I give this cute anime about a boy and his fairy companion...a 71/100.
Merc Storia is one of those anime that at first sight doesn't seem to be anything special. It starts with a typical journey premise, then has a bunch of episodic adventures that involve the two leads helping people along the way and not really finding what they're looking for. There are a lot of series with this premise that unfortunately never really go anywhere. Merc Storia, on the other hand, knows what it is and doesn't try to be anything that it isn't: Just a sweet, fun romp that offers you respite in a difficult world. Let's jump in, shall we?
The story centers on Yuu, a young boy who lives with his parents in a village where people and monsters live side by side. Yuu is a healer, which in this case means he has the power to heal monster's angry hearts and calm them down. One day, his father brings him a present from one of his long journeys, a jar filled with water. At first, Yuu is angry with this...until the jar comes to life and a mysterious fairy named Merc appears, apparently the spirit of the jar. Over the years, Yuu and Merc become best friends, though they're as different as night and day. But Merc has no memories of her time before she met Yuu, so they decide to go on a journey to see if they can find Merc's lost memories. With the help of a traveling merchant, they travel all over the place, from fairy kingdoms to heavenly metropolises ruled by winged people.
In terms of production values, the character designs are very stylish, although some older characters look a little too cutesy looking for their own good, and the animation is fairly consistent. I will say though, the water effects on Merc's hair and the visuals for when Yuu is purifying the monsters are all just beautiful, perfectly matching the show's aesthetic. The music isn't much to write home about, but the soundtrack serves its purpose well. But the opening and ending themes are outright spectacular, both of them being soft, sweet songs that not only perfectly fit the show and its tone, but are just really relaxing. Merc's opening theme in particular is especially nice in that it shows you what you're in for and is unlike any other anime opening theme for a show based on a fantasy world. Oh, and did I mention that Merc's design is absolutely adorable? Look at her! Watery hair, sparkly eyes, and her house is a literal jar? Come on!
The characters themselves...are kind of a mixed bag. Yuu in particular just isn't a very interesting lead character. I mean, he's not bad or anything, but he's kinda vanilla. His motivations are very basic, he doesn't change much other than having used to be afraid of monsters and no longer being so by the series' end, and he's not very three-dimensional either. Merc is a little more interesting in that she's much more proactive and is the one pushing him to do things in the first place, but I can imagine some viewers finding her annoying because of this, and her high pitched voice as well. I liked her okay, though. The side characters actually have more interesting personalities and backstories, from an angel boy who's hated by his whole race because he was inexplicably born without wings, or a young bird man who's trying to appease a dark being in order to save his beloved's singing voice. We meet all sorts of colorful characters on Yuu's journey, since the show is very episodic in nature and the characters never stay in one place for very long.
I really want to praise this show up the wazoo, as it has a lot that I like about it, and I wish it was better than it actually is. But a lot of problems tend to hold it back. Some episodes feel a little overstuffed, resulting in some rushed writing and pacing. One episode in particular about a girl who's ostracized by her family because she was supposedly born under an evil star wants to find a magical beast, and there's a subplot about the characters trying to save the kingdom from a stampede of monsters. That one in particular suffered a lot because, 1. It tries to cram too many storylines at once, 2. The focus characters were poorly written and developed, never really getting a chance to grow because of those many plotlines, 3. The girl's tutor is really annoying and unnecessarily mean to the girl, and he admits he only puts up with her so he can be promoted, and 4. Literally nothing about the main plot of that episode has been resolved in any way. And keep in mind, this is all in ONE whole episode. Merc Storia's arcs mostly take up two or three episodes, so its usually well paced in this manner, but that episode in particular could have benefitted from an extra one or two. The storyline of the series itself is basic, and the anime mostly has the characters going on adventures and helping people. If you like this sort of thing, this can definitely appeal to you, but for those looking for something less episodic, look elsewhere, as this kind of thing will get on your nerves. The end of the show is rather open ended, and the main story never gets much resolution.
But despite this drawbacks, I still like this show. It's not like any other fantasy-based anime out there, where the main character fights and kills monsters and instead heals them. How often do you find fantasy anime where the main character doesn't fight? This would be the perfect anime to show to kids if I wanted to introduce them to anime for the first time. It's got a relaxing aesthetic, beautiful animation, great opening and ending songs, and the characters, as undeveloped as they are, are still pretty nice to watch. Sometimes we just need to kick back and relax, and Merc Storia is that kind of anime. It doesn't try to be grand or ambitious. It just comes and goes, like you're on a stroll, and sometimes, we need anime like that. Merc Storia isn't perfect by any means, and some parts of it could have been done way better, but it's a nice, comfy, relaxing anime that'll heal your tired heart if you're willing to go along for the ride.