Mermaid Forest, Vol. 1: Quest for Death DVD cover art

Film:
DVD:

Based upon the manga by Rumiko Takahashi
Directed by Masaharu Okuwaki
Character Designs by Masaki Sato

Features:

  • Production art gallery

Dindrane's Anime Warnings:

  • Violence
  • Despair
  • Cannibalism
  • Dangerous fascinations

Released by: Geneon
Region: 1
Rating: 16+
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: A must-own.

Rumiko Takahashi is a genius of many moods. She pulled off the wacky hijinks of Ranma 1/2 and started a gender-change genre; she's achieved new fame in multiple countries for her time-travel action piece InuYasha, and her comedy-scifi classic Urusei Yatsura started many an anime-fan's trip down the slippery slope to otaku-dom. In the early 1990s, she also created a set of dark and sinister OAVs based upon Japanese mermaid folklore, The Mermaid's Forest, showing us another facet of this wonderful creator's work. This decade-later release is the first of a series that will more closely follow the original manga than did the earlier sporadic OAVs that preceded them.

This show gives us a world where eating the flesh of a mermaid will grant eternal youth, if you're "lucky": there's a chance that it could just poison you or mutate you into a deformed monster. Yuta was once a Japanese fisherman, but when mermaids killed his fellows and turned them into zombie-like creatures, Yuta killed her in self-defense. He searches the world now for others who are immortal, and finds Mana, who he must rescue from mermaids who intend to devour the girl in order to restore their own lost youth. Together, Mana and Yuta search the world for others like themselves and for a cure from what they see as a curse of immortality among the selfishness and terror of humanity. It's a very fascinating take on the "be careful what you wish for" theme, as well as the folkloric hero's search for blessed death/rest.

This first volume basically sets up the world and who Yuta is, as well as finding and rescuing Mana from the Deformed Ones and ancient mermaids who are holding her prisoner. It is disappointing to only get three episodes on a disc, but this series is dark enough that three episodes at a bite might be just about right. Besides, the next story arc is another two-parter, and splitting that across two discs would just be cruel, and few DVD producers would put all five episodes on a disc.

Mermaid Forest, Vol. 1: Quest for Death

The art is, of course, vintage Takahashi, so it's lovely with a recognizable style unique to her. Having premiered in 2003, the art is very stylish and modern and looks fantastic. Even the moody, dark, deep-sea scenes are clear and easily viewable. The sound is also skillfully presented, with excellent casts and good digital conversion. There seems to be a bit more use of stereo capabilities in the Japanese track, but both are good and have no problems.

There is but one special feature on this release, a nice enough production art gallery. Fans of Takahashi's art (and aren't we all?) will appreciate this glimpse into the creative process, but can't we have an interview with her? We know she wouldn't come cheap, but we'd be willing to pay a bit more for a special edition that included more goodies. How about a retrospective of her work? A comparison of the dark The Mermaid's Forest with something like One-Pound Gospel? Takahashi herself talking about how she hopes her current InuYasha fans will take a look at her different, more indie works? Even a pdf of the manga would be swell; they're hard to find in English and so would be quite appreciated.

Mermaid Forest, Vol. 1: Quest for Death

For fans of Rumiko Takahashi's work, this series is a must. If you enjoy her comedy, fantasy, or action, then you must, must, must see her horror. She's the doyenne of anime and one of the richest women in Japan for a reason: her talent and creative genius. All anime fans, all fans of horror in any genre but especially the recent influx of Japanese horror, and anyone interested in folklore will love this series and watch it over and over. Even people not usually intrigued by anime and who like variations on the vampire myths will appreciate this one. If you enjoy this, and you will, be sure to also check out the sequel, The Mermaid's Scar. Get it today.

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