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"Yumeria" Vol. 1: Not a Dream Come True

I went into Yumeria knowing only that it is a magical girl show based on a PS2 video game by Namco. And so my opinion, unspoiled by “hype,” if there was any: Yumeria is exceedingly average.

Anime cliche strike one: Tomokazu is a sixteen-year-old boy having trouble in school. Strike two: His parents are dead and he lives with a nubile female guardian named Nanase who is barely older than him. And strike three: One day he has a dream about a girl who battles evil machines, and wakes up to find her nude in his bed. Her name is Mone, and the only thing she can say is—you guessed it—“Mone.” Think Nyu from Elfen Lied or that chick from Di Gi Charat. [Or Pikachu for that matter. -Ed]

Mone accompanies Tomo to school, which is where we meet the obligatory (third) love interest, Mizuki. She’s your typical shy, breathy-voiced damsel in distress. We also meet some other characters during the first couple of episodes, such as Neneko, a catgirl who tails the ever-increasing posse before joining them. She also often ends sentences with “Okay!” Wow, we’ve got characters who say “Mone!” and “Okay!” Whoever wrote this stuff was no Shakespeare. During episode 3, we also meet a long-lost sister who has returned from a trip to America. Her name is Kuyou, and she brings the sassiness. I guess.

The dream world is where all the action occurs, so, obviously, Tomo has to dream (or lose consciousness) quite often, otherwise there’d be no show. There are giant machines that shoot laser beams at people, and these apparently want to gain access to the real world. It’s up to Tomo to stop them. But he’s not alone, since every time he enters this dream world, a new character shows up to help. First it was Mone, then Mizuki, then Neneko, then Nanase (in the form of Silk), and finally Kuyou.

And how does the magical girl element of the show come into play? You might be sorry you asked. In order for the characters to transform, they must touch each other. So that means Tomo is often grasping a female’s breasts. And thus begins the “repeated animation” transformation sequence (think Wedding Peach, only not as long), followed by some fairly typical action shots. Then all the characters wake up.

So what you’ve got is a harem anime mixed with a magical girl show. For the most part, the results aren’t great. The writing on the harem side is pretty simple and low-brow: jokes consist of misunderstandings, the accidental grabbing of boobs, and other such dumb humor. The only bright spot is the psycho teacher, Ishikar, who has it in for Tomo for some reason. He gets great pleasure in torturing or humiliating Tomo, particularly by putting the moves on his lady friends or mocking him for doing badly on a test.

The magical girl side doesn’t fare much better. Not only is the time in the dream world oddly short in the first three episodes, but the action is even briefer and doesn’t have much punch to it. The fights feel like a cakewalk every time; the girls dodge a few laser blasts and destroy the machines. Makes you wonder if they’re a threat or just a minor nuisance.

The animation during the fight scenes is decent enough, though certainly nothing that will blow your socks off. In fact, it often seems lifeless. Backgrounds are actually very bland, particularly in the dream world. What makes this place stand out? Nothing, really; it’s so brownish-green that it looks like a toxic waste site. The school that Tomo goes to looks like any other school from any other school anime. Didn’t I see that same hallway in Azumanga Daioh? But I must admit that the character designs initially drew me to the title. For the most part, they’re pretty attractive. This is a bright show, full of loud colors, sugary designs, and big eyes. So if you’re expecting Gantz, look elsewhere.

Music in the show is unfortunately forgettable and doesn’t really motivate the on-screen action. It sounds a lot like video game music, which I love, but for this anime, I don’t think it fits the mood. Dub voices aren’t too bad. Ishikar’s lines are well delivered and have some comic energy. The rest of the VAs fit the characters well enough, and the girls sound cute. It’d be tempting to blame the VAs for the performance, but really, when you’re working with a script like this one, you do what you can.

Yumeria‘s first volume occasionally looks like a decent show, but far more often backpedals into familiar territory with the usual recycled harem jokes and substandard action sequences. Though the meat of the plot may pick up now that the main characters are introduced and the enemy threats can be more, well, threatening, that’s not guaranteed either. I’d pass.

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