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.
For those of you who don’t know, this is a show that was created by the same manga-ka that created Ranma ½, Inuyasha, and Lum. I had actually never known of this show until I was just glimpsing at a list of dubbed anime. Having said this, the show is a bit odd in comparing it to the shows she normally does.
The story follows two characters the most part, a man and woman who have eaten mermaid flesh and so have gained immortality. Throughout the story, you can see the different changes of the world as years go by. In a way, this is somewhat like RIN: Daughters of Mnemosyne in that sense. A lot of times though, they do look back on Yuta’s life, sometimes making it a bit hard to understand exactly what is going on when we pop back suddenly into a new time frame. Once in a while, it is hard to pick out what is looking to the past and what is actually in the ‘present’ day time frame since some places never change. It makes me wonder why they didn’t just show Yuto’s life threw up till when he meets Mana instead of flopping back and forward.
The stories not only follow these two as they travel around but also seem to be cases in where others have been affected by mermaids weather eating their flesh, having ashes dumped on them, had drunken mermaid blood, or even just had someone they knew eaten by a mermaid. We get a sort of case file of the mysterious world of the mermaid powers which reminds me of shows like Petshop of Horror and detective anime, just a little more based on one specific piece of the mermaid mythos.
The idea of mermaids being able to give birth is actually a really cool thing to see and I love how they put that into the show. It’s awesome and I have never really seen that happen in a show so it makes it rather different then other mermaid tales. Another really interesting thing is that the went off the normal folklore of the mermaids looks, having them be beautiful women sometimes and then giving them a monstrous look when they are fighting someone. Most of the time now a days, we look at a mermaid and we want to see the beautiful women with flowing hair but in reality, the story of a mermaid was placed as them being true monsters, something to be feared instead of loved.
The artwork is pretty much the same as Inuyasha and all her other shows. It’s pretty much the same in how the eyes and coloring is. There are some things that seem a bit off in their faces, when looking straight on, they look rather flat but when looking at them in profile, they show more to the face. Other things like details on the boats and water is pretty good. The scales of the mermaid seem to be different when you look between when they have them on and when they wash up on shore. Though it feels like a show that had cut corners on many pieces of the animation, it was a normal thing for them to do stuff like that when this first came out so I still give them props for making it pretty enjoyable.
The voices are really bad in the English dub. Non of them actually match the lip flaps. As I kept watching it, the Japanese voices did grow on me but that didn’t help the lip flap problem which did get a bit better as the story kept going but never seemed all that good. For it being a 2003 show (No, I don’t know when the actual dubbing took place) I would of thought it would have been just a little bit better. Music is so so, not great, and again, not that bad.
A small note to anyone looking for the manga, it is under the name Mermaid Saga by Rumiko Takahashi.
Mermaid Forest is a 13 Episode Series based off a Manga made by Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma ½. Inuyasha, Maison Ikkoku). It is a series of Tales involving a pair of Immortals wandering around in life hoping to find a cure to end their Immortality after successfully eating Mermaid Flesh.
It follows a chapter like structure, though most of the episodes are two parters. However not all of the chapters from the manga has been adapted in this version as it ends after the Mermaid Scar arc. Let alone never given a proper ending since Takahashi treats it like a mere side project compared to her other works. The Mermaid’s Forest arc and Mermaid’s Scar arc also had 90’s OVAs.
Yuta is a 500 year old fisherman who used to have a wife who he outlived, but managed to acquire himself a harem of girls over the years he will never reciprocate to due to his condition. He is shown to be a capable fighter, but has a habit of getting himself temporary “killed” and toss into the trash before getting back up in the morning.
Mana, meanwhile is 15 years old, but looks and sounds like a young woman. In contrast to Yuta, Mana was sheltered up to her 15th Birthday, and is shown to be a naïve ditz who tends to get herself into trouble and Yuta has go to out of his way to save her whenever she gets Damsel’d. Which happens quite a lot.
Despite their annoying habits, they are a fairly interesting and likeable duo, though they often have to share the limelight with whoever is relevant to the story arc as they tend to encounter those who are interested in Mermaid Flesh, or even have eaten said flesh.
The TV Series was animated by TMS Entertainment, who worked on a lot of well-known series. The art is close to the manga, but the animation is all computer animation that was the norm of the Early 00’s. In fact it reminded alot of TMS’s previous work Project ARMS: The 2nd Chapter in terms of looks, though at least here it doesn’t off model a lot like with 2nd chapter. Although there is this stillness that permeates throughout the show at times. A product of an era that holds up decent.
The Opening Theme “Like an Angel” is a mysterious ambient tune with a hint of melancholy. While the Ending Theme “Mizutamari” is a pretty laidback piece.
Voice Acting in this show is decent in both Japanese and English. Koichi Yamadera and Minami Takayama (Ranma ½’s Ryoga and Nabiki) reprises their roles of Yuta and Mana from the OVAs in the series. Yamadera as Yuta sounds serious and manly while Takayama as Mana is noticeably more loud and feisty (similar to her Kei Kuruma in Project ARMS) compared to her soft and naïve performance in the OVAs.
The English Dub was done by Geneon and recorded at New Generation Pictures, Yuta in the 1st 3 Episodes was voiced by Justin Gross (Ichise from Texhnolyze) only to be replaced by Liam O’Brien (Ergo Proxy’s Vincent Law) for the remainder. Justin plays him in a more savvy way while Liam is more on the weary side. Mana is voiced by Megan Hollingshead (Ergo Proxy’s Re-L Meyer) under her “Karen Thompson” alias and her take is similar to Takayama’s. Interestingly a few Texan VAs like Monica Rial and Chris Sabat made some vocal appearances in later episodes despite mainly using the common LA lineup at the time.
While the series show its age visually and hasn’t had all of its current Manga Chapters adapted. It is a dark thriller that showcases the downsides of Immortality and a creepy take on the concept of Mermaids.