This anime is great at affecting the viewer with its premise. If he/she likes it, it feels like watching a dream. If not, you are just falling asleep. For me it was the later.
Yumekui Merry is a highly fan-catering show that is not using pantsu or nude to sell; something which is a surprise coming for a studio such as J.C. Staff which thrives on it. It still goes for more indirect eye-catching techniques such as moe girls, bishonens, a childhood female friend, dreams and hopes, and a lot of other otaku stuff. As far as looks go, it does a great job at making you go wander in some fairyland where everything is ideal. On the other hand, it has some of the most dreadful story-writing I have encountered in the past decade. I was literally falling asleep while watching the slow plot, unexplained motives, vague objective, chopped motion scenes, and a general lack of focus. What was this show about anyway?
Its major problem is not inspiring motivation to the viewer. You are literally not given a reason to watch this show; it is all one big blur, like you just woke up and have no idea of where you are or what you are doing. Its very atmosphere is empty of actual tension and you end up watching like a mindless zombie at a screen where stuff happen for the sake of happening.
ART SECTION: 7/10
On paper, the show looks great as it has a huge variety in locations, each one with very distinctive artwork and colors. It feels like a huge picture book full of fairy tales and it’s really dreamy while staring at the pretty pictures. The characters are all drawn to be moe, with accompanying uniforms and so you end up looking at them as well just for that. Beyond that, they don’t look special or memorable; in fact they are quite stereotypical. Merry is the only distinctive character amongst them; all the rest are generic stock characters when it comes to looks. The animation kind of ruins it too because there is good motion only in battles and everywhere else it seems everybody is frozen or moving in a tired, sleepy way. You see someone running for example and it is not exciting but boring. The visual effects are also poor because they are noting but simplistic filters or light rays. They also fail to excite you with what is happening.
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
The voice actors did a good job in making the characters sound perky but that didn’t help the mostly aimless dialogues to become any better. The script felt terrible; 90% of everything they were saying had no life in it or it was random things they were saying without a proper line of thought. The OST is nothing special, just some rather sad tunes I forgot after a few days. The BGM and sound effects are definitely great for maintaining the atmosphere of the show at the sleepy dream state you are supposed to have while watching it.
STORY SECTION: 7/10
The story is interesting on paper. It has to do with creatures from the world of dreams trying to get into reality by possessing humans. The lead male, Yumeji, has the ability to predict the dreams of other people and uses that to save them from bad dream demons and also to help Merry, a girl from dreamworld, to find a way to return there. It is not that simple as there are many sub-stories about demons who just want to help their human hosts by being inside them, plus there are many different reasons each one of them wants to come into reality in the first place. The problem is in the way the story is told; it feels completely boring. Not only it is slow, it also seems to lack excitement. How about the whole setting where Yumeji has a female close friend who grew up with him and meeting Merry when she drops on him out of the blue before she saves him from a daydream that came out of nowhere? There even is a generic beach episode thrown in here. All that are generic stereotypes and tropes you can find everywhere and which take away a lot of novelty from the otherwise interesting subject. Most events seem to play out as stand alone missions and everything lacks the much needed motivation to keep being interested. Stuff happen for the sake of happening, many events feel minor and pointless, and you are left to wonder if you should even care to keep paying attention. The show does eventually explain all that and gives motivations to its characters, but even then the dialogues are so dried up and lifeless, you just don’t care.
CHARACTER SECTION: 4/10
Despite the moe looks everybody has, they are still based on archetypes that make them feel generic in the longrun. Except for Merry, chances are you will forget their appearances in a few months. In a similar way, although they all have personality which is looked upon and leads to development and a form of catharsis after each battle, the whole thing plays out in such a terribly boring and sloppy way that all that go to waste. For example, what is good about Yumeji? Isn’t he the archetypical shonen lead with a super power who wants to protect his friends from demons? What does he have that makes him any different than the rest? How about Merry, for whom all her history is just that she has amnesia and wants to go back in dreamworld? This is barely the minimum to begin your main characters. Eventually they do mature further than that but even then it happens very artificially and predictably to care.
VALUE SECTION: 2/10
It has nothing much to deserve a second view and it will be barely remembered for any special reason, but its dream-like atmosphere makes it rather special on its own. Too bad it’s not the only one with such features.
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 2/10
Hey, I used the words lifeless and boring so many times, I don’t even need to explain this part.
The dreamy visuals and the interesting concept of the story are the only things that maintain this show at average status. All the rest could have played out great as well but they ended up being … you know. In case you wonder what I consider lively and interesting, I direct you to Satoshi Con’s Paprika movie, which also deals with dreams. As for the whole tripy feeling of the show, most SHAFT series have done a similar job. Madoka Magica feels pretty close too and it also aired at the same time as this show.