Ecchi has never had a big presence in the widely niche genre that is Yuri, or Shoujo Ai as it’s more accurately called. Yuri has always been a genre that I’ve always leaned toward the “erotic” side than the actual “romance” one, only because most of the anime tend to be too sugarcoated with soap opera quality stories. That doesn’t mean that I think there can’t be any ones that are good, I just think yuri fans deserve better than Valkyrie Drive Mermaid if they want their “dumb ecchi anime.”
If I had to describe the quality of Valkyrie Drive Mermaid in a very short statement it would be, “Not even trying.” What does it not bother to try? To be an entertaining ecchi anime. The boobs, butts, curves, kissing, and tripping all amount to pure nothingness. None pack any sort of charm or sensibility that generally make ecchi anime an exciting escapism. Whether it be from really poor comedic timing or the characters just being incredibly stale and formulaic. Upon further examination, the latter seems to be the biggest culprit than the former.
It’s not even the fact that none of the characters have any sort of profound characterization is what makes them stale. It’s the fact that their personalities, created by their dialogue and actions, are completely devoid of any humanity to them. A few of them even top my list of the worst characters of 2015. These characters being Mamori Tokonome and Mirei Shikishima. Mamori being the biggest crux of them all, she is by far one of the most annoying characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing and listening. It isn’t just the bad, shrill voice performance by Mikako Izawa that makes her insufferable, but also how completely one-note her character is. All of the characters do suffer of being one-note but she takes the cake from her just being a character Mirei just kisses in order to gain her power and to be mocked because her name is the same as “virgin.” When something isn’t that clever the first time does not mean it will be funnier five more times.
Mirei Shikishima does do more than our damsiel Mamori, however her development is predictable right when she is introduced as a silent character. You could replace her with a cardboard cutout of her and it wouldn’t make much of a difference; that is how wooden her archetype is. The other characters besides our two main ones fall into similar territory. Our only male character in the anime, without spoiling anything (but you can probably guess anyway.), has one twist that comes off as so laughably random. Other than that noticeable moment, nothing can be distinguishable about that character before or afterwards. In fact the only character that was only semi-intriguing was Meifon Sakura because (1) she is voiced by Yurika Kubo so I could imagine Kayochin from Love Live doing the things Meifon is doing, and (2) she actually has some charisma that feels genuine and moves Valkyrie Drive Mermaid forward less tediously.
Setting aside the other characters that are too forgettable to even bother reminiscing, the art is somewhat interesting to look at. The animation, on the one hand, feels as though Studio Arms was going on a lower budget than what they usually work with. As much as there are gorgeous art designs of the girls that are nice to look at, I don’t think there was enough material to go around to make these designs blossom. The first episode alone had way more dumb ecchi service than all of the episodes combined. Instead we are forced to sit through the most contrived story that one can get from an ecchi anime; hell Ikkitosen at least had an interesting lore to it that made it intriguing, Valkyrie Drive Mermaid has little to know meat to its story that garners any praise.
It is true that I don’t watch a ton of yuri anime that come out once or twice a year. I have not seen the great classics like Oniisama e…, Maria-sama ga Miteru, or even Yuru Yuri, as of writing this, to fully appreciate the genre. Valkyrie Drive Mermaid seems like one that openly insults the genre. It comes across as, “Well let’s just put a Shoujo-Ai element to this so that we can attract this niche audience to make money off of.” No, not even putting an ecchi spin on it is going to somehow make it somewhat different or unique when there is nothing to it. It is lazy implementation as one can get when watching this rubbish. As much as that one episode with the colossal naked girl at least gave me a single ray of sunshine in the mix, that was still not enough after it was over.
When you can’t entice me, the self-proclaimed ecchi connoisseur, with boobs and butts, you know you’ve done goofed. One way of describing Valkyrie Drive Mermaid into one word is “soulless.” Soulless in every sense of the word. Boobs and ass without souls, might as well not be boobs or butts at all.