Sometimes I wonder if there is a formula for being able to mess up things like telling a cohesive story, establishing character motivation, and outlining a linear plot that builds interest with each passing episode. If there is, the writing staff behind Dream Eater Merry coined it. Now it isn’t the worst example I’ve seen of this, because that still belongs to titles like RaXephon and Soul Taker, but nearly everything about Dream Eater Merry suffers from this horrible cocktail that ravages a lot of modern anime I watch. If you can only do ONE THING, give me a reason to care.
STORY: One of my biggest problems with storytelling in anime nowadays is the overused template of shrouding EVERYTHING in mystery until an episode or two away from the finale. A common way to utilize this is usually by having a character with amnesia to center around. This often gives the writers a reason to “flesh out” aspects in incredibly vague detail and you can use cryptic smash cuts to an event that will be more elaborated on later in the plot, you know, FORESHADOWING…barring my interest is retained enough to get that far. It’s never directly explained how Merry gets lost, or why she’s in the human world. It’s tossed up, but never paid enough attention to, so she just eats doughnuts. Yumeji is able to see dream signs in people, but it’s not touched upon how or why he can do this. When the show isn’t spending its time explaining key things, it has a monster-a-day pacing that fails to pick up in intensity while throwing several red herrings that go nowhere. Dream Eater Merry seems disinterested in building no momentum to anything until the end, which leads to a pathetic finale that’s more appropriate for a mid-season arc, not a climax. With 13 episodes, elements felt rushed when they didn’t have to be while dragging at various points. SCORE: 4/10
ART & ANIMATION: The quality that went into the production is one of J.C. Staff’s poorest efforts. Other than Merry’s design herself, the characters look like your standard anime template of vanilla teenagers. If you lifted Isana or Saki and placed her in Special A, you wouldn’t notice. Engi Threepiece and John Doe (probably the only character that comes off as “cool” to me) are unique designs, but come off as glorified cosplayers as far as I’m concerned.
The animation and direction is a mess. The messy action sequences are kept mercifully short, because the framerate and character detail quality drops to a distractingly low level as soon as things have to start moving.
The editing is choppy during talkie scenes, the camera is needlessly focused someone’s feet, then cuts to a windowsill, and immediately back to a girl’s thigh. These kinds of things will give me vertigo!! If there is one detail this camera stays locked onto is Merry’s midriff. There is no other anime I’ve ever seen that focuses on panties as much as you will see Merry Nightmare’s midsection. To be fair, she has a great torso and one of the more prettier girls with a petite physique. SCORE: 4/10
SOUND & MUSIC: I own the English dub released by Sentai Filmowrks, who have done some pretty decent work as of late. It felt pretty good to hear Hilary Haag as Merry, I feel like I haven’t heard her since she destroyed her voice dubbing Excel in Excel Saga. Blake Shepard is serviceable as Yumeji, but he’s one of those male VAs whose specifically cast to sound like Default Male Character. Know what I mean? Yuri Lowenthal, Bryce Papenbrook, Sam Regal…if you need a voice that kind of sounds like a teenager, but clearly sounds like a 40 year old man? Chris Ayers is wasted as John Doe. The opening theme is pretty catchy, so high marks overall in the music department and English voice acting.
CHARACTERS: Eeehhh, Dream Eater Merry bites off more than it could chew in this department. Being that I haven’t read the manga (I’m leaving it out of the equation and focusing on the present material), I’m certain there’s more to Merry Nightmare herself than this series leads on, but she wants to find a way back to this vaguely described Dream World. This left me with a great deal of questions that would probably take more than 13 episodes to verify, but with that in mind, they did as little as they possibly could to inform you on what to look forward to. None of these characters have arcs, revelations, they seem to learn nothing, and for the most part, it’s treated as none of your business!! So because there’s quite a few characters here, they just keep adding more, like Engi Threepiece and Leon, but does little to nothing with them that’s of any relevance. Until the final deal towards the end, there’s no sense of character development and everything that happens simply feels like a sequence of events leading to the next. The character that has all the answers, John Doe, is left out intentionally, otherwise, there wouldn’t be a plot. There’s just too many characters and not enough time to give them purpose. SCORE 5/10
IN CONCLUSION: Dream Eater Merry did not have much going from my perspective, so it’s not really a huge fall from grace. It just comes off as yet another run-of-the-mill anime that exists in this era of very placid shows. Other than the animation, everything else seems serviceable, but this otherwise a very weak cup of tea. A plot that fails to garner traction, art design that seems unmotivated, and lazy characters make for a very tepid anime viewing experience. It’s bad at what it does, but I’ve seen far, far worse. OVERALL SCORE 5/10