Yumekui Merry isn’t a terrible anime series. It’s nicely drawn; the main characters are reasonably likable; and there is a suitably exciting conclusion. Still this isn’t what I would call first rate.
I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it is that I find unsatisfactory about this series, and I can’t help comparing it to Shakugan no Shana. Both series come from the same studio and have a similar look and similar music. Both begin with a young male protagonist meeting a magical girl. Both have a rather dark premise and over-the-top supernatural characters.
The big difference is that the first season of SnS devotes at least half its episodes to developing the character of Shana and filling in her background story. I’m thinking mainly of the three story arcs in the middle which don’t do much to advance the plot, but which allow us to see why Shana acts the way she does, and show her starting to question who she is and how she relates to other humans.
If SnS had been limited to 13 episodes the writers could have gone directly from the first to the final story arc and it would have been pretty much the same story from a plotting standpoint, but it would have been much less satisfactory because we would have much less investment in the characters. The intervening chapters make Shana more sympathetic, Yuuji a more believable hero, and Kazumi more than just disposable monster-bait.
Yumekui Merry is limited to 13 episodes and perhaps that hurts it. At least we don’t know much more about the characters at the end of the series than we did when they were first introduced. Merry in particular is a cipher. She has a few distinct traits but none of the important questions about her have been answered. Yumeji is almost equally mysterious and the remaining characters basically have one trait apiece, with nothing resembling depth.
I’m not sure that Yumekui Merry would have been better with 24 or 26 episodes. That would depend on the writers, who were obviously handicapped by the fact that the original manga is incomplete. They dealt with this by departing from the original story and making up their own shorter self-contained storyline. This kind of thing is usually a bad sign. When the TV writers go off on their own they rarely succeed in matching the vision of the original mangaka.
Still I can’t help thinking that this could have been done better. There is an interesting premise here, but not enough was done with it.