Though there may be a few anime fans that don't recognize Rumiko Takahashi's
name, I doubt that there are many who aren't familiar with her work.
Known as the "Princess of Manga" she's the woman behind such manga (and
anime) series as Urusei Yatsura (also known as Lum), Maison
Ikkoku, and fan favorite Ranma ½. She's created
many popular series over her 25+ year career, and is known for her humorous
stories that have a lot of heart. But Takahashi is a very talented
artist, and she's not limited to one story type as is shown with Mermaid
Forest. Darker and less light-hearted than her other series,
this story of immortals and monsters will surprise many of her fans.
It's very unlike her other works, but that doesn't mean it isn't good.
(For another look at this series, check out Don Houston's reviews of the
individual volumes here: One,
Yuta looks like a nice, handsome, young man. But looks can be
deceiving. He's really over 500 years old, and immortal. Centuries
ago he was just a common fisherman, but then he caught a mermaid, a vile
evil creature, and ate some of its flesh. That act would let live
forever, only he doesn't want to. He's seen his loving wife grow
old before his eyes and die while he stayed eternally young. Now
Yuta searches the seas for mermaids, hoping to find one that will tell
him how to remove the curse of eternal youth.
In his journeys he encounters Mana. This young girl was being
kept hostage by a group of mermaids. They fed her mermaid flesh so
she'd be eternally young, and they planned on eating her in turn.
The only way a mermaid can live on land and have legs is by occasionally
eating a human who has eaten mermaid flesh, so this group of ex-mermaids
raises young women on the bodies of their sister mermaids and harvests
them every 20 years or so. That is until Yuta arrived and ruined
their schemes. Now Yuta and Mana travel together, both looking for
a cure to their situation.
The interesting part of this show is the contrast of the two main characters.
Yuta has traveled the world for centuries and is very street smart.
In contrast Mana has been locked away since she was a little girl and knows
nothing of the world. She hasn't even seen a cat before. Their
relationship, though they look about the same age, is more one of father
to child rather than as equals.
The series doesn't only focus on Yuta in the present day however; there
are episodes that take place years ago before he met his traveling companion.
These episodes don't really work however. First off they're confusing.
At the end of one show he's running off with Mana, and the next one he's
by himself with no explanation given that this happened earlier.
Just when you figure they are going to stay in the past, Mana pops up again.
The reason these stories were put into the series is to show just why Yuta
wants to become mortal again, but it's not that convincing. I never
really saw a convincing reason for Yuta to yearn mortality.
There are a few other problems with this show. Mermaids are very
rare, though every time Yuta turns around he's encountering one or someone
who has eaten a mermaid. After a few episodes it doesn't seem that
they are as rare as everyone claims. The legend surrounding these
creatures doesn't make a lot of sense either. Everyone repeats the
tale of eating a mermaid to gain immortality, but that's not really what
happens. Mermaids are very, very toxic, and the vast majority of
people who eat them die instantly. An unlucky few lose their minds
and turn into monsters, and then a very, very small minority, "one every
century" get the gift of immortality. You'd think that people would
have passed that little tid-bit of information down with the legend as
That's not to say the show is bad, it's not. It just isn't up
to the standard of other Rumiko Takahashi shows. Each story was interesting
enough, but there wasn't much momentum pushing the viewer forward.
I was never really excited to see the next show and find out what happens.
While it's not a horrible show, it's nothing to write home about either.
This boxed set contains all four volumes of the series in a nicely illustrated
thick board slipcase. The individual DVDs come in standard keepcases
and seem to be identical to the earlier releases.
The series offers viewers the choice of stereo mixes in both English
and Japanese. I sampled both of them and preferred the original Japanese
thought he English dub is very good. The show makes use of the soundstage
during the action sequences but for most of the series the dialog is centered
on the screen without much directionality. This isn't a big problem
and the soundtrack fits the series well. There are also English subs.
The anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 video looks pretty good. The
colors are pleasing and the level of detail is fine. The black could
be a bit more solid, but the image is sharp overall. On the digital
side, aliasing is a problem in several scenes, especially when the camera
is panning over a static image.
The extras are really disappointing. The only thing this set comes
with is a series of production art galleries, one on each DVD.
This show based on a manga by superstar Rumiko Takahashi is just okay.
I liked the way she portrayed mermaids as evil, noxious creatures, but
there wasn't much pushing the story forward. With characters that
aren't that engaging and just average plots, this is a good way to kill
some time but you won't be jumping up and down with excitement as you watch
it. Add to that the MSRP of $70 for a mere 13 episodes, and you've
got a show that would make a better rental than a purchase.