Mermaid Forest Vol. #4 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • 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: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Mermaid Forest

Mermaid Forest Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     December 29, 2005
Release Date: January 03, 2006

Mermaid Forest Vol. #4
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

What They Say
A rumor circulates that Masato's mother came back to life after dying in a boating accident. Yuta wonders if she ate mermaid flesh and sets off to find her. However, he finds Masato being attacked by his mother and Yuta saves him. Days later, Yuta and Mana return to the house to find that she is being attacked by a "Deformed One" ! On her deathbed, Masato's mother reveals the horrible truth about her son---Mana, who took Masato with her, is in grave danger!

The Review!
Mermaid's Forest comes to a close with a new two part storyline and a newly animated version of Mermaid's Scar.

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, the final cover has a much more thoughtful look to the two lead characters as they get a good looking illustration here with a very soothing golden background. 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 release months for each 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)
The final volume of Mermaid's Forest brings out four episodes with two two-part storylines. Similar to earlier episodes in the series, this volume takes one of the stories that was originally animated as an OVA several years ago and gives it a new life in the style used here. It's extremely rare for something to be told again in this form so seeing the original story being retold in a slightly different manner and pacing is just fascinating to watch.

Both stories play to events that happened in the past but have repercussions now, mostly for Yuta's past but Mana finds herself easily caught up in it. The opening story has the pair arriving in another town continuing their search for anything related to the mermaids only to discover that Yuta has something of a history here in this place. Some sixty years before, he had spent time working there during his journey's and had gotten close to a young woman named Nae. She had become very interested in him even though she was promised to a very prominent young man who was intending to marry her. Yuta knew that he couldn't stay with Nae so he left and hasn't been back since. So he's quite surprised to learn that many people believed that she eloped with him in the past as she disappeared but they had a funeral for her without a body since it couldn't be proven.

Yet Nae is alive in the present, somewhat off-kilter in her personality, and appears to be ageless and living under the control of the young man from the past, Eijiro. He's in his seventies at least now and definitely has that old man look to him. Yuta finds out much of what's going on when a young boy that was a servant of sorts of Nae's from the past is still in the town and brings Yuta up to date when he realizes who he is. It doesn't take long for the various events to start being pieced together, particularly as the men come together, and the mysteries of what the mermaid flesh, or ashes in this case, may have actually caused. Unlike past stories where things are a bit more direct and obvious in how the mermaid flesh was used and abused, this one is a touch more poetic in its style and its victims are much more sympathetic.

Nae's story was interesting enough to be sure since it was new and unfamiliar to me but I have to say I was far more curious to see the updated version of Mermaid's Scar. This tale plays with fire a little bit by bringing in a young eight year old boy as one of the main characters of the storyline. We initially see him riding the train to a town to meet with his mother who he hasn't seen in some time and Yuta and Mana are there as well. Two years later, the pair arrive back in the town and discover through coincidence that the young boy from back then is the one they just met again. He's still living with his mother in the large house they have up on high by the sea and a young woman named Yukie helps out around the house and takes care of things as the mother seems somewhat disconnected from the world at times.

There are bigger events going on in the background though as the child's mother is trying to kill him and this spills out into the open, or at least in front of Yuki, Yuta and Mana, and from there the story starts to unravel about another person whose eaten the mermaid flesh and has a strange agenda ahead of them. Deformed Ones are brought back into the storyline as well as there is a fair bit of time covered in talking about the story of the mother and child in recent years, from how they were apart and came back together after the mother's husband had died in a boating accident. There are almost a number of false clues along the way here but it's not so much that they're false but rather they're being interpreted wrong as Yuta tries to figure out what the mother is really up to in trying to find more of the mermaid's flesh.

Watching this particular two part storyline, though it's been probably close to a decade since I last saw the Mermaid's Scar OVA, so many of the scenes and visuals bore a striking resemblance to my memory of it that if it wasn't for the different character designs, which are a bit more angular and not as round and soft as the original, I would have thought I was watching the original. Masato comes out a bit thinner and a fair bit more grisly in this version though not that the original shied away from blood, but there is something simply a bit more menacing about him this time around. A story like this is the kind that should be watched in comparison with the original to see the differences as they're both using the same source, same plot and in some cases probably the same dialogue.

In Summary:
With the end of Mermaid's Forest, there is sadly no other Takahashi material on the horizon unless you're deep in Inu-Yasha territory and this is a shame. Her short works, such as Mermaids Forest and the rest of the shows in the Anthology, are all good fun and enjoyable pieces of work that do show her range and ability to tell good short tales. While her writing continues to be of the lighter fare and not the overly complex kinds of manga that run in a lot of series these days, what she does provide is highly accessible and enjoyable shows that can bridge the various generations and genres. This gets lost among her bigger and longer running shows but it's the short story material like Mermaid's Forest that show how wide her range actually is. This is a solid and enjoyable show that lets her have fun with the horror genre a bit. With some parts remake and several parts new, it's a fascinating show to watch for a number of reasons.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Production Art Gallery

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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