Miscellanea and Ephemeron
12/06/2005 Archived Entry: "Anime review: Mermaid Forest, Vol. 3"
Review by Tom Good
Eating mermaid's flesh is a kind of culinary Russian roulette: most of those who partake are killed or turned into deformed monsters, but for a lucky few the result is immortality. Rumiko Takahashi's Mermaid Forest fixates on this idea, spinning out many variations on its "just say no to mermaid flesh" public service campaign. (After watching many episodes, a running joke in my house now goes something like this: "You know what I did today?" "You ate the mermaid flesh!?") But though the concept may be rather odd, this DVD is quite good, with quality English voice acting and the best visuals in the series so far, featuring some high-contrast scenes and nice glow and fog effects.
The main characters Yuta and Mana ate the mermaid flesh and became immortal. They never age, and their wounds heal almost instantly. Now they travel around the country solving mysteries and warning people against eating mermaid. Naturally, their "it worked great for us but is far too dangerous for you" speech is not always very convincing, so they sometimes have to use more than words to put things right. The series emphasizes the unintended consequences of people's decisions, even when they have good intentions.
In the first episode, "Bone Princess," Yuta comes across a charlatan who sells fake mermaid flesh. But though his product is counterfeit, his daughter has healing abilities that are very real. Yuta has to investigate the claims of a mysterious monk who wants to destroy her. The second and third episodes make up a two-part story called "The Last Face." This tale of a mother and her kidnapped son is full of plot twists and deception, and is my favorite story in the series. The first part is kind of confusing, but all is explained in the end, and Yuta is portrayed with more emotional depth here than in some of the earlier stories.
Though Rumiko Takahashi also uses supernatural themes in Inuyasha, this series is much darker and scarier, and lacks jokes to lighten the mood. In fact, Mermaid Forest is not appropriate for young children due to its violent and creepy content, including graphic acts of violence against "the younglings," to use a George Lucas term. The DVD is suggested for ages 16+.
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