I love anime series that feature a loser guy that somehow finds himself surrounded with hot ladies. These shows are commonly referred to as harem anime. Tenchi Muyo, Love Hina, and Ai Yori Aoshi highlight this crowded and popular subgenre of anime. My Bride is a Mermaid seems to fit best in this category, but it is difficult to completely classify a show that is a random jumble of slapstick comedy, parodies, and jokes held together by a bizarre storyline involving a middle school boy trying to marry into a family of gangster mermaids. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Originally appearing as the ongoing manga series, Seto no Hanayome, My Bride is a Mermaid makes its DVD debut in a 2-disc boxset that contains the first half of the 26 episode anime series.
Nagasumi Michishio is a teenage boy on a summer trip to visit his grandma at Seto Bay. Nagasumi decides to learn how to swim, but instead ends up nearly drowning himself. Sun Seto, a mermaid, saves Nagasumi from drowning. His parents don't believe the tale of his rescue by a gorgeous mermaid, but his grandma acknowledges that there are rumors about mermaids roaming the waters of Seto Bay. Suddenly, Sun shows up at his door. Following Sun's arrival, some Yakuza gangsters show up, kidnap Nagasumi, and toss him off a cliff into the sea.
Nagasumi is taken to Sun Seto's home under the sea. Sun's father, Gouzaburou Seto, is not only a mer-man, he's the head of the Yakuza gang. Nagasumi learns about the Mermaid Law, which states that unless they get married, Sun must die. Gouzaburou would love nothing more than to kill Nagasumi and be done with this whole mess. Cooler heads prevail, however, and Nagasumi asks for Sun's hand in marriage.
The show focuses on Sun and Nagasumi learning to love each other after their promise of marriage. Sun takes on her human form and moves in with Nagasumi's family. Out of water, mermaids have human legs as long as they are not wet--the instant any water touches a mermaid, they are flopping around on the ground with a full-blown fishtail. While Sun gets to know Nagasumi and assumes a human life, her father looks for any reason to take Nagasumi out. He sends out the members of his gang to act as teachers and school employees to keep a constant watch on the two. The show becomes a harem comedy series when Lunar, another female mermaid, makes her grand appearance, moves in, and challenges Sun for Nagasumi's affections--mostly out of spite.
What begins as a run-of-the-mill anime quickly turns into maniacal absurdity within the first episode. My Bride is a Mermaid is one of the most chaotic slapstick comedies I have seen. The show moves along at a frantic pace. It more or less sticks to a basic plot of Nagasumi and Sun growing their relationship while attending middle school, hiding Sun's true form, and avoiding assassination attempts and giant octopuses. If you have seen Excel Saga before, then you know what to expect from a series such as My Bride is a Mermaid. The random, crazy comedy genre is an acquired taste and bound to turn off many viewers.
The show throws a constant stream of jokes and comedy bits at you in each episode. While some of it falls flat, you are almost certain to at least find parts of it funny. It parodies things such as Dragon Ball Z, shojo anime, and even American movies such as Terminator 2 and Total Recall. The slapstick elements are abundant in every episode and, while some are bizarre and don't make sense, others are hilarious.
In an episode, the story could be developing relatively normally, then a conflict arises and, all of a sudden, the characters find themselves in the middle of a savage post apocalyptic battle. The ongoing joke about everyone being in love with Masa, including Nagasumi, is always good for a laugh. Anytime Masa speaks, the other characters get scratchy star-crossed eyes, hearts float everywhere, and they fall in love with him. Another supporting character, Maki, has a dual personality that makes her one of the funniest characters in the cast. She portrays herself as a sweet, squeaky-voiced, pixie-sized, conch-mermaid-thing and a close friend of Sun's. Maki also happens to be a cold, ruthless, Yakuza assassin who constantly tries to murder Nagasumi.
My Bride is a Mermaid goes on enormous tangents. It would be unfair to call any one episode filler--the content in this entire series would qualify as filler in many other anime series. There are whole episodes about an intramural sporting event, a Terminator style chase, and one that has Nagasumi transformed into a raging giant and launched to the moon. The plot is a barely existent framework with the sole purpose of keeping the jokes rolling.
This series is definitely comparable to Excel Saga, but hating that show does not mean that you will automatically dislike My Bride is a Mermaid. I despised Excel Saga and rank it up there as one of the most unwatchable anime releases ever. However, I found myself amused and even laughed out loud at many parts of My Bride is a Mermaid. The pace is frantic, the characters are all insane, and a major portion of each episode consists of cast overreacting and yelling at each other. Even though I enjoyed much of the series, I could only take it in 2-3 episode increments before I had to take a long break.
Audio: An English 5.1 Dolby Digital track and a Japanese 2.0 track are included with this release. This is a loud series with much of the dialogue consisting of characters yelling at each other. The English track was clear and had some surround effects throughout the show. The quality of the Japanese 2.0 track was fine as well.
Because I'm a dub fan, I listened to most of the episodes in English. The voice acting is fine and the actors really seemed to enjoy making this series, but the use of "ya" just has to stop. The script has the mermaids replace "you" with "ya" in almost every case. This distracting attempt at establishing a mermaid accent only creeped into the dialogue occasionally early on. However, when Lunar shows up, the "ya's" increase exponentially. It just sounds peculiar to have characters speak completely normal and throw in a "ya." It may have made more sense if the mermaids spoke with a southern accent. This is the main reason why I switched over to the Japanese sub for the last few episodes. The "ya's" still exist, but at least they are in a written form--it reads much better than it sounds. Outside of that, the voices sound good in both tracks.
Video: The video is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The color palate is bright and the image is crystal clear. There was no noticeable pixelization or other compression artifacts. This series looks great.
Extras: A textless opening and closing are included along with some trailers. The opening theme for this show is catchy and fun. This may be a soundtrack that I purchase if I happen across one.
Final Thoughts: My Bride is a Mermaid is definitely not for newcomers to anime. The show parodies many clichés of other anime series and genres. Most of these jokes will fly straight over a newbie's head. If you are a fan of comedy shows in the same vein as Excel Saga, then you might enjoy My Bride is a Mermaid. My Bride is a Mermaid is a sometimes annoying, oftentimes amusing, over-the-top comedy series that's definitely not for everyone. I got some laughs out of it, but I can't fathom sitting through it again. Rent It and see if it's for you.