First Impressions – Dream Eater Merry

She's more worried about her head being uncovered

This is probably as good a time as any to mention that I kinda have a thing for toned female stomachs. My best friend growing up was the only other person I’ve ever known who shared this interest, but now I can add a third person to our club: Yamauchi Shigeyasu, the director of Dream Eater Merry. He’s obviously not shy about it, since I’m pretty sure Merry’s bellybutton had more closeups than her face. As much as I appreciated the attention to detail on this part of her character, I was still primarily interested in what was going on everywhere else. Fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed.

Fujiwara Yumeji has recently been having dreams in which he is pursued by a gang of bipedal cats through what looks like New York City from An American Tale. They finally catch up to him but retreat after a rooster crows, signaling they’re “out of time,” but promising to bring their boss to meet him next time. The next morning, he uses his ability to see multicolored dots by looking through his fingers (I never knew this was a special thing because I always see that sort of stuff when I press on my eyes like that) to try to predict what type of dreams his friends will have that night. After hanging out with a slightly creepy teacher and talking about writing novels, he heads home and has a forceful encounter with a strange girl who wanders off after she loses her hat.

More tummy after the break!

"The power of her midriff is far too great!"

What I Liked

Art and Animation: I really love the aesthetic of this series. The antique, run-down dream world, the oddly bright and worn real world, the cracks in the sidewalks, the ivy on the buildings, the pits in cement walls, the broken glass, the tin can, even the CGI fish bones – every bit of scenery is filled with melancholy detail. It all creates a mysterious atmosphere that sucks you in right away and lingers a bit even after the episode is over. Despite the relatively upbeat characters, something about the world feels a little bit lonely and depressing thanks to the backgrounds. I have a feeling the strange mood this creates will be the basis for some very interesting events.

Music: The soundtrack rocks my kneesocks off. Most of the songs are comprised of electric guitars, piano, drums, and violins with a bit of synthesizer. Each instrument plays multiple roles throughout, going from ominous to creepy to tense to thundering heavy metal to relaxing all throughout the episode. The range in moods represented by the musical pieces is just huge. It’s probably even more effective than the backgrounds at establishing the odd atmosphere which is so bewitching. It’s occasionally a bit louder than I think it should be, but it’s so enjoyable to listen to that I don’t really mind.

Story: It’s difficult to summarize everything that’s going on here in a way that sounds like it makes sense. While this episode does give us a good foundation, it’s made clear early on that now is the time for questions rather than answers. Its main accomplishment was making me want to know more about the characters, the dream world, the auras, and how everything is connected together. What we do find out gave me the impression that the story has been planned out well, so hopefully it won’t spiral into awfulness like everything did last season.

I can see what's happening!

What I Hated

Character Designs: ‘Hate’ is a bit of a strong word here. I actually like Merry’s design, but I can’t help but feel like it’s just way too busy. It kinda reminds me of the scene in Welcome to the N.H.K. where they’re planning the main love interest for their eroge and she ends up being a robot/loli/childhood friend/tsundere/ghost/paraplegic or something because they just threw together every idea they ever thought was moe into one character. Merry’s design feels like the creator liked ribbons, stripes, thighhighs, absolute territory, hats, fangs, facial markings, coattails etc. and threw all of it into this character because she’s the female lead. It ends up looking like she escaped from the Touhou universe after raiding half a dozen closets. Most of the human characters are a bit bland, and I can’t help but feel like I’ve seen Yumeji somewhere before.

Cinematography: The only thing that might love Merry as much as her creator is the camera. Seriously, I think I could draw her from memory already and I’m not even that much of an artist. I love weird and interesting shots, but there are times when I want to actually see what’s going on. The camera is so close to everything all the time that it’s hard to tell what’s going on in the fight between Chaser and Merry, which is a shame because what I could see of it looked really good. I actually had a hard time finding good screenshots to use because there aren’t many where you can tell what’s going on without motion.

Overall Impressions

Dream Eater Merry has a lot going for it so far. Its beautiful sound and visuals quickly build a dark and uneasy atmosphere that makes it really easy to get into the story. If you like to be able to become engrossed and lose yourself in an immersive world, you won’t be disappointed. However, I get the feeling that the director lost himself in this, too. I appreciate when fanservice is so unusually relevant to my interests, but sometimes the camera really needs to be looking at something else. If it can solve that issue and everything else stays on track, this will be a great ride.