New foes raise their villainous, winged forms out of the depths of space and time to challenge our posse of mermaid princesses to musical battle with humanity hanging in the balance.
Writer/Artist: Pink Hanamori
Translated by: N/A
Adapted by: N/A
What They Say
Lucia Nanami and her fellow mermaid princesses have saved the seven seas from Gackto, the madman who tried to rule the oceans with an iron fist. During the battle, Lucia discovered that Kaito, her true love, is actually a prince - and he now knows that Lucia is the mermaid who saved him years ago. But Kaito has vanished during a surfing competition, and Lucia's dreams are haunted by an ominous angel-like menace. Is there a connection between this new villain and the surprise birth of an Orange mermaid? Lucia must unravel the mysteries. The survival of the human race may depend on her success!
There are about 224 pages in Volume 7 of Mermaid Melody. That’s about thirty two more pages than in your average manga. Which is a fine joke given that reading a standard sized volume of Mermaid Melody already robs me of what little coherence I manage to scrape together on a daily basis. I feel like some kind of cruel joke is being perpetrated on me; perhaps the next volume I pick up will be the size of a dictionary, maybe even a phone directory. I envision the final installment as the literary equivalent of a never-ending spiral staircase stretching on into infinity.
Let me get something straight: Mermaid Melody has always been awful. Like the stars in the sky, its flaws are almost too numerous to count, but off the top of my head I can name poor composition, flat writing, a lame concept, dull action scenes, and just the worst characters you’ve ever seen in a work of fiction. I had some hope – I won’t say a lot, because that would be a lie, but some – that with the new storyline introduced in this volume, things might get a bit better. I was wrong. I actually preferred the previous arc, since all they’ve done is introduce a new puppet master villain and his cadre of idiots, including a nemesis with bat wings who is called, and I’m not making this up because I don’t think I could, ‘Lady Bat.’ This arc revolves around ancient winged beings trying to exterminate humanity, who initially attempt to recruit the mermaids in their genocidal scheme. It’s a shame because there’s nothing wrong with the fundamental story concepts being bandied about here, just as the last arc had some serious potential to be very decent. Too bad nothing interesting ever happens, and the story simply mumbles its way to the end in an attempt to leave the stage as quickly as possible.
As for the characters, understand that I’ve read five volumes of Mermaid Melody, and I can say unquestionably that none of the characters have received one iota of development. I’d say they were two dimensional, but that really gives them one more dimension than they deserve. Kaito is probably the best, and only then because we gradually learn new things about him through awkwardly timed interjections he tends to blurt out seemingly at random. The villains are very Saturday Morning Cartoony in their complete ineptitude, and even the Big Bad dredges up memories of Power Rangers from over a decade ago. Frankly at this point I’d welcome Lord Zed with open arms. Compared to the princesses, though, the villains seem well motivated and complex in their desire to eradicate things.
The Mermaid Princesses are the aquatic equivalent of valley girls, occupied wholly with boys and saving their kingdoms, in that order. It’s always love at first sight, or first conversation anyway, and while many series have explored this concept by showing the folly of such an outlook, in the Mermaid Melody universe there is no other way. All love is True Love™, every romance a wholesome whirlwind of awkward courtship and volatile misunderstanding. Even the persnickety tomboy character eventually falls prey to, well, conversing with a guy, which inevitably leads to romance and, I can only assume, marriage and eternal happiness. Every moment away from their fellas the princesses spend talking about their frighteningly empty, personality bankrupt potential mates. Surprising given how often we’re reminded of the consequence for humans discovering their mermaid nature (turning into bubbles which means, as I understand it, death), and the ease at which a light drizzle or spilt water bottle could be the instrument of their ultimate demise. That doesn’t stop our doe-eyed honeys from obsessing over how best to win the hearts of their men through chocolate, or clothing, or whatever trite cliché they draw out of the hat next. Frankly I’ve seen more personality from appetizers at Red Lobster. These are characters that are so locked into archetypal female stereotypes that they offend me, and I’m not even a woman! Their “personalities” range from bubbly airhead to slightly less bubbly airhead with a sassy streak. There’s even a panel where Hanon is talking to a boy who likes her, but Lucia is drawn in her place. Then the next panel it’s Hanon again. If the artist can’t even tell the characters apart, how are we supposed to?
The problems that have been with the series since the beginning, like the jumbled composition of pages and panels and the stilted, shallow dialog remain, and at this point there’s really no excuse for it. We’re five volumes in, they should be fixed, and they’re not. The art is, as always, decent, but it seems this volume relies a lot more on chibi, miniaturized versions of the characters for reaction and group shots. These aren’t done particularly well, and hurt the presentation. The translation team does the best they can with what they have, except for an instance of an empty half of a dialog bubble.
If you can read through Mermaid Melody without developing a sharp, stabbing pain somewhere on your body every time you turn a page, you’re either tougher or more foolish than I. I probably spent more time attempting to mentally railing against the volume than I spent reading it. Eventually you have to throw up your hands in resignation and just take what it’s offering, but you don’t have to like it. Clearly the series is aimed at younger girls, but given its sexist tone and the absolute worthlessness of any of the main characters, it seems more like a shameless Barbie vehicle from twenty years ago than anything approaching enjoyable fiction. Please don’t waste your time with this.