Mermaid Saga (Action Edition) Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Art Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 212
  • ISBN: 1-59116-336-6
  • Size: Tall B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Mermaid Saga (Action Edition) Vol. #01

By Eduardo M. Chavez     September 23, 2004
Release Date: June 01, 2004

Mermaid Saga (Action Edition) Vol.#01
© Viz Media

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

What They Say
According to legend, eating the flesh of a mermaid grants eternal youth and life. But living forever can be a blessing or a curse. And as two immortal lovers travel through Japan - and the centuries - longing for a normal existence, they learn that they are the lucky ones. Others who partake of the mermaid's flesh are transformed into savage lost souls...!

Mermaid Saga 1 contains three of Rumiko Takahashi's uniquely macabre mermaid tales: A Mermaid Never Smiles, The Village of the Fighting Fish, and the beginning of Mermaid Forest.

The Review
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 portrait of Mana, on a blue background. The opposite cover has a character image with main character Yuta, harpoon in hand, standing in front of an enlarged Mana under the long volume description. 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. If there was anything I did have a problem with was the sticker placed on this matted cover? While the sticker was easy to remove, because it was placed on a matted finish it basically left a good amount of residue and also damaged the cover quite 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.

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.

A lot of 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.

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)
In Japanese mythos some say partaking on the flesh of a mermaid will bring eternal life. In truth eating the flesh of the reclusive beast only brings fear, death and despair. Few have actually seen a mermaid, even fewer eat their flesh, but no one could truly know if anyone survived the experience. Mermaid Saga is a series of shorts based on those that have seen mermaids, eaten mermaid or are mermaids. These are not kid stories, for as Takahashi shows here mermaid tales are not always like those told by Disney; sometimes they are more like those told by Suzuki or Itoh.

In A Mermaid Never Smiles, living for an eternity means searching alone for answers until the end of time. Whether mermaid or man those cannot die often feel dead as their days are filled with the pain of knowing they are monsters that may never truly understand what a life is. Yuta has been cursed for the past five hundred years. He never intended to live forever and now his only wish is to finally grow old and die. However, to achieve that he must find a mermaid... At least he believes he does. And when he does he finds out that they are not all beauties of sea; instead time has made them all rotten from their core.

In The Island of Fighting Fish, a much "younger" Yuta washes up dead on the shore of an island inhabited by pirates. Having just recently been told he might rid himself of the curse with the aid of a mermaid, Yuta a fisherman decides to search the seas by any means possible. His previous plan failed, resulting in him arriving on this island under unique circumstances. Now Yuta will go about his search the proper way, but will his goals change after spending too much time off the trail. He had one dream, and will not change, but who/what is in his dream has.

In Mermaid's Forest, having escaped the clutches of a clan of lost souls (see A Mermaid Never Smiles) Yuta runs to the nearest town accompanied by Mana, a two-legged mermaid. Having been through a hellish experience these two decide to support each other till the end of time. Unfortunately, Mana's naiveté leads the couple into great misfortune. Apparently, the immortal Mana suffers what would be a life threatening accident. While hospitalized a rogue medic begins on a twisted path to save an existing patient by any means necessary. Yuta finds out that bodies tend to turn up missing in these parts but such is the norm in Mermaid's Forest, where a buried mermaid has been haunting the area for the last fifty plus years.

For those not familiar with Takahashi's short stories her Mermaid Saga (a part of the Rumik World series) is a great start to her wonderful short story collection. In many ways Takahashi has done some of her best work in her shorts, as she quickly creates vignettes filled with drama hr unique style romance-comedy. Mermaid Saga features her solid jidai-drama (historical era-drama) as well as her rarely seen contemporary horror. By using the concept of immortality, she can take her leads and place them in any era and any location. She has a great deal of freedom with an idea like this and it ends up creating situations where time itself almost becomes a character in the plot, changing lives causing contradictions and always bringing pain. Her main character Yuta is young and naïve at the start, he can fit in any era as he is just an unassuming lucky (/cursed) fisherman. Takahashi can have him in any era, in almost any personality because time she can use the concept of time to fill in the gaps. Fortunately, Takahashi does not rely on contradictions; instead she keeps Yuta's personality consistent as his reactions tend to be logically based on the culture of the era he is in.

Some titles age poorly. Mermaid Saga is almost as fun as it was when Shogakukan originally published it 16 years ago. Takahashi's uses some of her best talents to create a fantasy world with horror and mystique and it presents it with a character, Yuta, that is really easy to relate to. With all of the Takahashi titles out there, Mermaid Saga should introduce new readers to Takahashi's shorts and old fans will appreciate the nice new printing as well.



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