Yumekui Merry, episode 2: Nightmares and nymphs

After debating on whether to pick up a show or not in the Winter season, I decided to go ahead and blog Yumekui Merry after seeing it build on a pretty solid first episode. It laid the groundwork with an interesting setting and done a surprisingly good job of creating depth and auras of mystery around most of the characters. Plus, I didn’t want Bakuman to be the last thing I wrote about before potentially disappearing in the spring.


After Merry’s failed attempt to find the truth from John Doe last week, she wakes up to find herself adopted by Isana’s growing family of misfits and orphans. Although Yumeji has been a fairly nondescript lead so far, he at least flashed a little social adroitness when he walks in on Merry and Isana in the bath and avoids falling into the typical blush and nosebleed tradition. Already, he’s a level above all the other male characters featured this season.


We’re introduced to a couple new characters this week. The spotlight shined on Yumi and her dreamland wood nymph partner, Serio. Serio seems to be of the same type of creature as John Doe was, fresh from the dreamworld. But unlike the parasitic Doe, Serio seems to strike up a mutually beneficial relationship with Yumi. Serio wants to learn more about humans, while Yumi finds some inspiration in her life. However, the episode takes a dark turn at the end when a competing demon traps Serio and Yumi in an alternate dreamworld, and eventually destroys Serio and takes over Yumi, turning her into a soulless shell (or possibly an evil incarnation, I guess we’ll see. At first glance, she looked sort of like one of the dying torches from SNS).


Another new addition to the show was Chizuru, a mysterious, all-tsuntsun, transfer student, who may or may not have had something to do with Yumi and Serio’s demise. Her timing and bad attitude are almost a little too convenient. I’m going to guess she’s a red herring for now, but the show’s hinting pretty heavily that she has some knowledge or control of the dreamworld.


Meanwhile, in between the camera’s incessant ogling of Merry’s cuteness, we learn a little bit about her backstory and her goal of finding John Doe again to get back to her world. While she’s stuck in the real world, she’s introduced to the delights (or not so delights) of a soda and donuts, and some sakutaro pajamas. But eventually, in between donut bites, she decides that Sakutaro and Yumeji can’t help her, and she goes back to her midriff friendly outfit and strikes out in the middle of the night, but not before getting philosphical with Isana’s uber cool dad.


Yumekui Merry has done two things really well so far. One is apparently taking Bakuman’s animation budget and doing better with it. Director Suhigeyasu Yamauchi has done a really good job mixing in extreme close up shots and interesting camera angles. If you pay attention, you’ll see that there’s actually very little movement in each scene. These camera tricks don’t work as well during the action scenes, as this week’s big action scene was again messy and hard to follow – although I liked the creative color shifts – but otherwise, it makes the show feel a lot more dynamic than it actually is.

The second thing Yumekui Merry has done well is give each character a surprising amount of depth. In fact, Isana, Yumeji and Merry might be the shallowest characters so far. Or at least, they’re the most straightforward. But the side characters? Isana’s uber cool dad with the big yakuza scar no doubt has skeletons in the closet. He accepted Merry too easily and let her leave just the same. We get hints that Chizuru may be aware of the dream world, or that she might even be already be a vessel. And Yumeji’s homeroom teacher is another one who seems to know more than meets the eye (my guess is he has a role in killing off Serio). They’ve set up an interesting world and it’ll be interesting to see how deep everyone’s awareness of this dream world goes.