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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Mermaid Forest - Unquenchable Thirst
Mermaid Forest - Unquenchable Thirst
Geneon // Unrated // November 15, 2005
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Don Houston | posted November 28, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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Movie: In recent years, the anime explosion has allowed more companies to offer up a more diverse selection of titles as the base of fans increases. This is good for a lot of reasons but most of all because it gives consumers a greater choice of shows to pick from and helps provide competition to lower prices. After all, back in the days of taped shows, you'd have to choose between dubbed or original language tracks and you'd almost always have to pay full price for an episode or two rather than the more common (nowadays) four or five that are found on DVDs. Today's review is of a short-lived series of a darker nature called Mermaid Forest: Unquenchable Thirst, the third in the series of Rumiko Takahashi's story about an immortal seeking a cure for what he considers his affliction. As in the last volume, Bitter Flesh, the story of Yuta and Mana continue as they meet a selection of others with similar problems, each trying to vie for their own brand of cheating the concept of death. Here's a bit of background on the subject to bring newcomers up to speed:

"Butchering a mermaid and consuming her flesh seems like a small price to pay to escape death. However, Yuta recognizes the curse as he buries the withered corpses of friends and family and searches for a way to undo his fate. He soon meets the beautiful Mana, who shares his curse and his desire to be cured of living. Unfortunately, until they can die, they must suffer a deadly world of selfish humans hiding terrible secrets and horrible crimes." I'll be the first to admit that all my knowledge of mermaids come from the old western European tales from sailors that were probably drunk and horned up from years at sea without any relief and the classic (though far darker than Disney's version) Little Mermaid. The idea of a beautiful woman on top with a fishy tale also probably has some other connotations that I won't go into (involving material of an adult nature) but with Japan as a traditionally sea-based culture, I suppose it makes sense that they'd have their own legends about these creatures.

Okay, so watching Yuta, a 500+ year old man who has set about finding a way to regain his humanity and start aging at a normal pace again (he can die but like most of us, he wants to have his cake and eat it too) has had some ups and downs. That he was hooked up with a far younger, but similarly afflicted gal, Mana, was what kept it interesting as the couple find plenty of pitfalls to the miracle known as immortality. Here's what the back cover said this time about the show:

"Centuries ago, Yuta rescued a girl named Natsume from being attacked by a monk. Natsume and her father were street performers at that time, earning their keep as miracle healers. Yuta is overjoyed to find fellow immortals, or so he thinks. That night, Natsume rips into Yuta's organs. He narrowly escapes. The monk reappears and reveals who Natsume really is ...a monster who survives by eating the fresh livers from living animals. What is the world coming to?"

There were only three episodes this time, 7) Bone Princess, 8) The Last Face (Part 1), and 9) The Last Face (Part 2), comprising two tales of woe. In Bone Princess, Yuta comes across a man who seems able to revive the dead by using special magic that envelopes the bones of anyone in need of reviving from the dead, typically rich nobles. The process doesn't last very long though unless mermaid flesh is used in the process, or flesh from an immortal cursed by mermaid flesh. This puts our hero in a very precarious position as he befriends the young gal traveling with the man, Natsume, who seems to be cursed with having eaten the flesh too. Add in to the mix a monk seeking to destroy the young girl and you have the recipe for a threeway fight to the finish.

In The Last Face though, the tale is focused on the present where Yuta and Mana come across a child who seems to be in the midst of a family squabble over custody. What at first seems like a lack of domestic harmony, soon ends up with the daughter of the young boy trying to regain him at all costs. Her mother seems intent on warning our traveling couple of the danger involved in this family affair until they find out for themselves that the curse of mermaid flesh is upon them once more. Will they figure out the mystery of the daughter in time to save the son or is it already too late to save him from an evil Yuta knows all too well?

Okay, aside from the fact that the show only had three episodes, I found the initial story pretty good as it was told in a flashback form from hundreds of years ago. The limited form of immortality dealt with combined with the consequence of the magic involved was a nice little twist that allowed us to see Yuta figure out that he was afflicted more with a curse than a blessing years before he truly sought to stop living forever. The last two episodes though lacked in several ways since the viewer knows that Yuta and Mana are essentially going to outlive the rest of the cast and they were never truly made to appear all that concerned for the little boy whose life was up for grabs. Had the story been written better and made better use of the couple's attempts at humanity, I think I would have enjoyed it more. Given the mixed nature of the limited material offered up this time, I felt a rating of Rent It was once again reasonable and fair.

Picture: Mermaid Forest: Unquenchable Thirst was presented in a very nice 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I knew from the press releases that this series would have a lot of darker scenes (at night, in the ocean, and such), giving me pause that I'd see lots of limitations in the material but it was surprisingly clear in most ways with only a bit of grain and light video noise from time to time. The animation style itself seemed to cut some corners at times but it served the nature of the source material fairly nicely with solid backgrounds, decent detail, and a range of interesting visual elements to hold my attention. I saw no compression artifacts and the overall visual aspects of the three episodes were nicely handled.

Sound: The audio was presented with the usual choice of the original Japanese track or the English dub, both done in a 2.0 Dolby Digital presentation. In terms of overall quality, I thought the dub cast did a better job this time than in the last volume. Apparently, the second stringers either learned to provide better performances or the direction was better but it amounted to an improvement nonetheless. I still thought the music and special effects sounded better on the dub than on the original too so fans of dubs may be able to reclaim some dignity with this one. There was some fairly pleasing separation between the tracks on both versions and the dynamic range managed to convince me that someone was paying close attention to the production of both, making it a good series to listen to.

Extras: With only three episodes on the DVD (again!), I fully expected a great company like Geneon to offer some sweet extras with this release but other than dropping the price a little bit, they sure didn't offer much else. There were some sketches, some trailers, and a paper insert with minimal artwork (and a list of the release dates for the four volumes in the series). This is a pet peeve of mine so if I seem a bit irritated, please understand that 3 episodes amounts to about half a single sided DVD; a waste of precious space in my opinion.

Final Thoughts: Mermaid Forest: Unquenchable Thirst wasn't a bad release and the stand alone nature of the episodes was pretty cool in some ways but lacked the punch this time needed to sustain more than a passing interest for me. I wanted to see Yuta and Mana at least make some headway into solving their dilemma (being able to gracefully grow old and die rather than have to end it all with a cut off head or something) and these three episodes did nothing in that regard. Further, the last arc of the DVD made me wonder why a couple of supposed immortals would be so hampered by a single woman with no special powers (more or less) other than her own immortality that was not nearly as well tested as Yuta's. If Yuta's been around for 500 years as claimed, you'd think he might've learned a trick or two by this point and seen most of it coming, as any casual viewer would. So while I enjoyed the initial DVD and found the second okay, the series will need to pull a rabbit out of a hat to finish up strong with the fourth and final volume coming out in January.

If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003 and Best Of Anime 2004 article or regular column Anime Talk

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