A boy meets a magical girl, the lost inhabitant of another world. Despite her unrivaled prowess in fighting, this girl is confused and amnesiac, hoping only to get back home. Despite being clearly nonhuman, she has the appearance and emotions of a teenage girl. Will she find a way back home? Even if she does, will she really want to go, or will the burgeoning relationship hinted at with the male lead compel her to stay? Yumekui Merry has interesting character designs, good background music, and – refreshingly, given the stale setup – a male lead who is neither a parody of hypermasculinity (as Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann‘s Kamina was) nor a spineless noodle (as Evangelion’s Shinji was.)
Sadly, that last sentence contains all there is that is good about Yumekui Merry. Production values are terrible, pacing is worse than Witch Hunter Robin, and the writing lacks direction. Entire sequences are shown with a white background and crudely sketched faces. Certainly, this show contains many dream sequences, which can’t be expected to conform to reality, but just one look at Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica shows what can be done with alternate reality settings in a contemporary show. Merry’s low-budget lapses don’t even begin to compare.
Mistleteinn is a properly epic adversary, if ridiculously flat: she is given no backstory and no personality beyond whimsy and naked cruelty. The sensei that serves as her vessel is foreshadowed as being two-faced and scheming, but there is no examination of why he wound up this way. The victory of the main characters over such unmitigated evil is predictable and boring, involving no real plot twists or justification. The heroes triumph against a vastly superior adversary because they are the heroes of the show, not because they have found the villain’s weakness, undergone training, unlocked the power of their heritage, or any other such pretext.
In the end Yumekui Merry assembles a lot of effects without causes. There is a parallel to Tom Stoppard’s existentialist work Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, but in Stoppard’s work, it is made clear that the backstory exists and the appearance of arbitrary phenomena is a result of the perspective of the title characters. The audience knows what is going on, and is thus able to appreciate the confusion of the characters and how it results from a combination of circumstances. In Yumekui Merry, no one really knows what is going on – not the humans, not the dream demons, not the audience, nor, one suspects, the producers themselves.
7 thoughts on “Yumekui Merry”
I think you’re being a bit unfair to compare the visual shortcomings to Madoka as though Madoka is vastly superior or something. Madoka’s cheesy Monty-Python-esque dream environments aren’t that much worse or better than Merry’s, they are just stylistic choices that mask a low budget differently. Granted, you might personally like that style more than Merry’s line art, but that’s doesn’t necessarily mean Merry is inferior.. at least visually. Both shows had fine action sequences, and some nice symbolic imagery, yet had broad stretches of boring visuals.
That being said, Merry is crap, because it fails HARD at storytelling (which is probably why people are happier to criticize it’s visuals). There’s nothing quite like a show that sells itself as promising in the first eps, and then jumps ship to deliver a totally different and bland show about horribly one-dimensional villains with no real motivations. Merry is simply a crap cliched story made worse by starting off like it might be something better. But it still looks and sounds ok (despite a bit of perplexing storyboarding and a fixation on Merry’s abs).
See that screenshot that is nothing but an unfinished sketch? It is one of many. There is no effort being made to hide the low budget there. You may dislike Madoka, as I remember from your comment on Ray’s Madoka post, but at least they tried to hide any budget issues and turn the show into an artistic effort. To me, that shows a great deal more professionalism. I can’t agree with your suggestion that Merry looks OK on average, in the sense that when you average a bunch of marks in the 80s with a bunch of zeroes, the zeroes drag everything down and the result is no longer a passing score.
I have criticized Yumekui Merry‘s storytelling as well as its art, so I’m not sure what your tangent about criticizing the visuals exclusively is about. 🙂
I first saw the trailer and was amazed at the art and the idea of dreams, however three or four episodes in things fell flat so fast! I was so mad about that. But I had fun with Merry even thou she wasn’t the brightest character she was kind of cute watching her learn about the real world.
I did read the manga after the series ended! And you should at least check it out, anyway this could have been better and since its JC Staff expect two more seasons….
I do think the setup and character designs were great. The music was pretty good, too. But both the storytelling and the art ultimately failed to deliver.
I haven’t read the manga, which may be for the best, as sometimes the manga can bias you with regard to a show. (I still have an ongoing dispute about the quality of Alien Nine with some people who read the manga before watching the show, as opposed to watching the show by itself.) I suppose I’ll pick it up if I have the time and if it’s significantly better.
The art of Yumekui Merry isn’t too bad I have to say. What is bad is the storyline and how the staff went about developing it. It was awesome at first and intriguing, especially with the whole dream thing, then it just got longwinded and convoluted. I just didn’t really see the point in any of it by the 13th episode.
I don’t have a problem with the OP or ED, or indeed much of the art, but the sequences that were filled with unfinished sketches brought the average way down in my opinion. I’d rather see a show cut off at 8 or 9 episodes than see that kind of stuff passed off as animation.
As I said in my review, I think the producers lost track of where everything was going. The writing lacks direction after the first few episodes.
I wonder how the production team felt when they realized this isn’t FLCL.
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