I expected no less from a show that deals with dream worlds and its inhabitants, and this episode absolutely delivered in terms of visual glory and musical depth. Now if only J.C. Staff can keep it up for an entire episode from now on instead of resorting to only the last half of the show to do this.
This week, we are introduced to not one but two dream demons – Engi Threepiece (Aya Endo) and her older sister Pati (Saori Goto). Whereas the previous dream demons we’ve seen had motives to escape from the dream world and into reality, Engi winds up breaking the cycle and intends to ‘partner’ with Yui Konagi (Akiya Tomoko) to find her sister in the real world. After Yui runs into Merry and Yumeji in a supermarket, it’s no surprise that Engi is summoned to confront Merry after sensing all of the gone-astray dream demons that Merry supposedly sent back to the dream world in prior episodes.
The first half of the episode completely bored me. It wasn’t until the daydream was triggered that the show finally kicked into high gear and became interesting again. This time, we’re brought to Engi’s daydream that’s eerily similar to the wheat fields of Gladiator’s own dream sequence (and 300, to some extent). As a matter of fact, this episode screamed of visual influences from shows I’ve seen before. J.C. Staff did a commendable job with the numerous bleached-out, HDR-esque lighting, and fluid (albeit drawn less accurately) fighting scenes, as well as putting their own style into the character designs. I also like how each dream demon, including Merry, has a unique set of irises, particularly Engi’s triangle-shaped irises. If they were shaped like Zanki’s eyes from Katanagatari, I’d be disappointed if she didn’t break out a shogi board at that point to go up against Merry – not surprising given how many times Merry lost to Yumeji in Wii games yet insisted they keep playing.
Still, the highlight of this week was the revelation that not all dream demons in this show have an excuse to escape to the real world; Engi just wants her family back and happens to have pretty aggressive means to achieve that.
I felt sorry for Engi. Who really knows if Pati’s unknown fate was due to a reverse-Matrix realization that there’s more to the dream world than perceived, or if she’s just an air-headed onee-sama for taking a misunderstood leap of faith. The biggest question would be who really was responsible for her disappearance? When exactly did she disappear? What’s Merry’s involvement in all of this? She didn’t seem to have a clue what happened, or who Engi even was.
Engi’s special attack was…interesting. It’s not like she was somehow inspired by Archer’s Unlimited Blade Works and Gilgamesh’s Gate of Babylon in fate/stay night, or Cloud Strife’s Omnislash in Final Fantasy VII. She can’t have taken possession of vessels who happen to be fans of those works, right?
J.C. Staff used a lot of pastel colors when they animated Honey & Clover to emphasize the art school environment the story took place at. In this case, it’s to portray Yumeji’s insistence in protecting Merry’s well-being. Still, no one does tears better than Kyoto Animation.
As if bright HDR lighting and pastel weren’t enough for this show, they go and introduce us to a hospital room completely basked in white light. Heaven? Segue to the dream world? Neo trapped in Mobil Avenue? The references just won’t stop!
Last reference from this episode: Asura from Soul Eater! When Eruka completely lost it in episode 24 in front of Asura’s awakening, I nearly jumped out of my seat. I doubt John Doe will be as menacing as Asura (he has evil talking cats as his minions for crying out loud), but I’m still hoping that him being the last dream demon for Merry to confront won’t disappoint.
In conclusion, this week was a strong episode in terms of character development and scenic impact. The piano music during the daydream sequence added a very tragic feel to the interactions between the characters and the circumstances of their plight. The fact that it is revealed that Merry’s expulsion of dream demons back to the dream world may have been for naught this entire time throws a huge twist into the story and brings some promise to the rest of the episodes to come.