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!
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.
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!