Legend says that if the flesh of a mermaid is consumed, the body becomes immortal. However, with the small chance of immortality comes a high chance of being poisoned, morphing and mutating into a monster beyond comprehension. Yuta is a wanderer: one of the few who has eaten the flesh and survived, and lived to tell about it -- for 500 years. By chance, Yuta meets a young woman named Mana who also shares the same fate, and together, they wander the land, searching for a mermaid who can free them from their immortal lives.
The "horror" genre in anime has pretty much become a misnomer over the years; rather than attempting to be scary in any way, shape, or form, the animes almost always attempt to develop a slow, interesting and gruesome story. When the genre works well, it fosters a kind of morbid fascination in the viewer. Despite the fact that not a lot is happening in these shows, what does happen can be very interesting indeed. However, when the genre fails, the anime comes across as cheesy, predictable, and boring. Every horror anime walks a very fine line between being appealingly dark and appallingly absurd, and when an anime crosses into the ridiculous, much of its charm is lost. Following this trend closely, Mermaid's Forest is both pretty good and pretty bad. Almost all of the plot lines are thoroughly ridiculous and logic-defying; never before in an anime have I seen a plot that contradicts itself so much in so many ways, and some of the story elements used are laughably cheesy (lost souls in particular come to mind). Yet, at the same time the anime managed to consistently hold my attention for the entire time through. The gruesome nature of the show combined with some clever (though way too predictable) plot twists do a pretty good job at making the storyline worthwhile. Unfortunately, the plot and characters really aren't quite good enough to carry the anime by itself. Annoyingly, the anime is mainly episodic in plot. Essentially, the anime has seven totally isolated stories that have little to do with each other. The ending is too unsatisfying, the plot is too fractured, and the dark mood is broken by absolute absurdity a bit too often. As someone on animenfo has already said, most of the characterization is devoted to the villains of each plot line. Almost no time is spent characterizing the two protagonists, and as a result they feel disappointingly flat and empty. Only the creatively thought out villains manage to illicit feelings other than apathy. Of course, if the technical aspects of the show were excellent, then the plot and characters would be more than enough to make a good show. Unfortunately... Visually, the show is pretty mediocre. The hero's character design is so generic that it looks like it's out of a hentai show, and none of the other character designs are particularly good either. Probably the worst are the lost soul designs, which are some of the stupidest monsters that I've ever seen. The animation itself tends to be pretty clunky and half-assed, and worst of all, when violence happens in the show (and it happens often), there is literally zero gore. When one considers that the anime is attempting to be dark and gruesome, this exclusion of gore is absolutely baffling. Fortunately, the sound manages to be a little better. Voice acting is competently done, and the music is unmemorable but decent. The two protagonists' voices are pretty well done, and add a surprising amount of character to the unimpressive character designs. As a whole the sound is still nothing to really rave about, but there's nothing really bad about it either. Nonetheless, I enjoyed Mermaid's Forest a bit too much to flat out condemn it. While Mermaid's Forest is riddled with various weaknesses, the macabre style of the show ended up being too much to resist for my misanthropic soul. If, like me, you enjoyed Vampire Princess Miyu and Pet Shop of Horrors, you might want to check this one out. This anime is very much in the same style, and Mermaid TV's animation isn't quite as crappy as its predecessors'. However, if you were bored by those animes' style, then you should probably skip this one in favor of some of the flashier shows that have come out lately (insert shameless plug for R.O.D TV here).
Story: On the surface, this is a story about a man who has been wandering for 500 years because he ate mermaid flesh and became immortal. Under that are varying snapshots of humanity and how people deal with the temptation of extended life. The anime is episodic, with each story taking up two episodes at most. It allows for character development of Yuta, but not many other characters, in my opinion. While the anime is listed as a horror genre, the horror is in the slow, building way that Japan seems to love. Animation: The animation is now over 10 years old. While it was decent in 2003, it is definitely starting to show its age in 2014. Sound: Like the animation, the sound is slightly dated. Of course, there's only so much "blood splatter on floorboards" sound one can take before its tuned out completely in order to focus on the dialogue. Characters: Since the characters are the main part of the story, the anime does a decent job of filling them out. There isn't much character development so much as there is character explanation. The characters Yuta meets have already decided their fate in one way or another, and the story revolves around their choices with small explanations given for their actions. The characters are all fairly interesting in their own ways and pretty unique. Overall, it was a decent anime. I'd recommend it to someone that wants an anime they can stop if they need to since the story arcs are only a couple episodes long.
Right, it's confession time for me. If you have been reading my reviews than you may have noticed that I tend to rip the anime a new one. There is a reason for this though and it has to do with the fact that I can't turn my brain off when watching anime. I can't ignore the stupid shown in the anime and this is a problem as most anime are very stupid indeed. In this case I'm not talking about a 90 pound girl catching a multi-ton cruise missile and throwing it back. Yes, it is stupid but it is a stupid that I'll allow. It's anime. Things like this are normal here and I'm pretty much fine with it. It annoys me to be sure but I will not rant about it. So, having explained this lets rip into this anime shall we? Just a heads up: There will most probably be spoilers. The more I hate an anime the more spoilers there will be. ART: If you had told me that this anime was produced in 2003 I would have laughed in your face. The animation simply breathes 80's and 90's nostalgia. Based on the art style and quality I would have placed it around late 80's but it is a 2003 anime. Considering the quality of the anime coming out at that time this series art can not compete. Now if you like the 'old' style animation then you may find it a plus, I didn't. Still, it does what it is supposed to do and that is bring the story and characters to life through visual media. SOUND: I really don't remember much of it but I remember not disliking it so I guess it was better than average? Voice actors did a good job overall. CHARACTERS: Main character is Yuta. He became immortal after eating the flesh of a mermaid and has lived for 500 years. Mana is a 15 year old girl who was raised by mermaids so that they could feast on her flesh and become young again. Yuta saved her and she decides to follow him. As she has lived in isolation her entire life she has no idea how the world works. STORY: Yuta is a fisherman who one day caught a mermaid. Legend says that eating her flesh can make you immortal. Although he is hesitant, others are not, and they eat the mermaid. Unfortunately they forgot to read the fine print as mermaid flesh is also a deadly poison. Most die, some get transformed into monsters and a very small group gain immortality. Yuta is the only one to become immortal while the rest dies and he quickly learns that living forever isn't all it's cracked up to be. He sets out to find other mermaid and see if he can become mortal again. RANT: I think that the main problem with the anime the lack of a story is. Yuta just wanders around looking for mermaids, shit happens and he moves on. Shows like Kino's Journey and Mushi-shi have proven that a lack of story arc not a hinderence is for a good series but here it was. The story based episodes are far to short to work out the characters and their back story so things tend to stay very generic. You know very quickly who the main players are and what the situation is and it gets just as quickly resolved. Usually in the death of the main players. Yuta is there to take any damage to be dealt out. He's immortal so they can get away with some gore as he'll heal in minutes anyway. The episodes tend to blend into each other with only Yuta and Mana remaining a constant within them. The main plus of the series is the mermaid lore. This differs wildly from our Western mermaids so it was an interesting view in that regard. The interaction between Yuta and Mana was also a plus. Yuta had been alone for 500 years before he ran into Mana. Anyone he met along the way he lost to time and old age bute Mana is immortal like him. Fortunately they don't heap on the romance but you can see them get closer together. Mana can really try your patience though with the way she goes through life. She is very young, knows nothing of the world and doesn't know how to express her emotions very well. There is, however, a line between being naive and stupid. She tends to cross that line from time to time. I guess this is more for story telling purposes though. Yuta is the hero who must save the damsel in distress and Mana fits the bill. If you watch a few episodes online you'll quickly get the idea if this series is something that you'll want to have. Then again, if you've seen a few episodes then you've seen the entire series as there is not much to the epsiodes.
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