Mermaid Forest Vol. #3 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, October 24, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, November 15, 2005
What They Say
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?
Mermaid Forest dips into the past for another tale before hitting up a two part storyline.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The Japanese track is a fairly active stereo mix due to the show having a good number of action sequences and lots of water to work with. The show has a decent wide feel to it across the forward soundstage during a lot of areas but the dialogue itself is generally fairly well centered, though it does move about at key times. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems on either language track with dropouts or distortions.
Originally airing in 2003 as the second half of the Rumiko Takahashi Anthology series, this show is presented in its home video aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The transfer for this release looks really good considering the number of dark blues and blacks throughout it that could otherwise be a problem. The colors for these areas are really well done and have a certain vividness to them in a number of scenes that really stand out nicely. The materials in general avoid a lot of the usual problems such as cross coloration and aliasing, though there's a touch of that in one or two scenes that's obvious, and they especially avoid any color gradation problems. While not a standout transfer just due to the source material not being something that's so incredibly flashy, what is here looks really solid and only enhanced the presentation.
Using artwork not found on the Japanese release, this cover goes with a red background that lets it take on a darker look as the character artwork of Yuta with the spear set in front of the female character that's naked has a certain starkness to it. The character artwork is nicely done and it stands out fairly well. The back cover carries over the red feeling though it's less detailed and provides the usual in a decent summary for the shows premise as well as a number of good but small shots from the show to see how the animation actually looks. The features and episode listings are very clearly laid out while the production information fills out the bottom. The insert replicates the front cover on one side while the reverse side lists the episodes for this volume and the upcoming release month for the last volume..
The main menu is nicely done in a lot of ways but also features a short cut to save a few bucks. The menu is done with a good blue/green water color where the background shimmers and shifts about with the mixture of white to provide light bouncing off it. Behind there is the image of Mana that shifts and shimmers along with it. In the foreground you get a non-moving image of her and Yuta in full color, all of which is set to some water gurgling noises. The short cut with this design is that they avoided creating an actual set-up submenu and just have you selecting the two basic language options from the main menu (so you English listeners who use the subtitles from the Japanese track at the same time will have to set that up on the fly). It's an odd choice and not one I would make, but then again I'm not much of a fan of Blink Digital's menus for the most part since for some reason their work on the previews section always results in an area where the black is more gray and they lock out skipping in getting to the previews. Access times are good across the board and the layout is easy to navigate once you get past the surprise of language selection being on the top. The disc also correctly read our players presets properly and played accordingly.
The extras a pretty minimal here with just some production sketches, but as previously mentioned, with hardly anything on the Japanese release I'm not surprised.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As each volume manages to help a self contained number of stories, it continues to be easy to start a new release and simply get right into things without only a minimal amount of knowledge about what came before, mostly just in knowing the two lead characters, if even that. This volume goes with a standalone story that deals heavily in the past which keeps Mana out of the picture while the two part storyline takes place in the present day.
The story in the past starts off with Yuta doing some fishing in the present in the way he knows best, getting in the water and using his hands after proclaiming that fishing rod stuff to be no good for him. This reminds him of one of his journey's long ago when he came across the story about a man selling packets of mermaid flesh that would grant immortality. This was of course a sham and he was simply selling pieces of carp or other fish to the rubes but they were buying into the dream. What made it an easy sale was the show he'd put on that had a young girl name Natsume who would come out during it with a sword and cut herself deep, only to show how the wound would heal within seconds. That bit of showmanship sold many packets of fish and allowed the two to live on. Yuta had to follow this up and discovers the strange kind of immortality being granted to select people based on the liver of a mermaid and the ritual behind it, which also has him becoming a target due to it.
Without Mana, the tale is simple and fun to watch and it keeps her from being yet another damsel in distress of the week but at the same point I wish there was more Mana. The storyline is pretty simple but it gets convoluted along the way a bit due to the help of a monk and the kind of treachery that Natsume's "old man" that takes care of her is planning. The tales of the past that Yuta has certainly provides for an easy way to tell stories so that the present day doesn't feel so congested with stories and there are a number of differences in how the story can be told as well since the history is just so varied.
The two part storyline is well done since similar to previous ones, when there are a few episodes with which to tell the tale, they're able to be fleshed out enough and told with enough of a suspenseful manner that they stand out more and a much more enjoyable. We pick up in the present again with Mana and Yuta doing their outdoor camping journey by one of the waterways that flow throughout the city areas and they're surprised to see a young boy huddling down over the water. Even more surprising is that he's got some serious cuts on him but he takes a bit of medicine from a piece of paper and the wounds heal almost instantly. Yuta is convinced that the medicine is some derivative of mermaid flesh and they both befriend the boy to try and understand things.
As it turns out, the boy had been spirited out of his house by his grandmother and a strange man who drove him off to someplace supposedly safe but he escaped along the way but jumping out of the moving car. Mana and Yuta walk with him back to his house where his grandmother is shocked to see him but his mother is ecstatic to have her boy back but the two of them can feel something strange going on here. The boys mother is happy to have the pair there since they helped to bring him back but the grandmother starts telling some worrisome tales and shows them a picture of a much younger looking woman who she claims is the boys real mother.
The mystery starts to grow when the man who was driving the boy ends up getting involved with Yuta and he learns of what happened in the past that caused people to not be who they say they are, hiding scars and carrying around entirely new faces. The mermaid flesh is an integral part of this storyline but in a new fashion, particularly from the idea of being able to do something simple like eat the scales and use it as a medicinal piece. Similar to the earlier stories though there is a definite violent streak in here, from the fight that Yuta gets into as well as the very violent times that Mana always seem to find herself in. She's like a constant damsel in distress sometimes but it allows for Yuta to play the hero but also for Mana to end up on the inside and learn of what's really going on.
There are some really nice twists in this episode as it reveals itself and it changes the context of the earlier parts of the story considerably. This is one of the better storylines from the series and the one that I remember the least from reading the manga before. The twists on what the mermaid flesh can be and do combined with what a mother will do to ensure that her children stays healthy and a part of her life is a lot of this. It fits in well with the rest of the series so far and is overall a lot of fun and pretty engaging to watch, especially as it's one of the least told of the original stories written for Takahashi.
I'm a long time Takahashi fan and enjoy a lot of her works so I'm continually glad to see that she's been able to get some of her other works done even as the monster known as Inu-Yasha ruled over the last few years. Between the Theater episodes and the Mermaid Forest series, we get to see some of her more story oriented material that's concise and in my opinion better told than the shows that were done more as massive merchandising efforts that didn't grow and change much. Mermaid Forest continues to be a treat and it moves strongly past the original OVA releases from the 80's and 90's.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mermaid Forest