. It tries to be surreal with an interesting concept at its core, but it ends up being more normal than usual. People get possessed and they go out to save them.

There is one thing I really liked about episode 5. It’s when Merry answers the question about how long she has stayed in the human world. She gives an interesting answer and it does create a good impact on the audience.

Other than that, nothing much about the show strikes me. It’s a little slow. I’ll say this, though, because it is lower profile, my expectation for it isn’t as high.

My bottomline for these shows is this: I’ve never been a fan nor a hater of Shinbo’s work, so having Shinboism go surreal won’t make me squeal in joy. As for Merry, it needs something added to it.

7 thoughts on “Chiming in on Yumekui Merry and Madoka”

  1. On Merry: I find her really unpredictable at times (or is it just me)…

    In episode 5, particularly, there really did seem to be something lacking…or it might’ve been intentional. The revelation was one of the parts that stood out in that episode, but the impact wasn’t strong enough.

    oh well. suppose we just wait Merry and Madoka out.

    1. @ Sebz

      Merry is a cool character. It’s the show that has to catch up.
      The season is only half way through. Perhaps the shows will improve? Let’s hope there’s more substance added later.

  2. God, this is nothing more than people seeing something being popular, so… What do I do to be cool? I’ll try to go against the tide and say that ‘Oh. It’s just another ‘Gundam SEED or Gunslinger Girl’. When in fact; those two other anime were expected to be bloodbaths especially SEED. You can’t even figure out the beautiful Contrast SHAFT made by the character design and the overall tone of the series. You should have weighed in like this two or three episodes earlier because this is a blatant attempt to go against the grain, just to get hits and be popular….

  3. @Aeriole

    Why is it that everytime someone decides to say something negative about a popular anime, someone invariably has to point that out like a crybaby? Maybe he’s just hit that phase we all hit when we realize how similar entertainment like anime is? Perhaps he isn’t just trying to gain popularity by being contrary? Besides, isn’t “being contrary” the sole reason Madoka is popular anyway?

    > You can’t even figure out the beautiful Contrast SHAFT made by the character design and the overall tone of the series.

    Now you’re just trolling. Ray admitted in this very post that he misses things other viewers often don’t. This comes off as you being offended because he had the gall to point out that this show really isn’t very original, beautiful, or effective in it’s tone. And I agree with him – it may perhaps be the best offering of the season, but there’s no need to wax idiotic about it just because someone doesn’t agree with you.

    Madoka is simply an application of tired tropes to a genre that rarely sees them. Sometimes it does well, other times it doesn’t. The atmosphere is surprisingly boring, despite the gratuitous use of cheap animation techniques and cheesy imagery. The characters are incredibly dull and stereotypical, at best on par with your average mahou shoujo. It’s saved by having a great OST and showing some teeth, but it’s far too early to tell whether it will become a classic or just another Shinbo anime that falls apart at the end.

  4. There is a key difference I’m seeing in these two anime. Both seem to be presenting us with typical childish, flawed characters who are being forced to grow out of their childishness. In one, characters are making their own costly mistakes. In the other, they’re being manipulated into it. This results in two different tones.

    Madoka is slow, deliberate and methodical, and people can understand there is an undeserved, impending doom. People love to have their heartstrings pulled, and since they can sense it a mile away like in Angel Beats, it’s easy for it to be popular. That doesn’t mean it isn’t trying, like Angel Beats, but it’s the same effect.

    Merry isn’t as direct – we are being given the chance to get to know the characters first, with just enough hints and clues to get patient viewers by. But there is simply too much going on too quickly to really stop and figure it out. Most people will only catch the monster-of-the-week format, the odd editing and camera angles, and be unable to connect with the characters beyond the superficial.

    The results are that Merry, while being no better or worse, isn’t as popular. It’s easy to like Madoka because we know what to expect (though we’d never admit it. I mean who couldn’t see Mami’s death a mile away?). It’s not easy to like Merry, but as people grow accustomed to it and connect with what’s going on, they slowly warm to it. Hopefully, it will reward us by zagging where we expect it to zig.

  5. Thank god. I thought I was the only one. Madoka really hasn’t been that amazing for me either. You nailed all of my concerns. Despite the fact I know it’s an interesting twist or deconstruction of an established genre, I really just couldn’t care less about the characters. Mami was cool for her Unlimited Rifle Works but I didn’t really know anything about her character. For me to be emotionally connected I need to feel like I know that character. One of the most shocking early deaths for me in an anime was Hot Ice Hilda in Outlaw Star. She was straight bad ass as I suppose Mami was but more than that she was savior of Gene Starwind from his mundane life. She presented all the possibilities and adventure the galaxy and the show contained. When she dies it has lasting impact on the characters and the audience.

    Beyond that I tend to thing the episodes move at a sluggish pace. I nearly fell asleep through the 2nd episode until the point when Mami fought the witch. Madoka follows the same format as Star Driver where they have school life/boring angst in the first half of the episode and then action/battle scenes at the end. In order to make an exciting show though you need to mix and match the format a bit. I’m getting tired of “Madoka wanders around unsure of what to do” followed by “someone kills a witch”. At least do something besides talk please.

    I have far more investment in Merry though it certainly has it’s flaws as well. Originally I was excited that the director of Casshern Sins was doing this but his style doesn’t fit the more fast paced scenes of the show. It’s fine for the slower parts but it can really interfere with the enjoyment of the action scenes. Merry the character is great though. Really fun and engaging.

    Also recent episodes of Kore wa Zombie desu ka? have been pretty good. The recent one with the revelation about how Eucliwood’s powers work was actually fairly dramatic and sad.

    1. @ thoughtcannon

      Zombie desu ka really surprised me with that revelation. That did hit me hard.

      As for Merry, for an underpromoted piece, it’s doing fairly well. The voice actors are doing quite well. I want to see if they can play their cards right.

      As for Madoka, I dunno, I want her to do more. I know this is a genre twist but even by episode 5, she isn’t a magical girl yet, even Shinji started doing something with Eva 01 by episode 3. An interesting concept twist still has to move the story along. Just being wowed at the visuals and the designs isn’t going to make the show gripping or moving. But we’ll see.

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