Mermaid Saga (Action Edition) Vol. #02 (Mania.com)

By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Friday, March 25, 2005
Release Date: Sunday, August 01, 2004



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Rumiko Takahashi
Translated by:Matt Thorn
Adapted by:

What They Say
Eating the flesh of a mermaid grants eternal life. But living forever can be a blessing or a curse. Immortal lovers Yuta and Mana are relatively lucky... others who partake of the mermaid's flesh are transformed into savage lost souls!

Yuta comes face-to-face with his past in Crimson Valley - his dead girlfriend has risen from the ashes. But is it a reality or a dream?

Mermaid Saga 2 contains three of Rumiko Takahashi's uniquely macabre mermaid tales: the conclusion of Mermaid Forest, Dream's End and Mermaid Promise.


The Review
Packaging:
Another reprinting of a Takahashi classic gets a solid production. Now printed in a tall B6, Mermaid Saga is in its original right to left format. The cover features the original cover art, a profile of new character Nae, on a gray background. The opposite cover has a character that looks like Nae, nude on a bed of flowers under the volume description. I ended up having a problem with the sticker placed on this matted cover. While the sticker was easy to remove, because it was placed on a matted finish where it left a good amount of residue and damaged the cover a bit. Why studios insist on doing things like this is beyond me. I really wish they would figure out better ways to cross-promote.

Inside the printing looks good with sharp blacks (this is critical in Takahashi's older titles, as her lines are thicker) and screen tone looks good. This GN had ads for Viz's Takahashi properties. Viz also included a short bio on the mangaka and three pieces of character art at the end of the GN.

Artwork:
Through the year's Takahashi's designs have not changed much, but her technique has improved dramatically. This being one of her older titles (circa 1988) her characters are a little rounder, with thicker lines and funky noses. Having studied under Koike (Lone Wolf & Cub) Takahashi's layouts are some of the better ones in the business. Like her mentor, she uses perspective to set up action scenes as well as character emotions. Her use of character placement is often quite bold, but as it helps make plot transitions, they rarely distract readers from the context or pacing.
Many people may call Takahashi's art stale and recycled, but there is no denying her looks have been popular throughout the years, even as she continues to change her techniques.

Text/SFX:
The translation for Mermaid Saga is typical Matt Thorn - sounds good, flows well and keeps the integrity of the original work. I rarely have problems with his work and this no exception. My only gripe would be the lack of honorifics, but from the looks of things, Viz basically took the original adaptation they used for their previous printing done when the market was not as fan-friendly. SFX are all overlaid. Viz do these really well so they typically look similar to the original SFX in size and font style. Most importantly, the retouch is solid so it rarely ever compromises art.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Revenge, kushimono, hunched-back monsters, the living dead and one-sided love might not be what one would expect to see in a mermaid series. Takahashi Rumiko can make it happen and make it work.

Mermaid Forest:
Yuta promised he would always be there for Mana He is often the one telling Mana to not stray from his side, but now when Mana's life is truly in danger, Yuta finds himself helpless as he defends himself against a monster. Yuta has lived through the horrors of the mermaid curse. He has seen first hand that vanity can destroy a person. He should have known the time would arrive for a confrontation with another immortal. He just never expected to be traveling through eternity with someone else when it happened.

Dreams End:
The concept of humanity is challenged when Mana is kidnapped by a lost soul. At first she considered the beast to be an empty shell, filled with anger. She comes to realize this soul is still present. His kindness proved there is still a human underneath the deformities and like her time was now his biggest enemy. Prejudice ended up taking the life of this man. If people could see beyond their fears maybe he could have been spared. Instead, he was murdered like some animal while protecting the human he befriended.

Mermaid Promise:
Loneliness and obsession have been the basis of some of the best thrillers. Takahashi uses these concepts to create a character that is so obsessed he rises through the ranks of society to push his private agenda. He is willing to use his financial might to purchase a good chunk of a city. He uses his power to justify murders. This man does not get anything in return - only a memory of someone he could never make his. Time could not cure his madness; instead, it feed it. Yuta is taunted by time and by this man. This is not new to him, but time does not make going through this any easier.

Comments
Eternal youth has been the source of adventures like the fountain of youth. This idea has created a whole market filled with cosmetics, surgery and botox injections. Fighting the powers of time and genetics has driven people to bankruptcy and personal destruction. In Mermaid Saga chapter after chapter readers are shown how vanity and the idea of eternal life have destroyed lives throughout the ages. Those who have tasted the flesh of the mermaid are all cursed. No one, not even those who are given youth, are free from this curse. Death is nature's only true promise. Death is there to take away the pain of the present, when the will can no longer fight. Take death away and pain builds to the point where life itself is meaningless.

Yuta and Mana have given in to their curse. They maintain their sanity through each other's company. The days, months, years, decades and centuries come and go and together they move on until they can find a way to live normal lives..., which would include aging and eventually death. Through these two, Takahashi takes on the concept of mortality and vanity, two ideas that have been tested in Japan for centuries. She admits there is some empowerment to keep looking young and healthy, but there are those who do not acknowledge the limits to such an undertaking. By creating stories with such grizzly results, she makes hr characters and hr readers reflect on their own experiences positive or negative. The irony here is that her leads have eternal beauty, and they hate it; their problem is their mortality. These characters consider themselves freaks. They would rather lose their beauty than suffer. They have an altruistic reasoning of what beauty should be in nature's course. Pretty deep, huh.

Takahashi really hits her stride in this volume. These chapters show real desperation and fear of the unknown. This is really something I wish she would do more often, as it harkens back to her training under manga god, Koike Kazuo. I like the terror and the twisted reasoning. This is where manga readers new to Takahashi should start. Very entertaining.



Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 9.95
Pages: 194
ISBN: 1-59116-484-2
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left