Wow, that was the “Return of the King” of anime episodes. I felt like it was about to end about 10 times, and it just kept right on going. I would have been willing to swear it lasted about 40 minutes – in a good way. They sure packed a lot in there, but it was a big improvement over the very decent premiere.
To be blunt,
Navel Merry is one huge pander to otaku. With the cat-ear pajamas, the belly shots, the doughnut fetish… She’s beyond adorable but I can’t help but adore her for it. This episode was a lot of exposition about her situation, but also a lot of good character development and introductions to new characters. Specifically, osananajimi Isana Tachibana moves to the fore here, along with her father, spectacularly played by the legendary Keiji Fujiwara. He has only a few scenes, but it just shows what a well-written and well-acted character can do with limited screen time – he really makes an impression. With his massive facial scar there’s obviously a past here we’re sure to discover later, but he stamps himself here as a wry, good-hearted surrogate father to Yumeji and a wise soul looking after the young people in his growing brood.
We also met Yumi, a girl who made a sort of contract with a kind-hearted muma named Serio. What’s a muma, then? They’re the dream spirits who inhabit that world – Merry and John Doe are mumas – and apparently they come in all shapes and sizes and temperaments. Some of them want to visit our world, either by force (John Doe) or through voluntary contracts like Serio. He’s an elfin fellow who appears to be helping Yumi achieve her dream of becoming a nurse in exchange for being allowed to use her as a vessel to learn about the human world. Things are going swimmingly until something hijacks one of Serio’s dreams – a nasty muma, presumably – and steals Yumi, annihilating poor shota muma Serio in the process. Is it a coincidence that mysterious tsuntsun transfer student Chizuru Kawakami had just appeared that day? I wonder… Meanwhile, Merry leaves the Tachibana house under the cover of night to try and find out how and why she’s in the human world without a vessel – but only after Tachibana-san tells her that she’s a part of his family.
Get all that? Whew! An awful lot happened in one episode, but it didn’t feel rushed to me. We certainly have some face-palming cliches here – the transfer student, the shower scene, the childhood friend of the lonely boy who lives next door – but in this package, it all feels pretty fresh. I thought the writing was excellent this week, and the cast in this series – a mix of veterans and newer seiyuu – is uniformly excellent. We have likable characters, an interesting premise, decent art and music and a real sense of threat to keep things tense. In short – this excellent episode stamps Yumekui Merry as a keeper.
Next week’s episode title – “Coming From the Dream”? Oh, dear…