When I started to watch, I was prepared for some Kaguya.
But nobody expects the surprise Yuyuko.
Despite the general lack of action, Yumekui Merry 02 was a pretty good follow-up to the first episode. Part of it is because my expectations have been lowered, but part of it is because there were actually good things to say about it.
The most significant change was the introduction of the dream denizen, Serio. In the manga, at the end of Chapter 5 every dream denizen not named “Merry” was out to possess a human by guile or force. But Serio has a friendly relationship with her “host”, Yumi, and has inspired her to become a nurse.
I don’t know if Serio is from later in the manga and moved earlier, or whether she (I’m assuming she’s female, but you never know) is anime-original. But having an example of a good dream denizen makes Merry seem like not the only good person from the dream world, and gives hope that Merry and Yumeji will eventually find allies in both worlds.
I got an email from a friend who had just watched this episode, and he was saying it put him to sleep because the pacing was bad. I would disagree. Magical Index S1 03? Okay, that was bad. But this? This is essentially the same as Shakugan no Shana S1 02: lacking in action, but providing an essential demonstration of how the fantasy world works. I rewatched Shana 02 after watching this, and the parallels are stunning.
The episode opens, just like in Shana, with the male lead in shock after having been saved from the clutches of a dream denizen. Shana then spent the next 10 or so minutes explaining to Yuji what Torches were and how they serve as replacements for people whose existence was stolen by the Crimson Denizens, and that it was her duty as a Flamehaze to fight the denizens.
Likewise, after waking up in cat-hood pajamas, Merry has a conversation with Yumeji about how dream denizens are not all evil monsters out to possess humans, and how she found herself stuck in the human world and must now fight denizens in order to find a way back home.
Shana then buys some melon bread. Merry then has some donuts. (In Merry, Yumeji is also shown to be a fan of the superhero Guricho, which actually becomes relevant in the next fight he gets involved in.) Some interaction scenes then follow: Yuji with Shana and his mother Chigusa, and Yumeji and Merry with Isana, her father, and a suspicious transfer student.
The next half of the Shana episode demonstrates, through Yuji’s classmate Yukari, what eventually happens to people whose existence is stolen by the Crimson Denizens. In the Merry episode, Yumi, a girl from Yuji’s school, becomes possessed by a dream denizen, and Serio, her companion denizen, is unable to stop it.
The Shana episode ends with Yukari “burning out”, and everyone except for Yuji and Shana forgets about her. Yuji gives Shana her name because of her sword, and resolves that he will continue to exist and not be forgotten.
In Merry, Yumi doesn’t die, but Yumeji decides to help Merry in her quest. The stage is set for Merry and Yumeji to figure out that they can combine their powers to save someone (looks like Minato) in the next episode. Incidentally, afterward, Yumeji gives Merry her title of “Yumekui”, or “Dream Eater”.
Yumekui Merry seems to be turning into another edition of Shana. All we need is for Yumeji to see Merry naked in a couple more episodes, then… wait, that happened already? So anyway, if you were fine with the pacing of the first season of Shana, you shouldn’t have a problem with Merry so far.
Edit: The problem with Merry 02 is not so much the pacing, as it is the suddenness of Yumi’s introduction and the lack of her relation to our lead characters making it hard to care about what happens to her. Maybe in the future that will change.