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Dream Eater Merry Complete Collection UK Anime DVD Review

12 min read

Dream Eater Merry
Dream Eater Merry
More like Donut Eater Merry.

What They Say:
Sometimes daydreaming can get you into trouble, but what do you do when it’s other people’s dreams that you have to watch out for? Yumeji Fujiwara’s has the unique ability to predict what kind of dreams other people will have. But lately, his own dreams have taken a bizarre turn in which he’s being pursued by armies of cats. Stranger yet, Yumeji learns that the leader of the dream cats needs his body to access the Real World. And finally, the strange becomes downright weird when a beautiful girl suddenly drops on top of him and announces that she’s a Dream Demon looking for a way back to the Dream World! The fabric that separates reality and fantasy is torn to shreds, and Yumeji has a lot of sleepless nights ahead of him as he has to deal with both the dream stalking and a dream walking in Dream Eater Merry!

The Review:
Overall, the visual and audio quality of the release is acceptable, although at points I did notice that the visuals seemed somewhat blurry and lacking in the usual crispness available even for a DVD release. It isn’t usually visible and isn’t particularly distracting when something’s going on, but it can be a little off-putting on occasion. Aside from this visual issue, everything else seems to be on par with a usual release.

The menu design for Dream Eater Merry can be described best as ‘sloppy’. The visual design of the menu is nothing particularly special, with a short set of video clips taken from the ending sequence (which I must add, is pretty lacklustre in itself) surrounded by a pink background featuring polka dots, stars and the crescent symbol that Merry has on her hat, with the stars and crescents randomly swivelling around. There’s a loop of the opening theme playing over the top of the menu. Instead of just having the music playing however, it’s a modified version which seems to have been chopped up in a messy manner with sudden shifts and jumps to different parts of the song, resulting in a rather cacophonous result. There’s a small black star that appears next to whichever option of the menu is selected, although this moves around with a noticeable delay whenever the mouse hovers over a new option. The sub-menus are silent and static, with a similar polka dot and shapes background in a different colour and a different piece of artwork featuring characters from the show for each menu. The episode selection menu features the main cast and has a list of selectable episodes by title, whilst the setup screen features Merry and a couple of characters which only really appear for an episode or two, as is also true for the extras menu.

Extras available on this release consist of a textless opening and ending and a short trailer for some of the other anime available, including Toradora!, Arakawa Under the Bridge and Bodacious Space Pirates. As with a lot of releases, the amount of extra material is limited to very little and there’s nothing here really worth paying any attention to.

Dream Eater Merry has an interesting concept really, delving into the idea that people’s dreams and aspirations are caused by supernatural beings that live within the dreams themselves, known as dream demons. Unfortunately for us humans, some of the dream demons don’t quite think of it in such a positive manner and want to enter the human realm. The way this is achieved is to make a human being their vessel, allowing them to control the human body within the real world and, eventually, to take over completely and gain a corporeal form within our realm. The story of Dream Eater Merry starts out this way, with one certain hapless generic male lead going by the name of Yumeji, whose dreams are plagued by a mysterious realm heavily decorated by wood and fish skeletons, within which he is constantly pursued by a swarm of cats. It turns out later on that these cats are the servants of a dream demon called Chaser John Doe, who looks like a total badass and wishes to use Yumeji as a vessel to enter the human realm. Yumeji spends his waking hours attending school and performing something he likes to do which allows him to predict what types of dreams people will have by seeing their auras, although this doesn’t seem to actually link into any tangible plot at any point during this series.

As is the general idea for this type of supernatural style series (see: Shakugan no Shana, Zero no Tsukaima), the female lead makes her appearance early on, by falling out of the sky and landing right on top of Yumeji, accompanied by a witty remark. Unlike those aforementioned series however, she isn’t a tsundere type character and doesn’t beat him up for being there. This is where another plot arc is set in motion, that of Merry being a dream demon that woke up within the human realm with no recollection of how she got there and no idea how to get back home. After falling into the world of cats during the day via a ‘daydream’, Merry and Chaser John Doe have a fight, after which he reveals he knows something about Merry’s past and how she got into the human world, setting in motion the task of Merry finding someone who can help her find her way back. After punching a few dream demons in an attempt to find information, she then gets into a fight with a sword-wielding angel girl called Engi, who eventually teams up with Merry as they have a common goal of defeating a particularly infamous dream demon by the name of Pharos Heracles, or ‘Lighthouse’, who is apparently building an army to take over the human realm. This is where it starts to get a little bit complex as the series starts to diverge from the manga on which it is based, and not the good type of complex.

Remember that plot about Chaser John Doe wanting to take over Yumeji’s body? Or the one about Merry wanting to get back to the dream world? No? Neither does Dream Eater Merry. The rest of the series is entirely focussed around finding and defeating Pharos Heracles… except it isn’t. They meet up with a clown demon by the name of Landsborough, who introduces himself as a servant of Pharos and reveals a plot twist, before scampering off to avoid being killed off, just to appear again on one occasion in a scene where Pharos breaks some stuff. It’s a real pity that the series bigs up Pharos as being this huge super villain character, a major threat and the key to Merry getting the knowledge she needs to go home when he never actually meets the main cast. Yes, that’s right. Pharos never comes in contact with Merry, or Yumeji, or even Engi. Instead, yet another plotline takes its place in the last arc of the series. The final arc and conclusion of the series focuses around another infamous dream demon that doesn’t even get mentioned until around episode 7 or 8, before taking the spotlight as the series’ token big bad. This new character is a girl by the name of Mistelteinn, also known as the ‘Ocean of Trees’. Why is she infamous you say? Well, that’s because she’s completely crazy and highly sadistic, spending most of her time finding other dream demons and either torturing them until dead for her own enjoyment or shoving them inside humans against their will, before later killing them off anyway.

Meanwhile there’s a huge plot also taking place in the real world between Yumeji, Merry, Engi’s vessel and Mistelteinn’s vessel, plus another girl who doesn’t seem to be important until the last minute, when it turns out she’s the vessel of another dream demon that has a magical gun designed to kill Mistelteinn. Turns out he has a back story of his own, after his entire group of demons was wiped out by Mistelteinn simply because she felt like it. Around episode 9 or so, things get even more confusing, mixing the human world drama between Yumeji and his friends from school (who all seem to have their own dream demons coincidentally relevant to the dream world plot) and a looming showdown between Merry, Engi and Mistelteinn. When Mistelteinn eventually arrives, she fights Engi, Merry and everyone else… and wins. Easily. And then she leaves. Yes, that’s right; the dream demon infamous for killing and torturing other dream demons simply for her own enjoyment knocks them all down, and walks right out.

Safe to say, when the final climactic battle against Mistelteinn comes about, it lacks any real climax. Punches are thrown, people die (and then aren’t dead again, in some cases more than once), Deus ex Machinae occur just to be ignored and then it just… finishes. Once the dream world fight is over, it goes back to the real world, everyone pretty much just says ‘glad that’s over’ and the end credits roll. The plot about Yumeji getting his body taken by Chaser John Doe? Forgotten. Merry getting information about how to get back? Ignored. Pharos Heracles, the huge big bad set on invading the human world? Still milling about doing what he does. The reason Yumeji can read people’s dreams? That was never even touched upon. There is no conclusion to the series at all, despite it being the end. They just brought in a baddie over half way through the series, killed her off in a messy, convoluted and dull final fight and left the rest of the plot arcs to just flail about unconnected and lacking conclusion or meaning. Safe to say, this series is a mess and it squanders almost all the potential it has. Whether this is due to the diversion from the manga or not I cannot confirm, but considering the drop in quality happens around the supposed time of divergence it is possible that it was the cause.

Not only is the plot a complete mess, but the characters aren’t much better. Yumeji has very little character development at all and, when it suddenly reveals he has some form of power in the dream world, it isn’t foreshadowed nor explained, causing it to come across as a Deus ex Machina. Engi has a little development in regards to her sister and the reasoning why she’s doing what she’s doing, but it could still do with some work. Merry herself also lacks any real conclusive character development across the series, especially considering she’s the titular character. The whole series is supposedly about her learning more about herself (that is literally part of the plot, after all) but that’s one of the plot arcs that gets forgotten about, so any chance of her development getting a proper look is lost along with the arc. All you really learn about her during the whole show is that she has no memory, she wants to go home and the only thing she loves as much as her hat is doughnuts. Oh, and she has some super ability which is shown once in the first half and never touched upon again. Looking at the characters from the human world, they get even less in the way of development than Yumeji, Merry and Engi, despite some of them having a similar amount of screen time. Childhood friend Isana and counselling teacher Irijima become the focus on a few occasions in the series, but on neither occasion do they really get much in the way of development or even a reason to actually exist as a significant part of the plot.

Aesthetically, Dream Eater Merry is a mixed bag. Some of the characters have fantastic designs, such as Merry herself, Mistelteinn and Chaser John Doe, whilst others look decidedly bland and generic. Unfortunately the ‘bland and generic’ title describes pretty much the entire human cast, none of which have anything which makes them stand out from other characters either from the series itself or other anime. One of the positives in visual design is the dream worlds, each dream demon has their own specific dream world and it suits their style and ideals. Engi’s world in a large wheat field in the moonlight, for example, whilst Mistelteinn’s is a large series of trees and swampland in an eerie purplish colour palette, both of which appear throughout the series in multiple places. These concepts add a little more to how each character presents themselves and it’s a touch which is worth taking note of when the series fails in so many other areas, although it would’ve been even better if it wasn’t for the overuse of obvious and mediocre quality CGI to animate some of the features in the dream worlds. As with the majority of CGI in anime, it looks tacky and disconnected with the surroundings in a bad way.

The soundtrack for Dream Eater Merry is about as average as the rest of the show, bland and unforgettable most of the time aside from one particularly rocky battle theme which wouldn’t be out of place in a JRPG boss battle. However, there is one notably glaring mistake in regards to the soundtrack and its usage. During the final battle with Mistelteinn, there’s one piece of music which is best described as being the antithesis of what should be used during such a scene. The piece of music used would probably fit best in a comedic sequence set in a medieval tavern (or at least that’s what came to mind when I heard it), yet the sequence it is set to features the main characters fighting to the death with a major antagonist hell-bent on making them suffer. I can’t recall another occurrence in a series where a piece of music has been so severely misplaced and misused and, considering the quality of the final episode as a whole, it only serves to make the finale even worse than the atrocity it already was. I also recall a few scenes where it felt like there should’ve been music playing but instead there was just an absence, with a piece starting up a short while into a sequence as if the sound guy had forgotten to turn on the music because he was too busy browsing the internet or something.

Once again, sloppy presentation in every regard. The opening sequence is not bad at all, although the visuals are very vague and don’t really seem to show much of relevance, plus I’m sure the gratuitous tit shot didn’t need to be in there. The song (Daydream Syndrome by Marina Fujiwara) is decent though, and has a nice rock aesthetic to it. The ending sequence is lacklustre to say the least, featuring Merry lying down covered in red petals which slowly float away from on top of her for the entire sequence with no other animation. The music theme for the ending (Yume to Kibou to Ashita no Atashi by Ayane Sakura) is nothing special and very much forgettable as far as ending themes go.

After the first couple of episodes and the premise of Dream Eater Merry, it’s disappointing that it ended up being such a mess. There are some fantastic concepts within the show and some interesting characters that I’d love to see developed further, but these ideas were either trampled by shoddy presentation or simply forgotten entirely after their introduction, thrown away for a new idea, which was usually then also thrown away for another one. With the plot such a mess, Dream Eater Merry would need something else to back it up and make it worth watching, such as decent characters with development or at least some flashy aesthetics, but it doesn’t excel in either of those areas, ranging from mediocre to average at best. As such, I personally don’t find Dream Eater Merry to be really worth the time it takes to watch, although it may be of interest to those who enjoyed Shakugan no Shana, Zero no Tsukaima or maybe Black Rock Shooter.

In Summary:
In short, Dream Eater Merry is sloppy, inconclusive and badly presented, which is a shame for a series which has potential due to some interesting ideas and concepts. The plot starts out being OK then devolves into a hard-to-follow mess, introducing too many plots and sub-plots just to abandon them shortly after, leaving many questions unanswered and plots unfinished. Characters aren’t developed very thoroughly and many don’t seem to have any real relevance for being introduced, whilst the aesthetics of the series are generally sub-par with the exception of a few sequences, locations and character designs. Whilst it may be enjoyable to some people, Dream Eater Merry will likely be a letdown to most viewers. Recommended only for those who enjoy supernatural action series.

Japanese 2.0, English 2.0, English subtitles, Textless openings and endings, Trailers for other shows.

Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: B-
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: C

Released By: MVM Entertainment UK
Release Date: March 18th 2013
Running Time: 325 (Series) 6 (Extras)
Price: £17.99

Review Equipment:
23” Samsung HDTV, Creative speakers and Sub, Laptop with HDMI connection.

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