What’s it about? Yuu comes from a world inhabited by monsters, fearsome beasts that can be “healed” and made capable of peacefully coexisting with humans. Shortly before disappearing, his father gave him a bottle full of blue liquid. One day, that bottle popped open and a tiny girl capable of communicating with monsters named Merc popped out. Her abilities, combined with Yuu’s healing magic, could make them a powerful team. One problem: Yuu is terrified of monsters.
Merc StoriA has monsters that look like Eevees. Highly recommended. Review concluded.
Our managing editor has informed me that this is not a sufficient review, no matter how worn out I am at the end of premiere season.
Merc StoriA, like the monster anime that were trendy when I was first getting into the medium, is very much a family show. It even opens with a scene of Yuu and his parents, a cozy image of a happy family living in peaceful contentment. I wouldn’t have minded watching an iyashikei anime based on that premise alone; but then Yuu’s dad failed to come back home and the main narrative kicks in.
As a series largely aimed at kids, there’s not much serious world-building in the first episode. The monsters in Yuu’s country have largely been tamed, but across the border, many places still struggle with them. But even in a place where monsters are largely harmless, Yuu’s reasons for fearing them—even when they’ve been healed, he can’t tell what they’re thinking and finds them unpredictable—has some truth to it. It reminds me of people who dislike animals and babies, especially ones who come from parts of the world where feral cats and dogs are more common.
Merc, for all that she’s a half-liquid magical being that flies around in a jar, makes a nice foil to Yuu. While Yuu is fearful and prone to hesitation, Merc is confident and pushes him out of his comfort zone. She is also unabashedly “girly”—she follows her horoscope and adores what she calls “shiny things,” mostly jewelry.
It’s hard to tell how this will play out, but for the present, I like the combination of feminine and assertive. Too often, female characters in stories like Merc StoriA fall into the girly-girl/tomboy dichotomy, and Merc seems to exist in a comfortable middle ground.
Moreover, I like a family-friendly monster series that’s not based in combat. I spend roughly half my day telling three- and four-year-olds to quit play-fighting before someone gets hurt for real, and got kicked in the head by someone pretending to be a Power Ranger 25 years ago and never really got over it. Stories that offer nonviolent solutions are always a welcome change from the typical violence-tinged action aimed at young boys.
Even though Yuu is subduing monsters, there’s no combat or violence surrounding it. Framing it as “healing” gives the sense that it’s an act of compassion rather than subjugation, something that even my beloved Pokemon grapples with.
The first episode of Merc StoriA comes across as a cute, family-friendly show that would probably work for any kid old enough to read the subtitles. Since I don’t have kids of my own, it’s not really for me, but hopefully the empathy-driven storytelling will continue.