Rumiko Takahashi is one of Japan’s strongest creators. Her works are not only beautifully illustrated, but Takahashi is able to tell a story that hooks you in from the very beginning. Whether it’s about a girl falling into a well that leads to a feudal fantasy era of Japan or a boy that changes into a girl when splashed with cold water, Takahashi has something for everyone. Most of her works are fantasy and comedy hybrids but this creation is no comedy instead a horror, fantasy manga about the obsession with youth, beauty, and immortality.
Mermaid Forest, Book One of Mermaid Saga, stars immortals Mana and Yuta. Legend has it that those who feast upon the flesh of a mermaid will have eternal life and in this version of Japan, it’s not hard to find someone obsessed with finding a mermaid. Mana lived in a village of comprised of women but she was not allowed to walk. On her 15th birthday, Mana is fed a meal that she describes as being the best she has ever had in her whole life to the surprise of her primary caretaker. It isn’t long before Yuta arrives in the village in search of a mermaid to reverse his immortality. Surviving a murder attempt by the village women leads him to Mana and thus begins their adventures traveling around the world as immortals.
Being an immortal seems like a curse in this series as the pair survives otherwise certain death. Their resurrections never go unnoticed and more often than not leads them to darkness lying with the hearts of characters they encounter. Mana learns she was kidnapped and raised to be food for the village women after she survives eating the flesh of a mermaid. Ironically, the village women are mermaids themselves but desire Mana’s beauty which they could gain it upon tasting her flesh.
Yuta’s struggle with immortality is much more emotional than just physical. He longs for death after living for nearly 500 years and outliving all around him. He thinks the answer to reversing immortality lies with the knowledge of a mermaid…until he gets his answer. His struggle to cope with living as Mana struggles to live in one piece makes for an interesting juxtaposition as the story continues.
Mermaid Forest collects Chapters One through Three which are divided into two parts and each chapter is even more terrifying than the previous. I enjoyed reading this series in my adolescence and copies of this manga have since gone out of print. Finding a copy to purchase on the internet isn’t too difficult but I would love a new edition of this classic horror series. If that never happens, I’ll always enjoy revisiting this first volume of Rumiko Takahashi’s Mermaid Saga.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Mermaid Saga also has an anime adaptation under the title Mermaid Forest.