Ten years ago Fujiwara noticed he had a power to see multicolored auras surrounding people's bodies. Ever since then he's been having a weird dream about a war with cats. One day he meets a mysterious girl, that, after being picked on by crows and fallen from a tree, goes to search for her lost hat. Later that day, Fujiwara finds himself in a daydream, being attacked by the same cats he fights at night.
After reading Yumekui Merry as a manga, I am struck by a sense of loss. How in God`s name did the people behind the anime take such an amazing story with such amazing characters and proceed to fail spectacularly with it? Having found the anime to be plagued with plot holes, inconsistencies and pointless characters, I was somewhat amazed to find that the Manga demonstrated none of these failures. Merry, easily one of the cutest badass characters in anime and manga alike, is enough to keep the story going. Combined with a plot that was (to my shock) both coherent and
interesting, Yumekui Merry is an excellent example of a manga trumping its anime adaptation. Chizuru Kawanami, the soulless empty shell of a character that occurs in the anime, does not appear (though this is accompanied by the absence of mysteltainn, who I quite liked), and her forgettable appearances are replaced by the character development that the Anime truly needed. Isana, something of a side character in the Anime, takes on a far greater role in the manga that seems set to get bigger as time goes on. The manga style is cute and natural, showing the characters at their best. Yumekui Merry as an anime was a mediocrity. As a manga, Yumekui Merry is a masterpiece.
The human fascination with dreams goes back about as far as humans themselves. In other words, it's been done to death, so if you're going to look for a good story built around the concept of dreams, you have to keep Sturgeon's Law in mind and hunt around a bit before you find something legitimately good. Yumekui Merry is a shining example of a manga that takes something old and familiar and puts a brilliant new spin on it.
The world of Yumekui Merry isn't 100% original, but it still feels pretty new and fresh. The whole concept of dreams connecting us to another world
and its denizens, that's been done before, yeah, I get it. What this story does well is its portrayal of the Dream Demons and their goals and methods. The villains here are truly malicious, as villains should be, but not in the usual way. What they want to do, at least as far as the underlings go, is to use human bodies to run rampant, and to destroy the hopes and dreams of their vessels. At the same time, the main villain Heracles is clearly planning something much more sinister and well thought-out (which I won't spoil). That, along with the underlying plot of the implied shared history between Merry, Yumeji and Isana, gives the impression that there's something much grander ahead and of a fascinating underlying subplot, while the story as a whole remains coherent and easy to follow. The series is occasionally guilty of "standard manga scenes", such as walking in on someone in the shower, but they're minor enough to be forgiven.
The character designs are pretty good, enough so that the main characters all have a very distinctive look, without popping out in such a way that they look out of place among the background characters who aren't just cookie-cutter extras themselves. The golden exception being Merry, but that's to be expected since she's not human. She, along with the other Dream Demons, all have very cool and imaginative designs, as well as some really interesting outfits. As far as fights go, they're pretty fluid and energetic, and the backgrounds you see in the dream world are usually pretty cool and fun to look at. The human world, while nothing special, is usually quite clean as well. One problem I have is that the backgrounds are occasionally downplayed in favor of fights and events, rather than enhancing them.
This is probably the best thing the manga has to offer, which is saying something. A common pitfall for shounen-style series is that the characters tend to lack depth in favor of becoming walking manga/anime stereotypes. I don't really see that here. The human characters are mostly quite complex and engaging, while none of their traits are exaggerated to such a degree that they are no longer believable. Even side characters like Saki and Mei can be interesting to follow, and while I can't speak for everyone, I didn't find any of them annoying. Also, I must admit, as an amateur novelist, I really like that the main characters are part of their school's Writing Club, something you don't see often. The Dream Demon characters are cool and fascinating as well, and in such a way that their motives and reasoning are clearly unlike that of a human, and yet the sympathetic ones have motives that are at least understandable to humans.
What makes this an interesting case is that it runs in a seinen magazine, but clearly sits on the fence between seinen and shounen. The fight scenes are awesome and the central plot is pretty straightforward, while at the same time this story leans heavily on character depth and interactions between them. It also focuses quite a bit on mature, adult goals, which are deeply interwoven into the plot. This is not a bad thing, in fact if anything the mix of shounen and seinen makes it more accessible and easier for anyone to get into. Just about every chapter has something good to offer, whether it be interesting character development, an awesome fight or a mind-blowing revelation.
I'm really liking this series, and it looks like it's going somewhere good. I know from experience that there are a lot of ways a story like this can jump the shark, so I'm praying that doesn't happen. Honestly, though, I genuinely believe that it'll stay awesome, and I'm looking forward to seeing it rise even higher!