Yumekui Merry – 11

Now that was more like it. This episode of Yumekui Merry was the best in a long while. There was a real current of menace and suspense running through it, start to finish. Some things weren’t perfect, true, but on the whole it was free of the pacing issues that have too often plagued this show.

Isana has been living on borrowed time for a couple of episodes now, but it really became clear this week. It was obvious that Mistleteen and Iijima-sensei were toying with her – and with her would-be protectors as well. Yumeji, Merry and Kawanami seem to have a sort of rotating watch on Isana, but it’s only a matter of time before Treesea strikes, and they know it. A short trip into Isana’a dreams introduces us to her muma, a timid little jawa-like figure named Palete. Clearly, this little muffin-top is not going to prove any challenge for Mistleteen, and though Yumeji and Merry – and the enlisted Three-Act Play – tell themselves they’re going to protect her it’s pretty clear even they don’t much think it’s going to work.

You can leave your hat on

Kawanami remains the wild card in all this. Clearly she likes Isana, but her behavior is unreadable most of the time and so is her role in everything we’ve seen so far. We finally meet her muma when she turns up with him inside Isana’s dream for the climactic scene of the episode. He’s a stealthy-looking fellow who looks like he just stepped off the Galaxy Express 999 but we don’t get his name just yet. Iijima – who seems every bit as malicious and sadistic as his muma – implies that Kawanami had been a position to save all of the mumas Treesea had killed and did nothing. But this is different – Isana is a friend. So Kawanami steps in just as she’s about to finish off the girl and her tiny muma.

Of course, all this happens only after Treesea has thoroughly kicked Merry and Yumeji’s asses. Why, she even knocks Merry’s hat off – the fanboys will be all a-twitter about that one I’m sure. Never mind the apparently helpless Palete, the difference in skill and power between Mistleteen and Merry is abundantly clear. She may be an anime-original character but she’s a good one – a really effective and frightening villain who genuinely enjoys the suffering of her victims.

Unfortunately, the episode goes off track at the last moment as Treesea and Iijima retreat for some reason. I have a hard time believing she’s afraid of Kawanami so one can only assume it’s a dramatic convenience to set up the finale – that’s how it played, anyway. Not the best writing, and it does undercut some of the effectiveness of the episode (which I’d still give good marks to on the whole).

So now we sit with only one ep to go, and as always a ton of questions left to answer. Who is Kamanami’s muma – is it the legendary Pharos, perhaps? And what of John Doe, so crucial in the first episode – maybe he’s Pharos (there are flaws in that theory)? Will he be back at all for the final battle? Will Merry end the story staying in the real world, or will she find a way home – and would she leave, even if she did? This is a series that’s playing as if it’s hoping for a second season, and while lots about this first one didn’t click for me I certainly wouldn’t mind that. If they can chart another season free of the pacing problems of the first one it could be quite good.

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