Yumekui Merry Episode 01 Impressions

Yumekui Merry is the latest in a long line of Dengeki Magazines’ light novel anime adaptations handled by the industrious studio J.C Staff. With the exception of the ever-popular Index, it’s the first such adaptation since Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakamatachi which, despite my own personal enthusiasm for it, sold very poorly. So Yumekui seemed to be in a dangerous position, and a lot of Japanese fans were predicted it would be an ‘Ookami-san level’ show and suffer a similar fate! But, after seeing the first PV some time ago, I’ve kept up my hopes for this anime!
 

Ratings


MOE: ⚫⚫⚪⚪⚪
ERO: ⚫⚪⚪⚪⚪
GAR: ⚫⚫⚪⚪⚪
LOL: ⚫⚪⚪⚪⚪


 

The background art, storyboard, direction and key animation make this an awesome-looking episode!

The quality of the staff involved is high, starting with director, Shigeyasu Yamauchi (Casshern Sins). Another Casshern Sins staff member is on board: art director, Kenji Matsumoto. Then we have the undeniably talented animator, Masahiro Fuji, on board as the series animation director and character designer (check out Railgun episodes 12, and 19, or Ookami-san 1 and 4 for some of his great work!). It was these staff that caught my eye, and sure enough they’ve delivered a visually stunning first episode!

Yumekui Merry episode 1 was deeply attractive. Its character designs unique and appealing, the best example being the cute and mysterious look of the heroine, Merry Nightmare. But it’s not just her, the whole cast of characters have fetching designs that seem to embody their respective personalities well. Then there’s the stunning background art. With Shigeyasu Yamauchi and Kenji Matsumoto involved, I definitely expected the background art to be something special, and I was not disappointed. The background art is stylistic without being abstract, and has a highly-textured water-colour feel. The use of colours in the background art is also exceptional, rendering scenery vividly and vibrantly. This episode’s backgrounds were done by Kenji Matsumoto and Yuki Yukie!

The animation/drawings are also at a high standard. There’s plenty of motion, and the action sequences are fluid and have some really interesting approaches. In this sense, it strongly reminds me of Ookami-san, which is definitely a good thing. Yoshihiko Umakoshi contributed key animation to this episode (almost certainly in the fight sequence in the B-part). Even the colouring for the ‘cels’ is excellent, matching the backgrounds’ hues well. Quite the opposite to the washed-out, over-exposed look of Madoka Magica. The sum of all this, is a very good-looking episode of anime that moves well!

As for the story, there isn’t a lot too it yet (at least, not a lot that makes sense!). Fans of the novel definitely have an advantage in following this anime’s plot, but for now the sense of mystery behind Merry and the [fucking badass-looking] villain, Chaser is interesting enough. The idea behind this series seems to be an intersection between the dreamworld and reality, which manifests in Merry’s exile in our world, and the protagonist’s ability to see what people’s dreams will be. The way it is all set-up feels somewhat similar to Shakugan no Shana, down to the flat-chested heroine (though she’s thankfully not a tsundere for a change!). The male protagonist isn’t just a bored high-school dude, but is actually an aspiring author with a strange power. He’s not a frigid lame-ass either. Merry has a bit of a selfish aura, but her cockiness in battle is pretty amusing, and the fact that she cries in the first episode shows that she’s not immune to moe-inducing insecurities! Even the side-characters have a bit more spirit to them than usual!

The seiyuu cast isn’t exactly something to get excited about. The most important thing here is the seiyuu for Merry, and she’s being voiced by a rookie to the seiyuu industry, Sakura Ayane, who probably caught the attention of someone doing her minor roles for Ookami-san. At this point, I’m kind of ambivalent towards her. Kayano Ai, playing the lovely Isuna, is also a new face, and I think she has a very cute voice! Ise Mariya as Saki is experience, and her role is excellent! The music is also quite good, particularly for the way it compliments the action sequences!

So, on a final note, I genuinely enjoyed Yumekui Merry, and appreciated its production qualities. However, it’s hard to say, without seeing more of the plot, characters and cast, whether it has staying-power or the potential to be really good.
 

Opening

The opening and ending for Yumekui Merry are notable for the fact that they are composed by IOSYS (The ED, only partly), a doujin circle famous for their memorable flash music videos, especially ‘Marisa Stole the Precious Thing‘. The opening theme is quite catchy, but more importantly, it features some really awesome visuals and animation from the likes of Hironori Tanaka and Hiroshi Tomioka! Feast your eyes and ears!


 

Gallery

5 thoughts on “Yumekui Merry Episode 01 Impressions

  1. Did the Japanese hate Ookami-san? I only saw the first four episodes (dropped every show I had been following during that season for time reasons), but I didn’t think it was that bad. It seemed okay as a light summer time waster.

    Maybe the formula has gotten a bit old, so only a standout show (and not just an average one) would sell. It seems that the SHAFT style has also become a bit stale, if sales of their recent series are any indication.

    On another note, what do you consider to be good production values? Nowadays, many people are obsessed with high frame counts and constant motion (which is particularly dangerous for the industry given financial realities), so some have complained that Yumekui Merry is cheap and poorly animated (also a complaint sometimes associated with Casshern Sins, which I haven’t seen. Does the director prioritize stylized storyboards and animation over expensive motion?). On the other hand, others have praised the show’s visuals as lavish, smartly crafted work.

    1. I don’t think it was so much that it was hated, just that it didn’t sell well (ie. people didn’t really get into it that much), which made it a commercial disappointment. And there were a lot of comments saying that this anime would end up like that.

      When I talk about production values, I’m referring to the whole package. You’re definitely right that a lot of people are obsessed with high-framerate animation. I’m also a big fan of fluid animation, but the number of drawings that go into an episode of anime aren’t the only expense that should be looked at. Background art, sound effects, music, and post-production effects are also costly and important in making an anime look and sound good. I think Yumekui Merry found a good place across the board, and it is therefore impressively produced for a late-night TV-anime. A skillfull director can work wonders with fewer drawings and, as you say, the reality of the industry means meeting people’s expectations is hard.

      The animation itself was not especially fluid (other than the excellent OP animation), but it certainly wasn’t bad by TV-animation standards, and the fight scenes were well-executed. I’d like to see what benchmark people calling this anime cheap are comparing it too.

      I’m actually not too familiar with the director myself, but from what I’ve seen of Casshern Sins, it left a strong visual impression. The only thing that strikes me about him is that he’s a director who likes to have control over his storyboards, to an extent that isn’t that usual for TV-anime. And so far, I like what I see!

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