Mermaid Forest Vol. #2 - Mania.com



Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • 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.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Mermaid Forest

Mermaid Forest Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     August 26, 2005
Release Date: September 20, 2005


Mermaid Forest Vol. #2
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Mana is hit by a truck and taken to the hospital. Yuta rushes to be at her side, but she has mysteriously disappeared by the time he arrives. His search leads him to an old mansion rumored to have a mermaid cemetery, where he finds two women, one old, the other young but white-haired. A “deformed” dog attacks Yuta, knocking him unconscious. The sad fate of the women, who live in the “Mermaid Forest” is revealed.

The Review!
Yuta and Mana continue their journey to find more of their kind and come across another intriguing and disturbing situation.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Using artwork not found on the Japanese release, the pairing of Yuta and Mana continues with Yuta being done in a near grayscale style image that takes up the background along with a really good looking shade of underwater green while Mana is in the foreground in a Kimono as her hair moves through the water. Mixing the red of her kimono across it works nicely and gives it that extra bit of flair to attract the eye. The back cover carries over the blue 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 months for future volumes.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
The extras a pretty minimal here with just some production sketches, but with hardly anything on the Japanese release I'm not surprised.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a strong first volume that introduced the main characters and the basic mythology behind the series, the Anthology show moves forward with a second volume that contains the two part story that in essence has been told once before. Originally released back in the early 90's as a single OVA called Mermaid Forest, it's presented here in a slightly expanded version that crosses over the two episodes that are here. Those familiar with the original OVA may find this one a bit repetitive to watch, but seeing the slightly updated version with more streamlined and smoother animation techniques get the rare chance to essentially compare a remake, something that doesn't happen often.

Yuta and Mana's journey continues as it seemingly always will and the two of them have stopped off to rest for a bit as Yuta's been doing more walking than normal lately since he's carried Mana a fair bit. Mana's innocence is given a quick push at the start here as she takes up with a kitten that's left out to die in a box and she tries to come to grasp with the concept of death again and ends up envying the kitten. Much like the kitten, she wanders off while Yuta sleeps and ends up following the kitten out into the road and gets hit head on by an oncoming truck. The freaked out driver manages to get her to the local doctors, which Yuta soon enough hears about when he awakens. His fears are confirmed when he arrives at the doctors and the doctor, an elderly man named Shiina, informs them that the woman walked out when he turned his back.

In a rather creepy fashion, we find that the doctor has kept Mana to himself and hauls her dead body up to the Kannagi residence, a sprawling piece of property that's partially located in the ominously named Mermaid Forest. Mana's been laid out in one of the rooms and the doctor is preparing to sever part of her arm off but stops short when she suddenly awakens. This surprises not only the doctor but the two women watching, one an elderly woman who is against everything that's going on and another, a very young but pale woman named Towa who harbors the deep secret. Her right arm is made up of Deformed One flesh and she's spent her life having the doctor cut up arms of dead women so she can take them as her own until they eventually become deformed.

The Mermaid Forest story slowly starts to go back to tell the tale about how the two women came to this situation and the doctor at a young age with how he became involved in keeping the secret and providing new flesh for Towa. Yuta's arrival on the property leads him to a violent death as it turns out that Towa controls one of the dog-like Deformed Ones and he has to work out not only what's going on but trying to do it while still recovering from a mortal wound. Those that have been helping Towa all these years are surprised by the arrival of two people who have fed off the flesh of a mermaid and the way they heal and it leads to some interesting ideas on how to fix the problem of her arm. The storyline pretty faithfully recreates what the original OVA was all about and does a good job of continuing to show that there's no real continuity between instances of flesh being eaten and its effects. Everything related to this seems to result in chaos.

The standalone tale that follows is a nice piece that gives Mana some more time and showcases her innocence and predilection towards nude scenes as she deals with a Deformed One that's retained something of his humanity as the two work together for a bit. It's an interesting tale that has something of a real creepy factor to it due to the way the Deformed One looks with his massive eyes and the rest of his head covered in bandages. The mythos gets expanded nicely upon here as another of the tales from the manga is pretty well translated to anime.

In Summary:
Mermaid Forest is one of the earliest instances of Rumiko Takahashi's works that I had seen and it made me very much want to see her other works and follow them. While precious few really are of this kind of nature, you can see elements of it in a number of her other works including shows like Inu-Yasha. Having the remake of the Mermaid Forest OVA itself on this volume is fascinating to watch since it's not something that's commonly done and it really makes me want to do a side by side comparison just to see if they did any exact scene recreations. Sadly, that show has been lost to fans for a number of years, but having the new version here certainly lessens that. If you liked what the first volume was, this one simply builds upon it and tells more tales that expand what the world of mermaid flesh is all about. Between the nostalgia factor and simple well told Takahashi style legend based horror tales, I'm all over it.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Production Sketches

Review Equipment
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.

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