Dreams are nasty buggers, particularly for teens – high expectations from parents, school, television, peers, and society in general are all carried across aspiring youthful shoulder blades, sucking away at the ability to enjoy the present for fear of the future. It’s no surprise that the world of nightmares and daydreams are so widely scattered about teen fiction.
This idea drives Dream Eater Merry, a manga serial by Ushiki Yoshitaka turned anime series. Dream Eater Merry is, as the title suggests, all about dreams, fears, hope, and the future. It is the story of a teen protagonist called Yumeji Fujiwara who can sense what daydreams people are going to experience. He suddenly finds himself able to enter people’s daydreams, and shortly after he encounters a girl from the world that lies beyond daydreams who can also exist in the real world. He dubs this plucky, lonely character “Dream Eater Merry.” Between his tracking powers and her ability to punch things, they embark on a quest to protect innocent daydreamers from being hijacked by dream-demons and perhaps find a way to get Merry back to the dream world she so desperately misses…
Dream Eater Merry is a self-contained one season DVD boxset released on Region 2 for the UK via MVM Entertainment. As a boxset you get the bare-bones treatment – nice menus and presentation, but little more than trailers and a choice of dub/sub. Of course, bare-bones boxsets are fine providing the show itself is worth owning. To coin the phrase pertinently, Dream Eater Merry being a perfect tale would indeed be a dream come true. It would have to be said Dream Eater Mary is best described as functional. Not the most complimentary of terms, but while it is far from dire, it really carries weaknesses on several fronts.
The show’s biggest problem is it feels like manga-by-numbers. Dream Eater Merry is the cutie, shouty, punchy, cutie, shouty, cutie, punchy sort of heroine you’ll see throughout the genre. She’s small, petite, and slightly zany, but a tough fighter who tries far too hard to be tougher than she actually is. Yumeji , the male hero, is a typical dorky school kid who’s soft and slightly awkward who, through the course of the journey, finds his inner strength to protect the punchy, cutie, shouty girl in her moments of need. The dynamic is predictable, and neither character really offers any audience familiar to anime anything new. If you’re thinking that Merry, being a dream world character, has some special gifts or some form of ass kicking techniques… you’d be wrong. She punches things. Other characters in the story have a multitude of techniques, while she has her fists. She shouts and punches. And eats sugary things. Cos she’s cute. Neither leads are aspiring. And Yumeji’s power? He’s the dream-world equivalent of a metal detector. Yawn.
I wish I could say the other characters deliver anything new to the genre, but I’m afraid on the whole they don’t. The silent, solitary girl is ever-preset, Yumeji has the common-place sisterly friend. The only place the show scores in terms of characters are in the antagonists. John Doe, the first dream demon Yumeji encounters, is pleasantly ambiguous to his intents and the seasons’s arch-villain Mystletainn is satisfyingly irritating – so its not all bad on the character front.
Story-wise this DVD suffers from a major issue, and that’s a distinct feeling of an incomplete story, or one that is very badly plotted. While there is only one season, one feels that too many questions are left hanging by the season finale – and that’s a great shame. A little background reading suggests a great many characters are anime originals, so it appears a lot of effort was put into making the anime series its own entity. However, with its rather abrupt end, the originality can’t make up for the dangling plot threads, and they aren’t small. We’re talking questions about Merry and even the hinted but never directly encountered arch-enemy. Dream Eater Merry‘s biggest weakness is it doesn’t feel complete and with no sign of season two on the horizon, what you see is what you get. That being said, the season doesn’t leave you on a cliffhanger, so while there are loose ends, you aren’t left on a singular epic moment that is never resolved.
So are there any positives here? It depends what you look for in an anime. This is anime-by-numbers, but that doesn’t mean its not a lavish and well-produced series. It looks great and the pacing is dynamic, taking the story up and down a gear where required and amping it up for the last few episodes. While the characters are a bit archetypal, at least they aren’t irritating. The music is enjoyable and the show’s theme rather rocking. So while there’s nothing particularly mind blowing here in characters or concept, the production and direction is strong – so really it depends what you look for in an anime as to whether or not this show has something to offer. Those looking for something new or deep maybe disappointed, but for those who consume anime as comfort food, this has a lot of positives to balance out the negatives.
Dream Eater Merry is well deployed if uninspiring material. If you love all those usual ingredients that fall into the anime melting pot and enjoy an easy meal with little indigestion, this boxset might be for you. Dream Eater Merry is, after all, well-paced and nicely produced, if mildly uninspiring. Be warned though, regardless of what you enjoy in your anime repasts, the lack of closure on several plot-threads might leave you with a bad taste in your mouth, or at least left to daydream what might have been had this show got a second season…